Where Is Charlie Baker?

Don't expect to see him at an anti-Trump protest any time soon.

Photo via Governor's Office

Photo via Governor’s Office

“Where is Charlie Baker?”

That’s what protesters this weekend asked in unison at rallies in Copley Square and in front of the State House, as thousands gathered to express their anger and disgust with President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

Baker, who has condemned the way the executive order was implemented, didn’t attend the rally. He says he was attending a funeral on Sunday. He also says he spent the weekend talking with stakeholders and working with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office on a brief about how the order will impact the state, which they plan to send to the White House.

But the chant—one of many in a weekend that saw plenty of creative ones—underscores the extent to which the Republican’s tendency toward moderation is not sitting well with many Democrats and activists, who say the extreme presidency of Donald Trump is cause for alarm, outrage, and confrontation. Baker wants a working relationship with the White House. They want blood.

As protests have broken out in the chaotic days since Trump’s election, a pattern is emerging. While Democrats flocked to an impromptu rally at Logan Airport on Saturday, Baker did not. While Healey, Mayor Marty Walsh, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and others, gave raucous speeches at the Women’s March to a crowd of 175,000, Baker was a no-show (in that case, he has said he was busy meeting with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, working on the budget, and prepping for the State of the Commonwealth address).

Asked repeatedly on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio Monday whether he would have attended any of the demonstrations had his schedule allowed it, he wouldn’t commit to saying yes or no. But don’t expect to see him with a megaphone in his hand anytime soon. In a state with lots to negotiate with Washington, he thinks joining the protesters is bad strategy.

“I made my views clear on Donald Trump as a candidate, and I’ve made my views clear a number of times on issues that have taken place since he took office, and I’ll continue to do that,” he said. “But I also have a job to do, and my job is represent the state’s interests every day around federal policy.”

Baker infamously refused to endorse, or even vote for Trump. And, in fact, he tangled with Trump the candidate on the very issue of banning Muslims from entering the country when the idea first emerged in 2015: “I think that’s ridiculous and I would never support a policy like that,” he said at the time, adding, “I can’t believe that I’m reading this, which is basically directly in contrast and in conflict with most of the most important values that people in this country hold most dear, among them the right and the ability to practice your religion peacefully. Yeah, I think this is a really bad idea.”

But he’s been making the case for what he calls his “no muss, no fuss,” approach to disagreements with Trump all along.

“[W]e live in a time where what you oppose seems much more interesting than what you support. Where compromising is often viewed as an act of weakness. When, in fact, it’s a sign of strength,” he said at his State of the Commonwealth address, without naming any names. He added, in a jab at Trump, but also, it seems, at Trump’s vocal critics in Massachusetts: “It’s one thing to stand in a corner and shout insults at your opponents. It’s quite another to climb into the arena and fight for common ground.”