Two Harvard professors, both accomplished women, ran for statewide public office in Massachusetts. One made it and made it big. The other did not. Why?
While both were from elsewhere, the two made Massachusetts their home, as others from other places have, like Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, for instance.
One of those Harvard professors is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 72, who is originally from Oklahoma. She not only holds the Senate seat once occupied by the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy but was a 2020 candidate for president. And she may run for president again.
The other is Danielle Allen, 51, originally from Maryland, who was a 2022 progressive candidate for the Democrat nomination for governor, but who dropped out even before the June party convention.
Given Allen’s academic background — she taught at Princeton before joining Harvard and was a Washington Post contributing columnist — one could argue that she was an even more interesting and attractive candidate than Warren.
And she is Black to boot and, unlike Warren, had no need to fake her ancestry.
One would have thought that the progressives in the Democrat Party would have fallen over such a candidate. But not so.
Allen, currently on leave from Harvard, was one of four Democrats to announce a candidacy for governor. The others were former Pittsfield state Sen. Ben Dowling, who dropped out, state Sen, Sonia Chang-Diaz of Boston, and Attorney General Maura Healey.
Healey and Chang-Diaz are currently competing for the Democrat Party convention endorsement as well as for the party nomination in the September. Democrat primary.
Had Allen remained in the race there would have been three women running, surely a first.
Allen, in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed column, said she found the rules and process of getting on the ballot too difficult to overcome.
Under the process, a candidate for governor must gather 10,000 valid signatures and win at least 15% of the party convention vote to appear on the September primary ballot. The convention delegates are elected at local party caucuses.
Allen, who ran a campaign to unify and “knit the state together,” found it too difficult to overcome the process.
“Our campaign foundered inside the Democrat Party ballot-access process,” she wrote. Her supporters were largely independent voters and ineligible to become Democrat Party delegates.
While critical of the process that she claimed ended her campaign, it is the same process that fellow professor Warren went through when she first ran for the Senate in 2012.
It is generally difficult for first-time candidates to win statewide office, although there are exceptions, like two-time former Gov. Deal Patrick.
Both Warren and Allen were unknown first-time candidates when they announced their candidacies. The difference is that Warren worked the system and became a party insider while Allen ignored the system and remained a party outsider.
It is one thing to teach and talk and write about the history of democracy and democrat theory, as the intellectually accomplished Allen, a classics scholar, has done. It is another to get down and dirty to do what is necessary to win a campaign.
Warren’s first campaign for the U.S. Senate might not even have gotten off the ground had not the Democrat power structure — mainly Gov. Patrick, Doug Rubin, his advisor, and party Chairman John Walsh — bullied other Democrats out of the race.
They manipulated the convention vote to keep immigration lawyer Marisa DeFranco, Warren’s main opponent, off the primary ballot. This meant that the unknown Warren, who could have been beaten, ran unopposed in the primary. She went on to beat Republican Scott Brown.
It is a shame Allen is not running. She brought dignity to the business of politics. She was a classy campaigner who refreshingly did not wave the race card. Our politics is in desperate need of such dignity.
Instead, we have the crass and unhinged Elizabeth Warren running around hysterically calling decent fellow Americans “liars and traitors.”
She should take Allen’s course at Harvard.
Peter Lucas is a veteran Massachusetts political reporter and columnist.