BOSTON (CBS) – Joe Biden will be inaugurated president on January 20, 2021. And one way or another, that will mean a shakeup of the status quo here in Massachusetts.
Most speculation right now is focusing on the possibility Biden might poach major Massachusetts political figures to serve in his administration. On that front, color me skeptical.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren was never close to Biden, and has hit him pretty hard through the years over policy differences. As recently as last January she was pushing to repeal bankruptcy laws he had promoted as senator from Delaware.
But the two mended fences fast after he ran away with the nomination last winter, and Warren both campaigned and raised money for the ticket. Now she’s making it clear she’d like to be Treasury Secretary, an ideal perch to police financial markets and hold scofflaws accountable.
My guess: not happening. Biden might or might not mind terrifying big-money bigwigs, but if he deems a Warren hire too provocative he can cover his tracks by noting – accurately – that he needs her more in the closely-divided Senate.
Then there’s Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a Biden pal who gets along fine with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris too. Walsh’s background as a building trades union president recommends him to be Secretary of Labor, in theory but again, I’m guessing he stays put. Don’t know if Walsh has ever read “Locked in the Cabinet,” a memoir by the last Bay Stater to serve as labor secretary, Robert Reich, but his account of bureaucratic infighting and inertia is enough to scare anyone off. And besides, as Cardinal Law once said: “After Boston there is only heaven.” (Or, in Law’s case, another post-mortem destination.)
And Gov. Charlie Baker? He might actually be a better fit than either Warren or Walsh, checking the boxes of bipartisanship, health-care reform experience, and managerial competence. But he never endorsed Biden as some Republicans did (like Vermont’s Gov. Phil Scott), and he says flatly he’s not interested.
There may be a few lesser figures from here headed to DC next year. (Maura Healey for US Attorney General? What a fun transition from Bill Barr that would be!) But the most significant impact of Biden’s takeover will likely be on funding and policy.
For starters, the election result makes the arrival of badly-needed federal stimulus for our staggering economy and shaky budget much more likely. Biden was in charge of the 2009 Obama stimulus, when Massachusetts pocketed a cool $14 billion in aid. Given how we’ve been shortchanged by federal pandemic spending so far, that would be a welcome tonic. And beyond emergency help, Biden’s role as the “cancer moonshot” czar during the Obama years will surely be great news for our state’s vital medical research sector in their scramble for federal dough.
And if the man behind the “cancer moonshot” program of the second Obama term becomes president, that should be good news for our crucial medical research sector.
Our local economy also leans heavily on foreign trade, especially with Europe, and the easy flow of skilled immigrants and foreign college students into Massachusetts. Biden’s approach to both immigration and trade should be more to our liking.
There may be some indirect repercussions too.
Beacon Hill legislators worried about backlash from police unions if they vote for sweeping policing reforms currently under consideration might look at the dismal showing of GOP Senate nominee Kevin O’Connor – whose campaign consisted almost entirely of endorsements from cops – and Trump’s defeat as a reassuring sign that the unions’ bark is worse than their bite.
And while we like to think of ourselves as somehow above and apart from the lower 49 states, Massachusetts is in the same boat as everyone else, desperately needing the pandemic to come to an end. To the extent that Biden’s victory hastens that day, it’s good news for all of us, to say the least.