Given numerous opportunities, Dan Winslow refuses to disavow Rick Green’s “union thug” comment

Rick Green, one of the two leading candidates for chairman of the Mass. GOP, made what is really quite a startling accusation on WRKO the other day.  Here’s what he said in the course of explaining how it is that Massachusetts Democrats have been so successful in the last couple of election cycles (audio is posted here):

The Democrat party – the gentleman John Walsh, who chairs their party, and his union thugs – have created quite an organization.

Outrageous, right?  Apparently, all the behind-the-scenes work getting Democratic candidates to coordinate their voter ID efforts, the epic door-knocking campaigns, the GOTV operations, and all the rest of the stuff that actually worked (and that even Republicans, in more reflective moments, acknowledge that they need to emulate if they are to succeed) had nothing to do with winning.  It was the “union thugs” that made it happen.  I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean beyond the usual GOP demonization of working people.

Anyway, since Green’s comment is a patently ridiculous and inflammatory accusation, and since Rep. Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk) had previously “enthusiastically endorsed” Green to head the Mass. GOP, and since we know Winslow to be a reasonable sort, I asked Winslow about Green’s comments.  What transpired can be read in its entirety on Twitter; here is the main part of the back and forth:

BMG: still waiting to hear whether you agree with Rick Green that the secret to @JohnEWalshDem’s success is “union thugs”

Winslow: Do you concede that there any ANY thugs in #mapoli–people who use/threaten violence or advocate violence?

BMG: Like Kerry Healey’s orange jumpsuit guys? Come on Dan, you can do better than that. Answer the question.

Winslow: Like “blood on streets” or “blood & teeth on floor”? All bad. GOP or Dem I condemn all violence in politics.

BMG: What a pathetic dodge. Green claimed that @JohnEWalshDem relies on “union thugs” to win elex. Do you agree?

Winslow: Not a dodge. First want to agree on underlying premise of discussion. You agree there ANY thugs in #mapoli

BMG: Not playing that game. It’s a yes or no question: is Green correct in saying that @JohnEWalshDem relies on “union thugs” to win?

That was pretty much the end of it.  Winslow simply would not say whether he agreed or disagreed with Green’s statement.

There was one brief moment later when I thought we might make progress.  Another user had chimed in that maybe we had a definitional problem – maybe to Green, every union member is a “union thug,” so that any union participation in GOTV efforts would by definition involve “union thugs.”  So I asked Dan whether that was the case.

BMG: Maybe we can clear this up. Dan: do you use “union thug” as synonym for “union member”? Or does “thug” require more?

Winslow: I use “thug” to refer to someone who uses violence or intimidation or threats in politics. Hurts democracy. You?

BMG: At least we agree on that. Back to original question: is Green right re @JohnEWalshDem and “union thugs”?

After that, crickets.  Winslow has tweeted several times since then, but never addressed what is, in fact, a simple yes or no question.

The bottom line is this: I asked Winslow several times whether he agreed with Green’s comment.  He refused to answer.  From that, I think it’s fair to say that at the very least, he does not disavow it.

From someone who professes to value working together, civility, and civil discourse, I find that to be disappointing.

Recommended by bluewatch, sharoney.


23 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. BS detector at redline

    BMG sort of blew any and all credibility as an advocate for civility or civil discourse in this thread. Rather, you favor civil discourse only with people who agree with you, and will tell you just how right you are.

    Trolling around for things about which to demand denuniciations is, with the possible exception of the cheezburger cats, the lowest form of discussion on the internet.

    That thread demonstrates that, when challenged, this site rapidly morphs into some left-wing version of Bill O’Reilly screaming “SHUT UP!”

    People unfamilar with this site should recognize that this post is partisan propaganda and little more.

    • "you favor civil discourse only with people who agree with you, and will tell you just how right you are."

      Who are you talking about? Me? Everyone at BMG?

      Come on, CMD – you understand how blogs work well enough to understand that individuals speak for themselves, even if they post regularly at a given site, and that it’s absurd to characterize an entire site based on comments from a handful of users – especially when those users are not admins, and when other users disagreed with them. That’s a Bill O’Reilly trick – unworthy of someone with actual sense.

      As for the substance of the post, I stand by it 100%. Winslow did not have to endorse in the MA GOP race – after all, he doesn’t have a vote. He chose to do so, and his candidate then made a frankly outrageous statement. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask him whether or not he agrees with it.

    • I participated in that thread

      I certainly did not view myself as telling Dan or anyone else to shut up – I invited him to directly address the issue of racism in his party, the “party of Lincoln”, to use his words. He chose not to do so, instead making an inane crack about the state senate not being a step up from the state house. Many other frequent commenters here made the same points as I did – inviting comment from him is hardly screaming shut up.

