WORCESTER — Massachusetts Democrats, furious with federal leadership and frustrated with their Republican governor’s unwillingness to challenge it more forcefully, rallied the troops at their nominating convention on Saturday to fight the Trump administration’s policies from the Bay State.
“There’s a cruelty to this administration that seeks to rip families apart,” said Quentin Palfrey, a candidate for lieutenant governor, spurring a loud chorus of boos, and pointing to Massachusetts’ tradition of leadership going back to the Revolutionary War.
“I think the world and the country need for Massachusetts to lead again,” he said.
A year after a frenetic convention built around their bafflement that Donald Trump had been elected president, Democratic delegates came to a convention that they said felt slightly less energetic but more purposeful. And though the blue wave they’re seeking in November may not overtake the corner office — moderate Republican Governor Charlie Baker has retained popularity — some progressives see the election as an opportunity to pressure him.
“He’s not standing for anything,” said delegate Michael Toole of Norton. “You’re the leader of the state, and you’re not speaking out about injustices that are happening on the federal level — everything from immigration to health care.”
“He’s got to be advocating on the ridiculous policies coming out of the administration right now, and he’s not doing that.”
Added Kirk Hurley, 66, who heads the Marlborough Democratic City Committee: “He’s very good at being a nice guy and smiling and very bad at governing in terms of, there is no forward thinking. He comes across as being genial while he’s been trying to cut health care. He wants to talk about being fiscally responsible, but people forget he is the one who burdened us with the Big Dig and the MBTA to pay off.”
“He likes to be in the governor’s office,” said Hurley. “He does not like to get out and lead from the governor’s office.”
“I mean, he’s not Trump. But that is such a low bar,” said Kelsey Harris, 29, a Cambridge delegate for the second year in a row. “I think Massachusetts could be doing a lot more in a lot of different areas — whether it’s environmental, whether it’s immigration, whether it’s wages. Having a Democratic governor would push the needle farther.”
In response, the Baker campaign pointed to the instances in which the governor has opposed Trump policies, such as withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and attempting to reverse the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the campaign cited positive comments from Democratic elected leaders about Baker’s policies on issues such as opioid abuse, housing, and transportation.
“Governor Baker and Lt. Governor [Karyn] Polito are proud to have strong working relationships with their state and local colleagues across the aisle and an accomplished bipartisan record that continues to deliver results for the people of Massachusetts,” said Baker campaign spokesman Terry MacCormack.
With a whole generation of activists borne from Trump’s election in 2016, many were newly activated: The Massachusetts Democratic Party estimated about 22 percent of the delegates were first-timers.
“I think it’s beautiful,” said Hannah Weinsaft, 26, a first-time delegate from Northbridge. “In organizing, sometimes you say the enemy is doing the work for us. In this case, it’s pretty clear that it’s turning people out that wouldn’t normally get involved, and I’m loving seeing other young people here and getting passionate.”
Weinsaft, who teaches in Worcester, was wearing an orange ribbon for National Gun Violence Awareness.
Another first-time delegate, Kayla Rennie, 21, of Chelmsford, said she became politically active after the 2016 election, jumping into an internship with the Democratic Party and starting a college Democrats group at Merrimack College.
“A lot of people have been waiting for this for months now, to finally start getting to do this work,” Rennie said. “I’m optimistic and I think one of the reasons why I’m optimistic is you see people are coming together a lot more.”
Leah Trachtenberg, 19, of Methuen, came to volunteer at the convention, after marching in “literally all” of the protests against the Trump administration, she said. “I think what we see is happening at the national level, it makes me want to get more involved in state and local government,” she said.
Added Isabella Binici, a 15-year-old volunteer: “We are the future. We decide what happens next after all this chaos that’s going on. It’s good to get involved now.”