Bill Finch has always embraced an independent streak, it’s part of his persona that invites a hug him or slug him reaction, depending on your perspective. Finch is doing something no mayor in modern history has approached. He’s saying to anyone willing to listen to him, a little more tactfully, that city schools suck and entrust him to fix them. He’s on a tour to persuade voters to grant him the power to appoint school board members, control the budget, the spending and contracts because what’s the point of blaming me for failing schools if I don’t have the tools to fix them? Democracy doesn’t always work, he says. Sometimes you must seize control. So why not leave the Democratic Party and become an independent?
Finch believes dealing with the party apparatus is a necessary evil. It’s what party politicians do to survive. In politics survival is relative. Finch has an opportunity to say screw it, I have a lock on three and half years and I’m going to govern the way I want damn the political gypsies, tramps and thieves. Damn the political paupers nipping at my feet like chihuahuas. If he becomes an independent, he still controls the candy store. The political paupers on the payroll have no place else to go, Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, once the power politico with cashews that clank, is acting more like a henpecked husband.
Finch is in a position to transcend politics and tell all the party hacks to kiss off. If he governs well, transforms the school system, embraces a reformer’s streak, what can they do to him? By the time 2015 rolls around he’ll have a boatload of campaign cash ready for a general election to be judged by voters.
Will he do this? Of course not. That John Kennedy voice inside his head will take over: you’re a Democrat, you need to remain a Democrat and all the schmaltzy crap that goes along with it, if you want a higher office. But what higher office? Barring something dramatic no state constitutional office will be available to him in 2014. A state commissionership? If he makes nice with Governor Malloy, assuming Malloy seeks and wins a second term, that could be still be available to him.
If you’re going to transcend politics, as Finch is crafting, why not go all the way? Tell the Dems it’s been nice, I’ll still work with you, but democracy ain’t what it used to be. Now that would be the start of a legacy.