    • Demanding denunciations is indeed tiresome

      Agreed. I used to have a series of comments called “Regularly Scheduled Condemnations” when some conservative commentator would demand that BMG rise up and condemn some obscure liberal (or even non-liberal leftist) or denounce some awkwardly phrased comment made by Patrick, Kerry, or Obama.

      It’s because politics is such a team sport that the Republican condemnation of Akin was so unusual and Christie’s condemnation of Boehner so newsworthy.

      Perhaps if the Republicans weren’t so endangered in Massachusetts, Mr Winslow would find it in his heart to lay the grave and severe charge of hyperbole at Mr Green’s feet. As matters stand, Mr Green shall now doubt persist in serial hyperbole and get invited onto right wing radio where he can indulge his vice with its connoisseurs and high practitioners.

    • What's wrong with partisan

      propaganda? And what makes it propaganda anyway?

      Let me say, I like Dan Winslow as far as I know him, which is just from BMG. I like the fact that he wades into our discussions knowing that there are things he can’t say because he’s a public figure with a constituency.

      But I think David’s dogging him is, I think, warranted. At least on BMG, Dan presents himself as part of the sensible center. His participation in Americans Elect, which was tried to nominate presidential candidates who didn’t have an ideology, kind of reflects that sensibility. is now trying to pick up the ball that Americans Elect dropped.

      Endorsing someone who calls me a union thug would seem to militate Dan’s presentation of himself and his beliefs.

  2. Short hairs

    It seems on frequent occasions when GOP candidates and pundits gaffe (and get caught by the short hairs with their true biases exposed) there is something that gets in the way of a sincere and forthright retraction or apology. Like for instance, insulting the Secretary of State by false and mean-spirited accusations that she faked her illness to avoid Senate hearings.

    Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh was spouting that the reason the Lefties love the movie “Lincoln” is because it has reminded us that our hero’s (Lincoln) major accomplishment was as, ‘Rush Sees It,’ to destroy the south. Well, Rush believes that Lincoln left some unfinished business and the US Left wants to “finish the job.”

    Limbaugh noted that the US Left is trying to isolate and ultimately ‘defeat’ the South. He asked his audience why Hollywood has produced the Abraham Lincoln films of late and why US Leftists are cheering these movies. The radio host answered his own question, saying that from their perspective Lincoln had destroyed the South but had not finished the job. He then referred to a recent article saying just this. Limbaugh went on to assert that the US Left wants to ‘finish off’ the South – finish the work that Lincoln started – because Southerners are conservative and oppose the Left’s political and social agenda.

    Dan, this stuff is just fucked, you know it and we know it, and we know you know it. Save the Winslow name and distance yourself from the wingnuts.

    Do it for the Jumbos.

  3. I'm disappointed.

    The thread that CMD linked to above is the same one in which I defended Mr. Winslow for by and large not being like many of his party. While I am sympathetic to kbusch’s comment about demanding denunciations it seems the question deserves a more direct answer.

  4. Also can anyone cite instances of violence?

    This line

    Winslow: Like “blood on streets” or “blood & teeth on floor”? All bad. GOP or Dem I condemn all violence in politics.

    refers to rhetoric, not actual violence or even an accusation of violence. I am not aware of actual thuggish behavior and I’m sure the party and any campaign would denounce such.

  5. More of the same

    I find Mr. Winslow’s comments on this issue completely consistent with his stance in the thread cited by CMD. In both cases, he demonstrates to my satisfaction that he is only superficially different from the offensive bigotry of Scott Brown, Rick Green, and the rest of the disgustingly hate-filled GOP.

    Regarding CMD’s comment, Mr. Winslow and any other Republican (or Republican sympathizer) is just as capable of starting their own thread here as they are of running for office. Perhaps if Mr. Winslow had started his own thread emphasizing the aspects of Mr. Green’s candidacy that attracts Mr. Winslow’s support, a more positive discussion might have ensued. Similarly, perhaps if the MA GOP ran candidates that were more qualified and less divisive, they might attract less hostility (of course, they would then be drummed out of the GOP for being insufficiently “conservative”).

    The plain truth is that the GOP has become intellectually bankrupt at its heart and in its soul. Whatever it may have been more than century ago, it is today a mob comprised of racists, bigots, misanthropes, and non-union thugs, together with unscrupulous snake-oil sales people who pander to them. It is a mob motivated by fear, hate, and insecurity (as are nearly all mobs).

    If Mr. Winslow truly cares about any positive public agenda, his efforts will be much better served to advance that agenda in the context of creating a new party and new brand. The effort required to restore the GOP brand to any semblance of its former luster is dominated by damage control that distracts Mr. Winslow (and any other practitioner) from the major effort needed to advance ANY substantive new agenda.

