November 19, 2012

Former Massachusetts Governor Dukakis Speaks on the 2012 Campaigns

Michael S. Dukakis, former Democratic presidential candidate and three-term Governor of Massachusetts, discussed "Campaign 2012: Issues and Outcomes" on November 16th in the Janet M. Daley Library Lecture Hall.

Dukakis began by speaking on the evolved demographic and political landscapes, both locally and nationally, and how those shifts have allowed a more diverse group of candidates to run for public office.

"The Boston I grew up in was very different from Boston today," he said. "It was a tough city, it was a declining city, it was a dirty city, it was racist and it was anti-Semitic.

"We and the country have gone through a lot. It was inconceivable when I was your age, that this country would ever elect an African-American president. All of these signs of progress and of evolution in the United States happened because good people were not willing to sit back and do nothing."

Dukakis praised the campaigns of President  Barack Obama and United States Senator-elect from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren as they were built on "precinct-based grassroots organizing," which Dukakis described as "making personal contact on an ongoing basis to every single voting household."  He also emphasized the importance of turning campaign donors into active precinct captains and volunteers, in turn, making the message more important than the money.

"I think the results of this past election are encouraging in simply reminding us that effective grassroots organization beats big money every time," Dukakis said. "Thanks to the democratization, through the Internet, quite frankly, of the fundraising process, the candidates can raise money the best way-not by relying on special interests, not by relying on corporate fat cats, but by raising it from a very wide base of people."

He also noted that several factors in the November 6th election results became clear after the votes had been counted; one being that the demographics of the United States are taking the country in a different direction.

"If you want to know what this country is going to look like politically, or for that matter, physically, 15 years from now, just take a look at California," Dukakis said. "Take a look at the demographics. The growing Latino population is beginning to assert itself and the growing Asian-American population, which used to be quite conservative, is changing."

Dukakis, who believes that the country is best served by two strong, competitive political parties, offered some advice to candidates regarding both the overemphasis on campaigning in battleground states and a lack of campaigning in states that traditionally adhere to a particular party.

"Democrats have to stop looking at the map and concluding that the red states are untouchable," he said, noting that there is a Democratic presence in states such as West Virginia, Georgia and Kentucky, even though there was no active campaigning there during this election season.

Dukakis is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and a Visiting Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. His research has focused on national health care policy reform and the lessons that national policy makers can learn from state reform efforts.  He and former U.S. Senator Paul Simon authored a book entitled How to Get Into Politics-and Why, which is designed to encourage young people to think seriously about politics and public service as a career. More recently, he and professor John Portz of Northeastern co-authored a new book on public management entitled Leader-Managers in the Public Sector-Managing for Results.

Dukakis served as governor of Massachusetts from 1975 to 1979 and from 1983 to 1991 and received the Democratic Party's nomination for President of the United States in 1988.