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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Dukakis offers insight on Democrats, Mass. Senate race

Published: October 7, 2011
Section: News

Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee for president, spoke to students at Brandeis Wednesday evening about how Democrats need to strengthen their grassroots campaign for President Obama in 2012.

He told students that he was very impressed with how Obama was able to raise money back in 2008. With four million contributors, Obama raised $750 million for his campaign. Dukakis called the Citizens v. United decision “one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history.”

“Now it’s all about the corporations,” he said. “We need to look at the constitution. [But for the justices,] it’s all about the ideology.

“The other side [Republicans] will get and spend a ton of money,” Dukakis said. “But this election will not be won by money alone: It’s all about making personal contact with every single voting household,” he said, recalling in 1962 when he had 70,000 people working on his Massachusetts state legislature campaign.

“We need to be knocking on doors, going back and developing relationships,” he said. Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, met earlier in the day with Elizabeth Warren, a candidate hoping to replace Senator Scott Brown, a Republican. He said, with a very intensive grassroots campaign, she will be able to make great strides and will be able to raise a lot of money to beat Brown and retake the seat for the party.

“Scott Brown is eminently beatable,” he said. “There’s no question she can beat him.”

The former governor also spoke about the Republican race, specifically between one of his successors, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry, the governor of Texas. In Dukakis’ opinion, Mitt Romney vetoed two of the most important provisions of the health care bill while leading Massachusetts and is not fit for the presidency.

When asked if Romney is a threat to Obama, Dukakis replied, “Yes, no question. And how do we deal with Romney? Those of us who know him best are going to have to fan out across the country and tell people what a fraud this guy is.”

Dukakis recalled his own campaign failure in 1988 when George H. W. Bush defeated him in the presidential election. “If I had beaten Bush One, you would have never heard of Bush Two,” Dukakis joked, referring to his competitor’s son, former President George W. Bush. He said he had failed to make clear to the people of the United States what he had accomplished while in office in Massachusetts. And he said that President Obama is currently failing to remind people of the importance of keeping the Democratic Party in the White House.

“What kind of shape were we in after Clinton left office? We were in a budget surplus,” Dukakis said. “It was a very conservative approach, and I mean that in every good sense of that word.”

Dukakis emphasized the importance of making Social Security secure again. “A guy who thinks that Social Security is unconstitutional, I don’t think is going to be elected as president of the United States,” he said of Perry.

Although Dukakis thinks the Democrats have a strong chance of beating the Republican Party, he thinks the biggest problem is that Democrats have done an inefficient job of explaining their landmark health care reform law.

There are currently 54 million people uninsured in the United States and Dukakis believes it is the working people, who are not privileged enough to receive health care benefits, who are most affected by this.

“If the Obama administration phrased it simply as: ‘Should working people have decent and affordable health care in the United States?’ people would understand that it’s not just about insurance reform,” he said.

The former governor also spoke about his early interest in public service and encouraged Brandeis students to be politically active. “You can’t be effective in public service without mastering political skills,” he said. When he ran for town-meeting member of Brookline in 1960, the town of Brookline was comprised of mostly Jews and Italians.

“I won because most of my constituents thought I was Jewish,” he joked.

Dukakis said the first steps of public service include taking advantage of internships and getting involved with campaigns. “I hope you all consider a career in public service or in politics: Take all the internships you can,” he said.

“If a guy with a funny name like Dukakis can be elected in this state three times, so can you,” the governor said.