It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see that the Massachusetts Republican party just had a really, really bad election. In addition to Massachusetts’s most famous Republican getting badly beaten by President Obama, they couldn’t prevent the Democrats from recapturing “the people’s seat” in the U.S. Senate, even though Scott Brown is still awfully handsome, they couldn’t pick up any congressional seats despite one incumbent who was plagued by scandal-tinged headlines for the entire cycle, and they lost seats in the state legislature, making the Democratic supermajorities in both chambers into super-duper-majorities. They even lost two seats on the Governor’s Council.
When something like that happens, there is inevitably a lot of public and private soul-searching, and that’s exactly what’s happening inside the small but less-merry-than-usual band of Republicans here in the Commonwealth. And, as one might expect, different people have different prescriptions for how the party should proceed. Here are some of the most interesting:
- RMGer “edfactor,” in a post provocatively entitled “The MassGOP … is dead,” argues that “[t]he Republican brand, on a national level, is now, obviously, completely incompatible with the mainstream political culture of this state.” He continues:
We are, at this point, a regional party with lots of problems, a brand that is toxic, little money, and not much to lift our spirits. As we are no longer viable statewide, it is clear that the party is dead….
I think we need to talk about what coalitions will get behind Republican ideas before we talk about party registration numbers. I think we need to become much more inclusive. I think we need to be a lot more tech-savvy. I think we need to become much more about policy. I think we need to unfriend all of the angry voices in our party who build nothing. I think we need to sit down with the Young Republicans and College Republicans and ask them what they want from this country and what kind of Republican party will help them get there. I think we need, more than anything else, to distinguish ourselves from the national GOP.
There will be much recrimination in the days to come. A lot of blaming the voters. A lot of people who always think that if we were just more conservative, people would vote for us. A lot of excuses around circumstances – such as the presidential turnout.
But I think most of you know that there is something fundamentally wrong with the party at a national level, and especially in Massachusetts. We need to put everything on the table and figure out what it means to be a Republican in Massachusetts. That will take time. But we have time now.
Provocative, to say the least. The ensuing comment thread is interesting and worth reading.
- Partly as a direct response to edfactor’s post, Jeff Jacoby decried the “the endlessly-recycled nattering about the damaged Republican “brand” in Massachusetts, and how the GOP is doomed to keep losing until it rids itself of positions that are incompatible with the Bay State’s political culture. Invariably this comes down to a call for Republican candidates who are liberal on social issues, moderately conservative on fiscal issues, and generally eager to distance themselves from the national Republican Party. What the local GOP needs, one senior party official told me last week, are ‘more Weld Republicans.’”Jacoby disagrees. Rather, he thinks – hilariously, I might add – that what’s needed is “more ‘Fattman Republicans.’” Yes, he’s talking about Ryan Fattman, the lad whose principal accomplishment in the legislature was making national news by spewing absurd and offensive comments about rape before all the kool kidz in the GOP were doing it. And no, I am not kidding – that’s really what Jacoby thinks will reinvigorate the Mass. GOP. It’s especially bizarre because one of the only topics on which Jacoby holds moderately sane views is immigration – precisely the topic that caused Fattman to go entirely off the rails. So, moving on.
- Holding views somewhat at odds with Jacoby’s is James Peyser, formerly of the Pioneer Institute and a veteran of several MA GOP administrations. Peyser lays the across-the-board failure of Massachusetts Republicans this cycle squarely at the feet of the national party:
It would be one thing if the GOP put up candidates who were way to the right of “mainstream” voters, but many of the Republican candidates in this election cycle were self-described moderates, some of whom supported such liberal touchstones as abortion rights and gay marriage.
More important than ideological differences between the candidates was the burden GOP contenders carried by virtue of being affiliated with the national Republican Party. Even when individual candidates explicitly and repeatedly separated themselves from many of their Republican counterparts around the country, they were effectively tarred by their opponents as stalking horses for the leaders and factions that have become the GOP’s brand, which is deeply unpopular in this corner of the country.
