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Editorial: Charlie Baker gives glimpse of GOP’s sensible side

Republican Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker speaks with reporters during a news conference, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, at the Statehouse, in Boston. Hours after she was elected governor of the state Healey met with Baker at the Statehouse to discuss the upcoming transfer of power. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Republican Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker speaks with reporters during a news conference, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, at the Statehouse, in Boston. Hours after she was elected governor of the state Healey met with Baker at the Statehouse to discuss the upcoming transfer of power. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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It’s a shame our governor waited until the end of his time in office to show a national audience what a thoughtful, inclusive Republican looks like.

In an extensive interview Monday on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Baker sounded like the voice of reason in an ever-polarizing political landscape.

But that’s how he’s operated for eight years as a minority-party governor leading one of the bluest states in the country.

The interview, excerpts of which can be found on YouTube, came as a breath of fresh air to the hundreds of YouTubers who left mainly complimentary comments; they were apparently unaware that not all Republicans cater to the lowest common denominators of their party.

Baker laid blame on Republicans’ disappointing performance in midterm-election battleground states to the rejection of their extremist message.

That led to Democrats maintaining control of the Senate, and Republicans likely gaining only a slight majority in the House — not the red wave that many had predicted.

When pressed by Tapper for specifics, Baker said of voters, “They want people who they believe are going to be reasonable, who are going to be collaborative, and who represent a fundamental tenet of democracy that it’s supposed to be a distributed decision-making model, and you’re supposed to be OK with.”

Far from a novel idea, compromise, that bedrock of democracy, has been jettisoned by the far-right and far-left agendas of our two major political parties.

Baker said that’s one reason why those who consider themselves independent — unenrolled voters — comprise almost 60% of the electorate in Massachusetts.

In Baker’s party, former President Donald Trump remains the main messenger of dissension; his backing of inferior candidates contributed to the Republicans’ disappointing election results.

A frequent Trump critic, Baker said it’s time Republicans moved on from the former president.

But the political fringe will always have a platform, thanks to the ease of messaging in the digital age.

Baker wowed the YouTube crowd by referencing the late legendary rock singer/songwriter David Bowie, who the governor said predicted the Internet’s unsavory effect on social discourse more than 20 years ago.

As Baker explained it, Bowie realized the burgeoning Internet would be “exhilarating and terrifying, and that it would completely change everything about the relationship” between the content producer and receiver. Bowie also predicted the Internet would spur “tremendous disruption” and the capacity for a “very dark side to find itself and to leverage it.

Unfortunately, Baker said, Bowie was generally correct in his analysis.

But Baker also didn’t want to overstate social media’s control over the national dialogue or thought process of most Americans.

“I do not believe the vast majority of the people who get up and go to work every day, get up and go to school every day … spend anywhere near as much time on social media caring about politics as people in politics and people in media think they do,” Baker said. “I view it as a universe: It’s loud, it’s influential, it’s noisy, but it’s not where most people live.”

Far from noisy, Baker’s calm demeanor belies his passionate belief in the importance of understanding where people — especially those who don’t share his political philosophy — are coming from.

Baker said he learned from his unsuccessful governor’s run in 2010 to be a better listener. He did that by showing up in neighborhoods or communities that had never been visited by a politician of his ilk — or skin color.

While opinions may not have been swayed, at least in most cases, civil discourse ensued and relationships previously not contemplated established.

That’s how he became the nation’s most popular governor.

While among the few, Baker’s Republican bipartisanship isn’t unique. It’s shared by Larry Hogan, Maryland’s departing Democrat-dominated governor, and Ohio’s former GOP governor, John Kasich.

But as Baker steps away from politics, he leaves a constructive, collegial void that will be difficult to fill.

That’s what Massachusetts voters already realize — a sense now shared by anyone who viewed that CNN interview.

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