Because I have a masochistic itch that sometimes must be scratched, I spent Sunday morning watching not my usual Premier League soccer but decidedly minor league politics as presented on the various network shows.
When it comes to utter lunacy, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, was in a league of his own. He was talking sheer nonsense on ABC. When they were passing out brains, he thought they said trains, and Rudy missed his.
Over on Fox, Chris Wallace was presenting a master class in journalism, not letting wormy Stephen Miller wriggle off the hook. Say what you want about Fox, but Wallace is a real pro. He routinely does to the Trump administration what he used to do to the Obama administration: hold them accountable.
Still, watching what passes for politics these days is an utterly depressing experience, devoid of decency, awash in partisan baloney, rooted in alternative facts and universes.
On any other weekend, watching the Sunday morning shows would have sent me into a deep funk, but luckily I had just had breakfast with a young, idealistic, smart politician from Newton.
I have seen the future of real, decent politics, and its name is Jake Auchincloss.
Most politicians have ambition. Auchincloss has a story, a family story, of persecution, immigration, assimilation, achievement, and giving back. So it is an American story.
His great-grandfather, Aaron Glimcher, fled the Russian pogroms against Jews and landed in Boston, where he built a garment business while his wife, the irrepressible Clara, became the unofficial mayor of Chelsea. If you wanted anything done in Chelsea, you saw Mrs. Glimcher.
Jake’s grandfather, Melvin Glimcher, was 17 when he realized he couldn’t afford college. So he went to join the Marines. According to family lore, Clara Glimcher followed him into the recruiting office, kvetching that her son was about to ship off to Parris Island and leave his poor mother behind.
Melvin turned to his Marine recruiter and said, “I have no idea who this woman is.” The Marines decided Melvin was too smart to ship off to the infantry so they shipped him off to Purdue, where he studied engineering. After the Marines, he got his medical degree at Harvard and became a leading authority on bone development and artificial limbs, his work helping other veterans who lost limbs.
Melvin taught his daughter Laurie she could be anything she wanted, and she became a doctor and scientist and is now CEO at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Growing up in Newton, Jake Auchincloss took all this in by osmosis.
Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, he joined the Marines after Harvard, became an officer, and led an infantry platoon in Afghanistan. He got a job at Liberty Mutual’s innovation lab, got elected to the Newton City Council, and, channeling his great-grandmother Clara, was the first elected official to back Ruthanne Fuller, Newton’s first female mayor.
Because he led into battle men who didn’t all share his beliefs, he understands you have to work with and respect those with differing views to get anything done.
Because he carried, slept with, and fired an AR-15 assault rifle for four years, he knows guns like that have no place in civil society.
Because of his job, he understands climate and transportation policy intuitively.
Because his great-grandfather arrived here with nothing, because the government sent his grandfather to college, he believes in helping, not demonizing, immigrants.
“The government invested in a poor Jewish kid,” he said. “We should take a chance on somebody who walks here from Guatemala, because they believe in the promise of America, too.”
His life has had two threads: fulfilling that promise, and giving back through public service. It’s his family’s legacy.
Jake Auchincloss is trying to decide whether to join the race to succeed Joe Kennedy in Congress. The field already has some formidable and high-profile candidates.
I have only three words of advice: Run, Jake, run.