Peyser goes on to argue that the problem isn’t conservatism per se, but rather the fact that “the Republicans who increasingly define the party are not perceived as being serious about addressing the country’s fundamental problems,” and further that “too many voices of the Republican Party and conservative talk radio have adopted a harsh tone that is disrespectful, at best.” He concludes that “[i]f New England Republicans are going to revive their prospects in federal campaigns, they need to create some space between themselves and the national GOP, not just as individual candidates, but as state parties. As a first step, Republican parties in New England should adopt platforms addressing national policy, making clear distinctions with the platform adopted this summer in Tampa and framing their own brand of Yankee conservatism.”
- Interesting, the Mass. GOP just took a rather confusing move that was maybe intended to be in that direction, though it’s hard to be sure. Remember how, a few weeks ago, the state party put off deciding whether to adopt the national GOP’s exceedingly harsh platform as its own? Here’s what happened next:
The Massachusetts Republican Party State Committee voted Tuesday night to adopt Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential platform, in addition to the existing state party platform.
The committee rejected a move to adopt the national Republican Party platform, which was created by the Republican National Committee.
OK, so they rejected the national platform, but they adopted Mitt Romney’s. Here’s the problem: there’s no such thing as a Romney platform. Per the article linked above,
[t]here is no official Romney platform document, but the state committee vote expressed confidence in Romney’s general ideas – particularly his focus on fiscal policy, such as lowering taxes and rolling back regulations. Romney did speak about social issues, particularly during the Republican primary, but they were not the focus of his campaign. For example, Romney opposes abortion with exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Unfortunately for the state party, it took this peculiar action before Romney completely self-destructed on a conference call, whereupon most of the GOP establishment threw Romney under the nearest oncoming bus (one historian quipped that Romney “is now a toxic asset to unload”). Consequently, the state party now finds itself having adopted a platform that (1) has no content, and (2) is associated with the least popular Republican in the United States. Another triumph for Bob Maginn.
- Of course, there are those who remain staunchly of the view that conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. If only our leaders were more pure; if only they didn’t feel the need to appeal to moderates; then they surely would have won. RMG’s proprietor Rob Eno appears to be one of those, at least judging from this post in which he quotes at length, and with apparent approval (“it’s spot on”), a letter that was originally posted at Legal Insurrection addressed to “Republican Establishment,” and signed “The Conservative Grassroots, AKA Tea Party, 912, Liberty, precinct Republicans, silent majority Americans.” Rob prefaces the quote by arguing that “a mistake Scott Brown made is attacking the base. The incessant I love Planned Parenthood ads turned off many people I know.” You can imagine most of the content of the letter itself; here’s an excerpt:
Stop hanging Akin & Mourdock around our neck. We didn’t know they didn’t understand how conception works. You didn’t know that the word “macaca” was part of George Allen’s vocabulary, either. And you didn’t blame him for the loss of the House and Senate in 2006. Interestingly, you put him up again this time around. We might make mistakes, but we don’t make them twice. So stop the scapegoating, please….
We lost because we did not present bold colors, big ideas that could inspire a nation to join us….
The grassroots will fix this for you. Please stay out of our way. And don’t do anything stupid like granting citizenship to 15m illegals. We have to persuade Hispanics they are conservatives who belong in the GOP, just like that County GOP Chairman in New Mexico did with Susanna Martinez. We win Hispanics by persuading them that conservatism, that free enterprise rather than entitlement, is the path to the American Dream of individual liberty and prosperity….
You cannot win without your base.
You cannot win by attacking your base.
Ok. Enough. We will not harp on it any more. You can poke us all you want. From here on, we’re working on 2014. And 2016.
We hope you will join us. And LISTEN.
The really hilarious part is begging not to be blamed for Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock (and, presumably, Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell – that’s four Senate seats right there), when of course that is precisely where the blame should lie.
- Finally, some focus almost exclusively on infrastructure. More people need to come to town committee meetings; more people should write letters to the editor; we need a better GOTV machine like the one John Walsh built. All of that would help, but I’d respectfully question whether it will ever happen given the current state of the product the MA GOP is selling.
What would you do?