By: Daniel Simonds ‘17
Local State Representative Brad Hill (R) spoke with a Gordon College journalism student about issues ranging from the difficulties of securing state dollars for his district (Hamilton, Wenham and a number of other towns) to his diagnosis of the current political landscape.
Hill, 50, offered some words on Gordon College as well. He said, “The perception is that it’s conservative in many ways, and it has been since I was a young person. If we were to leave New England, it fits in with a lot of other college campuses, actually.”
The Hamilton-native continued, “If we were to leave the New England states, I think we’d get a very different view – not only of the President, but what he’s doing, as compared to what people here think he’s doing.”
Potentially influenced by Trump’s recent nomination of Christian education activist Betsy DeVos to a cabinet post, Hill predicted, “I think in other states you’re going to see more conservative values in educational facilities that may be different than what we see at a state school in Massachusetts.”
Despite his party’s ideological gains over the last few months, Hill is discouraged by the sweeping polarization on either side of the aisle.
“I’m of the era where you work together, no matter what party you’re from. I’m almost like a dinosaur here in Massachusetts. I’m a moderate Republican who has been in the minority his entire career.”
For inspiration, he looks back to the 1980’s and the bipartisan relationship between Boston-native Speaker Tip O’Neill (D), and conservative icon, President Ronald Reagan.
Hill said, “If you go back and Google both of them, you’ll see many times where they disagree vehemently. But in the end, they’d sit in a room, and have a drink together and say, “How can we get this done?”
Hill has acted on his inspiration as seen by being named chairman of Public Safety Committee, unusual for a Republican in Massachusetts. In this office, he proposed a bill that called for a six-month revocation of a teen’s license if he or she were caught speeding, addressing the early 2000s teen vehicular homicide epidemic.
Melissa’s Bill (named after a young woman who was murdered on Cape Cod by a repeat felon) does not allow criminals of the “most heinous crimes,” Hill said, to qualify for parole, keeping the “Commonwealth,” as he exclusively referred to Massachusetts, safe. Hill also pushed the designation of 18 year-old felons from being considered adults to juveniles, allowing for exposure to better education and mental health resources as seen in juvenile detention centers.
“I got the Republican Caucus to actually support it unanimously. So, even the right of my party, who would’ve said, ‘We need to be tough on crime,’ understood that this was a better place to be putting 18 year-olds than where they were going.”
Hill went on to say, “The only way that happens is to work with the majority party, which I am not a member of. So, that’s why when I see what’s going on at the federal level, I find it frustrating.”
Hill commented on the nature of our current political polarization with an illustration, utilizing an empty, long table in the Easton Dining Hall. “We could set up this whole table and ask one question, and what do we have, 30 people? You’re gonna get 30 different opinions.”
Participatory democracy is not the antidote, Hill said, to our current representative democracy that is widely perceived to be broken (20th internationally in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2016 Democracy Index, and deemed a “flawed” not “full” democracy). A more participatory form exists in states like California, Hill said. While these states present dozens of ballot measures come election time, the laws established through ballot measures do not stand the test of time to the degree that bills passed through the legislature do, Hill said.
“But if all 30 can come to a consensus, and agree for the most part what should happen, wasn’t that better?” Hill said.