By Marsha Mirkin
Here I am, a resident of Massachusetts listening to my former Governor speak convincingly and with seeming conviction at the Denver debate. I was startled by my Déjà vu experience and by the assumptions held by my out-of-town friends about Mr. Romney’s governorship. So, as an editor and author of articles and texts about social and political contexts, I wanted to ... share my understanding of Mr. Romney’s governorship and the implications for the Presidency. Massachusetts is known as a liberal state, but we often vote for Republican governors, and the three governors who immediately preceded Mr. Romney were Republicans. Mr. Romney was a one term governor who left office with a 31% approval rating, the 3rd lowest in the entire country. What does our experience in Massachusetts say to the country?
Mr. Romney claims to have experience reaching across the aisle. Maybe he did do some reaching, but not much of it went toward the Democrats. In his first two years of office, he vetoed legislation at more than twice the rate of Republican predecessor Governor Weld. Governor Romney had a record 800 vetoes (most of which were overturned, sometimes unanimously). One example is when the legislature provided a budget amendment to stop contracting with companies that outsource state work to other countries. Governor Romney vetoed the provision. This meant that he supported outsourcing jobs at the expense of U.S. workers. He also started a huge campaign to unseat Democratic legislators, but failed and ended up with even fewer Republican seats than before he took office.
Governor Romney correctly claims that Massachusetts rose to #1 in education—but it was based on former Governor Weld’s education reform plan. Governor Romney moved in the opposite direction--he vetoed bills that would have strengthened preschool education.
However, the issue is not so much how he voted, but that Mr. Romney won the governorship by presenting himself in one way, as a social and fiscal moderate (some saw him as a social progressive), and by the end of his single term, he had acted in an entirely different way. He said during his campaign that he favored stem cell research and then vetoed a bill to fund it. He argued for a lower minimum wage than the state legislature ended up passing (over his veto). He vetoed a bill funding hate crimes prevention, and took back money approved by a former Republican governor for a bullying prevention program. He denied all requests for commutations and pardons, including one from a soldier serving in Iraq whose was convicted at age 13 for a BB gun incident. He vetoed emergency contraception. He raised many fees in my state—even quadrupling the gasoline delivery fees.
Governor Romney certainly approved some pieces of legislation that I did support but that does not change a major problem: Mr. Romney re-created himself and changed his positions during the first Presidential debate in your city because he must sound more moderate in order to win the independent vote. After that, all bets are off. We in Massachusetts know all about that. We elected a governor expecting him to be one thing and then he did something totally different and got on the national stage. He entered the governorship with a 61% approval rating and left with an abysmal 31% and with many of us scratching our heads and wondering whom we elected. The difference between then and now is that you have Mr. Romney’s speeches and positions from this past year and the contradictions during the debate. You can get nonpartisan information from factcheck.org. And, you now know what he was like in Massachusetts. So, I hope the country doesn’t have to go through what Massachusetts went through. Regardless of your political beliefs, this constant turning into something we didn’t vote for is no way to run a state, never mind a country.
CW: Mirkin is a professor of psychology at Lasell College in Massachusetts. Contributor Julie obtained Mirkin's permission to publish her letter here. I have made one minor edit (noted at the ellipsis) with Mirkin's permission.
If you wish to comment on Mirkin's letter, which I found tremendously helpful, please do so in the Commentariat.