    So long as Mr. Winslow promotes sleazebags like Rick Green, I will continue to denounce both.

  6. Poor Rep. Winslow. Wanting so badly to be viewed as a responsible Republican but trapped by the right wing that continues to control the GOP nationally and statewide. And apparently in a trap of his own making. Rep. Winslow could have simply said I disagee with my endorsed candidate on this issue but support his vision overall. Clean and safe. But then Rep. Winslow might be looking at a primary opponent from the far right or clearly interested in statewide office, he risks being labeled a RINO for not being in lockstep with the GOPs view that workers are the enemy.

    At a time where the GOP says it wants to build bridges with the Latino community, does Dan know that according to the US Bureau of Labor Statictics that Latinos who are members of a Labor Union earn on average 51% more than their counterparts working non-union? Well he just dismissed them as thugs instead of viewing them as workers building futures for their families. But Dan feel free to walk up to them and ask for their vote as part of the Republican outreach effort.

    And what’s Mr. Green and Rep. Winslow’s message to the 17% of members of my Union who are registered Republicans in Massachusetts. The potential leader of their party views them as thugs. Now that’s a GOTV strategy for a special election in 2013.

  7. CMD 100% right

    This thread and the twitter questions are about as productive as Bill O’Reilly ambushing a liberal politician and asking them to atone for something someone else said, even if they endorsed that other person. Do you know how often my right wing friends trolled my Facebook asking me if I agreed with Jeremiah Wright or asking me to defend Michelle Obama’s out of context “first time proud of my country” remarks, or how many relatives gave me flack that Obama wasn’t wearing a flag pin. Let’s focus on serious issues and serious policy discussions which makes the blogosphere nominally more intelligent and articulate than the 24 hour news cycle.

    So let’s ask reality based policy questions-do Mr. Green and Rep. Winslow support “right to work laws”, “oppose card check” or support Scott Waller style “reforms”. The voters of Massachusetts deserve honest answers about that-they could care less about name calling. I also do not believe its fair to have Mr. Winslow apologize for all the sins his party has committed in its history-just as its unfair to criticize me and my party for dumb ideas past and present. He is an independent minded reasonable Republican willing to engage on policy questions and he should be invited here and treated with respect not hounded for every dumb thig a Republican days. Grill him
    On policy and leave the lame partisan name calling on cable where it belongs.

    • He's wrong, and so are you.

      This is a very different situation than the Facebook or O’Reilly scenarios you mention, for two interrelated reasons. One, Green wants to lead the party to which Winslow belongs, and if he gets the chance, he will play a major role in how that party operates over the next couple of years. Will it be a continuation of the juvenile name-calling that Bob Maginn seemed to favor, or will it be something that might actually make a constructive contribution? Two, Winslow presents himself as (to quote you) “an independent minded reasonable Republican willing to engage on policy questions.” Winslow is also a player on Beacon Hill – someone who knows the place well, and who is respected outside his own party. He therefore is one of the few Republicans able to call out his own party when they step into the mud, and thus able to help rehabilitate the badly-damaged “brand” of the GOP in this state. Doing so would benefit everyone. But he can’t do that if he’s not willing to call bullshit on his own people – even when he has endorsed them.

      So, like I said, I am disappointed.

      • Still don't get it

        Doing this basically vindicates the name calling strategy by elevating it to a point worthy of comment. Hit him on policy where he is wrong so we can work with him when he’s right. This ambush seems too petty and small ball for BMG-as was insinuating he was racist in another thread. Can’t claim
        to be reality based when we spit on outsiders. It’d be nice if he’d clarify his approach to union politics-will he be a Rocky or George Romney or a Walker-THATs important-and seeing as I’ve defended him twice in two separate threads you can say he owes me that answer. “Danny your friends with Ricky e called my friends names why are you friends with him” belongs on cable or the schoolyard.

        • "Still don't get it"

          Sorry to hear it.

