Through the Years

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So, where did Jim Braude’s public speaking career, such as it is, begin? Probably at Jim’s Bar Mitzvah. Here’s Norman who taught young Jimmy how to do whatever people do at such events…

Then there was a rather long lull, almost a decade, until Braude spoke again – not unlike Clarence Thomas. He can’t remember saying much at Penn, but at NYU Law, on day one, he did speak up in the constitutional law class of Prof. Norman Dorsen, to which the legendary professor responded: “Mr. Braude, jokes are not helpful…” Figuring that he may not be cut out for the law, Braude opened a store in Provincetown, HUBE, Help Us Break Even. They didn’t, so it was back to law school.

After graduating, it was on to South Bronx Legal Services, where Braude reportedly never stopped talking, mostly in courtrooms, representing tenants and prisoners at the only women’s facility in the state. Braude’s co-worker and he took a case to the U. S. Supreme Court which still stands as the law on due process rights for those in prison. (He also ran marathons - Jim, incredibly, completing New York, 2 times!!) As for his on-going work in the office, Jim’s two most noteworthy accomplishments happened outside the courtroom: babysitting rapper Tupac Shakur, then the cutest little boy and son of the paralegal on his team, Afeni. And he founded a union that ended up representing lawyers, secretaries and paralegals in 35 states and which helped save legal services for the poor from Ronald Reagan’s efforts to defund it.

During all that, he became a VP of the United Auto Workers. Then Jim moved to Boston and became the first director of the Tax Equity Alliance for Mass (TEAM), a pro-fair tax coalition of all the usual suspects (meant endearingly). As head of TEAM, Braude lobbied on Beacon Hill and did ballot campaigns, winning some, defeating what would have been the largest percentage budget cut on the ballot in U.S. history. The Boston Globe Magazine called the campaign: “the broadest based coalition in recent state history…it revived the ideal of an aroused citizenry.” Here’s Jim with Barbara Anderson, the doyenne of the tax-cutting movement, at a debate where their supporters threw pizza at each other – too long a story for now.

Another campaign he headed made Massachusetts the first state to require that banks, insurance companies and publicly traded corporations disclose what they paid in state taxes (it made Page One headlines in the Globe before it was repealed by the legislature just days later). Braude also lost some, like the effort to amend the state’s constitution to require that income taxes be graduated (defeated by a narrow 71-29 margin).

While doing tax reform, Braude considered running for governor in 1994, encouraged by a columnist or 2. Bob Kuttner wrote in the Globe: “My first choice would be Jim Braude, the charismatic and politically astute head of TEAM…he would bring the enthusiasm of a grass roots army…” But the support was not universal. Some were downright skeptical as when then Gov. Weld interrupted a press conference to say: “If you’re gonna run for governor, Jim, I think you’ll have to get a tie.”

Ultimately, Braude determined that losing was not that appealing a notion.

When he left TEAM in the mid-90’s, Jim published an artistically successful (he thought), but financially unsuccessful (that was beyond dispute!) political magazine, Otherwise…

Jim then ran for and was elected to the Cambridge City Council…here are two of Braude’s strongest supporters.

He retired undefeated, and exhausted, after one term, but was there long enough to get a sense of what politics was like from two perspectives – as a citizen, with contempt for irresponsible elected officials and as an elected official, with contempt for irresponsible constituents.

In the middle of all that, after having been a frequent guest, Jim Braude was hired by NECN to host a nightly show, originally, Talk of New England, for which he won an Emmy. He then co-hosted NewsNight with the legendary Chet Curtis, then his own show, Broadside, which he did until February of 2013. Among his favorite interviewees have been Jane Fonda (dog on lap), Salman Rushdie (post-fatwa), and Chelsea Handler.

Braude gets good grades for treating liberals, like Jesse Jackson at the Democratic convention here in 2004, or conservatives, like then Governor Mitt Romney, the same. He’s moderated debates for Senate, Governor, virtually every Congressional race and all the other constitutional offices. Here are 4 GOP’ers vying to become the candidate for the 10th CD.

Braude also did morning drive-time radio with then of the Herald Margery Eagan. That ended in January after 13 years. But just a month later, proving there are second acts in American lives, Jim & Margery became co-hosts of Boston Public Radio at WGBH 89.7FM. Here they are, starring in a remake of ET…but mostly, they, have fun – and get paid for it.

On TV and radio, he's interviewed former presidents and almost-presidents, but never the incumbent Barack Obama(though when the President called in to Jim and Margery's radio show to wish Governor Patrick well in late 2014, Jim did ask the Leader of the Free World if he had paid Somerville parking tickets from his time at Harvard Law). Braude has tried to be even-handed in the Obama discussions, though some listeners think he’s tipped his hand. Here’s a cartoon from one of them:

So, that's what he does now, give speeches, moderate debates, chair panels, do auctions, write an occasional column for the Boston Globe Magazine, co-host a midday radio show at WGBH, then walk down the hall to do TV, also at WGBH - not bad for a guy who got his start at a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth Zion.

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