Baker Addresses an Anxious Massachusetts on its Future in Trump’s America

The governor says he's following Obama's lead and wants to work with the incoming administration.

Charlie Baker

Photo via AP

Speaking to a state where anxieties are high about the future under Donald Trump, Gov. Charlie Baker made the case for collaborating with the incoming administration, and at the same time pledged to represent the state’s interests in Washington.

After meeting with the Republican Governors Association in Orlando, where he was spotted sitting beside Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate, Baker said it’s time to look to the future and work with the president-elect—even though Baker himself repeatedly doubted the former reality TV star had the “temperament” to be president.

Baker, a Republican, did not support, and says he did not vote for, any candidate for president. He endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie late in the Republican primary, shortly before Christie dropped out of the race.

“[Pence] made it clear to us he will want to have very deliberate and significant dialogue with governors and with states as the new administration moves forward,” Baker said at a news conference today. “I think in many ways for us this is a hugely important issue because we are a state that, between health care and education and energy and defense, has a lot of interest in a lot of issues with respect to what happens at the federal level and my hope and my anticipation is that open line of dialogue will be available to us.”

In that way, he says he is following the lead of outgoing President Barack Obama, who said in a press conference of his own on Monday that Trump’s critics should give him a chance to lead.

“There is way too much pre-judging going on here,” Baker said. “And I think it’s important for all of us to take a page from what the president had to say the other day, which is, let’s see what happens here. Let’s judge people on the totality of their work and what they say and how they pursue what they’re up to. I want people to be vigilant, I want them to pay attention, I want them to engage. But I also want them to remember what I said before, which is that this is a nation of many communities and a lot of different points of view and a lot of opinions. And that is, in many respects, the capacity to respect and understand that is a big part of what makes us great.”

Baker says there are opportunities to find common ground early on, among them proposals to push infrastructure improvement projects.

But there was still much for Baker to answer for, as tensions in his state over health care, immigration, and race relations have deepened since Trump’s surprise victory last week.

Like his friend, Mayor Marty Walsh, Baker said he would defend Massachusetts’ “sanctuary” cities that have refused to cooperate with federal immigration officials on deportation efforts. Trump has called for an effort to round up and deport millions of undocumented immigrants—an effort that would likely require collaboration with local police departments—and threatened to strip federal funding from cities that refuse to work with him.

“I’ve said all along I think that decisions about how communities want to manage their public safety issues and their community issues belong to them and they should make whatever decisions they think are in the best interest of their communities,” Baker said. “Then it’s incumbent on our administration and our congressional delegation to work hard to make sure our state continues to receive the federal support that we’ve previously been able to secure.”

Addressing concerns about the anti-immigrant, isolationist bent of the Trump agenda, Baker stressed the importance of the state’s role as a global force with a “big footprint” around the world. “We’re a global community, we’re a global commonwealth. People need to feel welcome here,” he said.

The Swampscott Republican also responded to controversy over the makeup of Trump’s transition team, which includes Steve Bannon, head of the alt-right site Breitbart, considered by critics in Massachusetts and beyond as among the most influential proprietors of American white nationalism and antisemitism.

“I said that the president has made clear he wants to unify the country post-election, and I’ve said that based on Bannon’s previous remarks and activities that was a concern to me,” he said. “But I’m going to take a page from President Obama’s book on this, when he said the other day that he thinks the Trump administration’s team should be judged by the totality of its appointments. Let’s see what else happens.”