Thinking Citizen Blog — Candidates for Governor of Massachusetts (Part II): Danielle Allen (1971 — ), Not Just Another Harvard Professor
Thinking Citizen Blog — Sunday is Political Process, Campaign Strategy, and Candidate Selection Day
Today’s Topic: Candidates for Governor of Massachusetts (Part II): Danielle Allen (1971 — ), Not Just Another Harvard Professor
Danielle Allen is not the first Harvard professor to run for political office. In 2016 Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig ran for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. In case you have forgotten, he did not win. In the opinion of some, a damn shame. And in 2012, of course, Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, ran for the US Senate and won. A calamity in the opinion of some. A source of elation for others. Well, how do you feel about Danielle Allen? How many people have even heard of her? What should every Massachusetts voter know about her? Her passion for civic education makes her especially appealing to me. She has taught at both the Harvard School of Education and in the Government Department. My concern is a repetition of my experience with Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren. Of this, more below. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate. elucidate.
NB: This series began last week with Martha Healey (D), Attorney General of Massachusetts. Next week: Republican candidate Geoff Diehl who served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019.
UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, POLITICAL THEORIST, JOURNALIST
1. Danielle Allen is not just any Harvard professor. She is the youngest member of the super-elite ranks of “University Professors” — the highest honor to be accorded Harvard faculty. There are only 26 “university professors” out of a tenured faculty of 917. She is one of two Black women. The other is historian Annette Gordon-Reed.
2. She is a political theorist, a writer of op-ed pieces for the Washington Post, and the author of a long list of books. She was a past chair of the Mellon Foundation Board and of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and is the Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.
3. She graduated from Princeton in 1993, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a Marshall scholar at Cambridge University (UK) where she received her masters and PhD in classics (1996). She got a second PhD from Harvard University in 2001 this time in government. She was Dean of the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago from 2004 to 2007.
NB: She is the daughter of William B. Allen (1944- ), a political scientist and professor at Michigan State who served as chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights from 1988–1989. She grew up in Claremont, California where her father was professor of government at Harvey Mudd College. He insisted that Danielle study Latin starting in fourth grade. (See fourth link below for details.)
A CHAMPION OF CLASSIC TEXTS, FREE SPEECH, AND A MIDDLE WAY
1. “All adults should read the Declaration closely; all students should have read the Declaration from start to finish before they leave high school.” (fourth link) Hallelujah! But I would add: should have summarized it in their own words and analyzed it and exchanged analyses with their classmates and teachers.
2. In 2017 in a column in the Washington Post she compared the assault on conservative political scientist Charles Murray at Middlebury College to the “shouting, shoving mob” that the Little Rock Nine “faced during their effort to desegregate Little Rock Central High in 1957.”
3. To be honest, her column was so inspiring to me that I contacted and met with her several times. But my personal concern is based on my past experiences with Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.
NB: The rhetoric of Barack Obama in 2004 and 2008 was so inspiring in its vision of a middle way that he got my vote in 2008. After taking office, his policies were to me far less conciliatory than I had hoped and I believe the consequence of the polarization that ensued was the election of Mr. Trump in 2016. Back in 2009, I met with Elizabeth Warren while I was a fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School . I was so impressed with her passion, brilliance, and apparent commitment to a middle way that I urged her to run for President (which she dismissed with a laugh). But when she ran for Senate her program to me a boiler plate program of the Sanders wing of the Democratic party. Again, huge disappointment.
HER STORY: WHY DANIELLE? (from her website)
1. “Dannielle is a non-profit leader, policy innovator, and mom.”
2. “She leads from principle but knows how to compromise.”
3. “Reimagine. One Commonwealth. Our Commonwealth.”
NB: Specifics? Details are in the first link below. To me, the devil is in the details. To me the details (after a quick survey) are not anything that distinguishes them from a Warren or Sanders agenda. But I have not yet given them the attention that perhaps they deserve. If you have and come to a different conclusion, please enlighten me. If you are unaware of my general political perspective see my three politically-oriented websites: the Thinking Citizen, the Education First Party, and Muresianu For Senate (from 2018).
FOOTNOTE — One detail — Decriminalization of drugs including heroin (9th link below)
1. “We’ve got more than five people a day dying. We’re not getting the job done.”
2. “You can’t get the job done if you leave the stigma of criminalization in place.”
3. This detail could serve as “a differentiator between her and her primary rivals, Attorney General Maura Healey and state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, both of whom on Wednesday refrained from embracing the idea.”
NB: Personally, this “differentiator” is a plus for Allen. I think Milton Friedman nailed it long ago when he said the war on drugs was responsible for more unnecessary deaths around the world than any other ongoing US policy. See the last link below for a 1991 interview with Friedman on the War on Drugs. I don’t know of an interview on a political topic more worth reading and thinking deeply about.
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