Next Massachusetts Senate President Should Be Liberal, Not Nuts

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The Stan Rosenberg era is ending not with a whimper but with a bang.

When Governor Charlie Baker thinks you need to be investigated, you know the end is near. This is the same Charlie Baker who doesn’t think the whitewashing of a Massachusetts State Police report on the arrest of a judge’s daughter needs much investigating.

Lawyers have this phrase “known or should have known.” That’s the one that’ll get the Senate president to leave, as his civil-law husband stands accused by four men of sexually assaulting them while flaunting his influence with the Senate president.

As with all such allegations, the possibility of the accused being innocent must be allowed for. But while the accusations are anonymous, no one is publicly doubting them. Even the target, Bryon Hefner, didn’t deny them in a statement released by his lawyer.

(Here’s the non-denial denial from Hefner from Yvonne Abraham’s story in The Boston Globe:  “I was shocked to learn of these anonymous and hurtful allegations. To my knowledge, no one has complained to me or any political or governmental authority about these allegations which are now surfacing years afterward. As one can imagine, it is incredibly difficult to respond to allegations by unnamed and unidentified individuals that involve an extended period of time, particularly in the current environment.” Sixty-four words. Do you see a denial?)

The majority leader is commissioning an independent investigator to look into the allegations while for other matters Rosenberg technically remains president of the Senate. The investigation may delay the process to try to allow Rosenberg some sort of orderly departure, but the end of his leadership is in sight.

Among the items the investigation should look into is why one of the accusers felt constrained by the Bizarro-world atmosphere of Beacon Hill. It’s understandable that as a lobbyist he would see making a complaint against someone connected to a powerful legislative leader as potentially harmful to his livelihood. But why was he also concerned about appearing un-PC?

This from Abraham’s story:

He worried too, that complaining about it would be seen as homophobic.

“I’ve been a staunch advocate and ally of the LGBT community,” he said. “Does it make me a bad ally to be upset about this? It’s a weird position to be in.”

This is crazy talk, but it comes from the toxic culture on Beacon Hill. What man, upon being wheeled around and forcibly kissed by a strange man when trying to leave a party with his girlfriend, should worry about how a particular interest group will feel about it?

In other words, we’re not talking about mere political matters. This is not a healthy reaction, and it’s not a healthy environment that produced it.

As for mere political matters, it isn’t realistic to hope for an all-star to replace Rosenberg. The Massachusetts House is liberal, and the Senate is considerably more liberal than the House. It’s inevitable that a liberal will become the new Senate president.

But there’s an opportunity here for state senators to try to restore some sanity to their august chamber, which was once led by Samuel Adams and Calvin Coolidge.

Rosenberg is the most left wing Massachusetts Senate president ever. But his approach is even worse than his philosophy. The tenor of much legislation coming out of the Senate — lowering the age of consent in some cases to 13taking away due process in college sexual assault allegationsthreatening life in prison for bump-fire stocks on gunstrying to force Planned Parenthood sex education (including anal sex for 12-year-olds) on every school district in Massachusetts – has been venomous.

In addition to these regrettable bills, Rosenberg also bears responsibility for the political correctness in the Senate that warps deliberations. Conservative counterarguments to liberal policies should not be framed as some sort of hate speech, as happens too often.

We expect to disagree with much of the next Senate president’s agenda. But the next Senate president has an opportunity to lead with dignity. Massachusetts needs it.