        • So I'm on an Airplane Over California

          Regretting that my focus these past few days was meeting the bill filing deadline for the upcoming session instead of posting on political blogs, and now headed to San Diego to reveal the secrets of the Litigation Prenup I invented in my other job, and I missed my opportunity to join this discussion earlier. My regrets. I already posted on both BMG and RMG why I endorsed Rick Green over his opponent for GOP Chair. His subsequent use of the phrase “union thugs” somehow is attributed to me. Not so. I have one of the strongest voting records in support of collective bargaining in the Massachusetts GOP. I voted against even the Democrats when they unilaterally stripped away health benefits that our municipal employees had bargained for. I value bargaining and I’ve done it in both public and private sectors (no surprise, from the management side of the table, but you need to respect your bargaining partners to reach agreement). I sponsored the Management Rights proposal for public employees that was patterned on Barney Frank’s MBTA model legislation and stated repeatedly that “we don’t have a union problem, we have a management problem in Massachusetts.” And I have articulated a vision of the Massachusetts GOP that is consistent with our role at the founding of the Progressive Movement, in case you’d like to watch the video. And David agrees with me that ANY thugs–people who use violence, threats or intimidation (and sorry, I include violent rhetoric as a negative) have no place in politics. Green says he is aware of “union thugs” and I have no reason to doubt that he is aware of instances of thuggery in this past election. But that does not equate all union members as thugs. Only thugs as thugs and all should be condemned.

          dan-winslow   @   Wed 16 Jan 7:47 PM
          • Dan, thank you for posting here. But...

            let me make a couple of points, in the order you raised them.

            - Bravo on focusing on the bill filing deadline, etc. But you apparently had time to engage in the very back-and-forth on Twitter that I quoted in this post, and to dodge the simple question I asked rather than simply answer it, which would have taken a lot less time. So I’m still puzzled by the dialogue in the post.

            - The reason I asked you over and over whether you agreed with what Green said was precisely to ascertain, well, whether you agreed with it. When you refused to say, despite numerous opportunities, my conclusion – which I submit was reasonable – was that you at least weren’t going to call him out on what is a patently ridiculous accusation. That’s not the same as “attributing” what he said to you, and I have never done that.

            - To recast Green’s statement as his saying that “he is aware of ‘union thugs’” and that he’s “aware of instances of thuggery” is a nice try, but that is not at all what he said. He said “John Walsh and his union thugs” were how the “organization” that has helped Democrats win the last few election cycles accomplished what it accomplished. Come on Dan, you know as well as anyone else exactly what Green is saying, and it’s no different from what we hear from national Republicans all the time.

            Let me ask the question differently (for all the good it will do me): you watched the last election cycle as closely as anyone in this state – a lot more closely than Mr. Green, I’d wager, who was neither a candidate nor directly involved in any campaign that I’m aware of. You saw Scott Brown, Richard Tisei, and most of the rest of your team get beaten. Were “union thugs” what did it? Or was it superior organization on the Democrats’ part? Or something else? How is it, exactly, that John Walsh succeeded where Bob Maginn failed? What is your diagnosis of what went wrong?

            • David, your tenacity

              is to be admired with your intelligence and integrity. Mr. Winslow does not get a pass even with his thinly veiled martyre-esque rationale for not replying sooner to the issue.

          • Thank you-but

            For your linking to your positions, your reasoning behind supporting your candidate and your support of unions, rare among your parties.

            That said I would say that using the phrase ‘union thugs’ implies a skepticism of unions on the part of Mr. Green, do he and you differ on the issue of collective bargaining rights and could you clarify how you reconcile those differences with your support of his candidacy?

            • I'm confused.

              You down-rate my response to Winslow, and then you ask basically the exact same question I’ve been asking all along. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

              • Totally different questions

                I am asking if Mr. Winslow, who just stated he supported collective bargaining as a policy agrees or disagrees with the policies Mr. Green supports regarding unions. Thats entirely different than demanding he either agree or disagree with Mr. Greens name calling or the frequency of asking Rep. Winslow to apologize on behalf of other people every time they say something stupid. I am trying to save this thread and redirect your line of questioning into something substantial other than a partisan ‘gotcha’. Now if you feel I am asking the same question than great, lets direct this back to policy and stop taking cheap shots.

                • And

                  If Winslow disagrees I am asking him why he supports Green anyway.

                  Tim Kaine said he believed that abortion was taking another life, Barack Obama endorsed him for DNC chair, did that mean Barack Obama suddenly felt that abortion was taking another life? No, and to his credit Tim Kaine changed his views on abortion. Did Bob Casey endorsing Obama suddenly mean Obama had to be pro-life or Bob Casey was pro-choice? No. So giving Rep. Winslow the opportunity to clarify his views on the policy matters far more to me than whether or not a candidate he endorses for a partisan position to make partisan statements happened to make a partisan statement.

                  • I'm pretty sure ...

                    I’m pretty sure that if Tim Kaine made an on-the-record broadcast pronouncement that women who get or need abortions are “sluts”, Barack Obama would have disowned him pretty much on the spot.

                    Calling those who support and vote for the Democratic Party “union thugs” goes well beyond a “partisan position” or “partisan statement”.

                    In my view, it is long past time we stopped tolerating this kind of over-the-top rubbish. I feel the same about Democrats who go over the top — the honest truth is that we Democrats don’t do that nearly as often.

                • Hairs: split


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