By Seth Daniel
After a shocking Election Day result that included not only a win by President Elect Donald Trump, but also a Republican sweep through the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures, federal, state and local leaders gathered at GreenRoots on Eastern Avenue Thursday, Nov. 10, to discuss the new lay of the land.
In many cases, while some are ready to figuratively jump off the Mystic/Tobin Bridge, Congressman Michael Capuano and State Rep. Dan Ryan brought levity and a bit of reality to the situation during their stop. The biggest message was to calm down and give Trump a chance for the moment.
“We’re supposed to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Capuano said. “He won an election. I’m not ready to think he’ll become sunshine. Maybe he will and I’ll work with him if he does. He won an election. I have to compromise. If they want to govern from the hard right, we’ll fight them all the way. We might not win many fights, but we’ll fight. We will do the best we can and look to take the House in two years. That’s all we can do.”
Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni said her organization had called a meeting scheduled on a separate issue, but decided to change gears after the shocking results of the presidential election came in.
“We felt we had to have a conversation about Chelsea and our community and what this will means for our issues and our environmental justice initiatives,” she said.
Capuano has spoken on several Boston radio programs and he appeared at a small meeting in Chelsea with State Rep. Dan Ryan last Thursday – saying it’s time for Democrats to take a look in the mirror after the loss of the presidency and the Republican sweep.
“I’m not interested in convincing the nuts not to be nuts,” he said. “I’m interested in the other people who voted against their interests – the auto workers, police officers and firefighters…The battle is for the good people to see what this is. If you look at every single person on the street – especially a working class white person and say, ‘I hate you,’ then you just lost.
“Democrats need to look in the mirror and figure out who we are,” he continued. “I’m an old fashioned street politician – a street fighter. I’m not a $50,000 meeting politician where we have a discussion and all feel better. We need to be street politicians again. I think we’ve forgotten that. Democratic ideas that we celebrate came up from the bottom. That’s why results like Michigan stunned me.”
State Rep. Dan Ryan said he feels like there is a silver lining to the results, though many may not see that now.
“There’s a lot of good that came out of Tuesday,” he said. “People think the world is going to end, but it’s not…I understand there is a lot of frustration. I get that. However, of all the things said about Donald Trump, the one thing I realized about him is that he is an opportunist. The racial divide he saw and flamed the fire and used it to his advantage…It’s our job to figure out what’s going on in that he’d of his. He’s going to let more people down on the right than on the left. I’m convinced of it…He saw an opening and took it.”
That said, on the issue of immigration, both said there is good reason to watch closely what is happening, but not to jump to conclusions yet.
“Every question and concern is fair,” said Capuano. “I’m not going to tell you not to be concerned, especially those of you who are immigrants or have loved ones who are. I don’t think they’ll come knocking on the door tomorrow. I don’t think they ever will, but I can’t tell you not to be worried. More people have been deported under President Obama than any other president in history. How much more can they jack that up?”
That said, he and Ryan said anyone who feels threatened should contact their offices.
“If what he says about immigration is true, get in touch with me,” he said. “We can talk. Everything you say in a government office is safe and we will work together.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said nothing in Chelsea’s policy will change as a result of the election.
“We have elected a new president with policies and positions I find appalling,” he said. “However, he is the president and it doesn’t mean he has complete control over your lives in Chelsea. We have a Constitution with rights that even a president cannot overcome. Probably 99 percent of what affects your lives are laws enacted by the City Council and enforced by me or those at the state level…Most of the time, there is very little at the federal level that affect you on a daily basis.”
That, though, was qualified by the fact that immigration laws are the one exception to the rule – as they are under the purview of federal law.
With Chelsea being a Sanctuary City, which means they do not participate or cooperate in federal civil immigration law removals, Ambrosino said there is a possibility that the federal government could withhold funding from the City – such as the $825,000 per year Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
“If they threaten that, then I like the position of saying, ‘Ok were not a Sanctuary City and then I call the chief and say don’t change our policy at all,” said Ambrosino. “So, the policy would stay the same and we would get the grant.”
Ambrosino said it is important to remember that not every Republican and not every Republican idea is outrageous.
“Donald Trump has crazy ideas, but some Republican ideas aren’t bad ideas,” he said. “Cities and towns thrived under Richard Nixon. There were all sorts of strong ideas under Nixon that came down and they were good for cities and towns.”
Capuano said Massachusetts is going to be tested, as it is now an outlier in the political mood of the country in being a Democratic dominated state. He said the House, where he serves, will not be able to do much as the Republicans have the necessary 218 votes to do most anything they want.
However, in the Senate, he said there are 40 Democratic Senators and they can make a difference in votes.
“Republicans are like a pack of dogs in that they have a leader and stick together,” he said. “Democrats are like a herd of cats. Republicans can keep 40 members together and Democrats cannot. We have to stay together now…In the House, we will lose every vote because it’s a majority. But we can set the table for those 40 Senators and give them encouragement…You have to have a long-term view of this.”
He also railed on folks who didn’t vote or chose a third party candidate.
“If this doesn’t prove elections matter, I don’t know what does,” he said. “I’d like to find every person that was too busy to vote and give them a dope slap. I’d like to find every person that voted for a third-party candidate and give them a dope slap. I’ve got my problems with Hillary Clinton. I never said she was the second coming of Christ. Only Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump could have won this election. The people who voted for other candidates – shame on them.”
Ryan said it has been interesting to speak with his daughters in the wake of the election – especially given what was said often times about certain women and the words that were used.
“A lot of this is over their head, but some of it isn’t,” he said. “To a certain extent, they need to know there are jerks in the world.”