On Tuesday, Amherst state Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose became the second independent in the Massachusetts Statehouse, changing his party affiliation from Democrat to unenrolled.
Predictably, party elders and political pundits — the same ones that predicted a sweeping win for Hillary Clinton — panned the move, saying that Goldstein-Rose is consigning himself to the periphery in a Statehouse organized around party caucuses.
And he’s right.
Rather than scorn Goldstein-Rose’s bold move, I hope that independent-minded politicians and candidates for Statehouse follow his example.
While the Democrats control the Statehouse, does that mean the party has taken bold action on people-centered causes? Not really.
- Same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts only through the courts, not legislation, in 2004.
- Every step of legalized marijuana legislation has happened as a result of voter ballot initiatives rather than action from the Legislature.
- Even with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in extreme jeopardy, the Legislature is not considering an immigrant bill of rights, which would extend some of the DACA protections, such as legal driver’s licenses and in-state tuition, to Massachusetts’ undocumented population.
- While single-payer style health care has been in the Massachusetts Democratic Party platform for years, the majority of the Democratic Caucus is not cosponsoring the current Medicare-for-all bill introduced in the Legislature.
Goldstein-Rose is a thoughtful individual whose policy ideas are valuable in the Statehouse. One such proposal, a “tax swap,” which would lower the state sales tax and charge a carbon pollution price to make up the revenue, is one he hopes will gain traction in both parties.
The important issues he plans to focus on have not changed with his party affiliation. They remain carbon pollution pricing, ranked-choice voting, education reform to empower teachers, and civic engagement. He is also a sponsor of the single-payer legislation so many of his colleagues are shirking.
John Scibak and Stephen Kulik, both long-time Democrats, are retiring this year. Amherst state Senator Stanley Rosenberg is in political hot water, and may follow suit. None of them co- sponsored Medicare-for-all during this cycle.
Mary Olberding, the Hampshire County Register of Deeds, told Daily Hampshire Gazette writer Scott Merzbach that she believed the only reason Goldstein-Rose won his seat in 2016 is because he is a Democrat.
“Some of us who are Democrats to the core think there is now an open primary in the district that is overwhelmingly Democratic,” she said.
I would contend that these long standing Democratic seats may now be targets for unenrolled candidates who can be more free to pursue people-focused policy rather than party-focused hierarchies and tired left-right debates.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at email@example.com.