What is causing the current crop of Republican candidates for federal office in Massachusetts to falter from the high expectations of this past Spring ? Pundits have expressed surprise that Sen.Scott Brown finds himself not only not sledding to re-election but in the fight of his political life.
Meanwhile, the local GOP’s other great hope for the Fall, career politician Richard Tisei, who is challenging Congressman John Tierney in the 6th district has muddled his message and run a innuendo-ridden, personal attack campaign against Tierney, whose family vulnerabilities are an addictive temptation to a relative unknown like Tisei. But Tisei’s campaign looks to be in danger of being sunk by this singular negativity tied to an empty vessel of policy proposals.
That absence of ideas reveals most who these candidates are and may also be the key to what has spiked their campaigns’ wheels.
Some of us older fogies remember when the Republican Party was competitive in New England. There was a reason for this. In the 20th century, Republicans in this region still reflected the progressive values that had animated the national GOP since the Civil War : equality of opportunity, good government, and civil rights. It seems that for THIS new Republican guard, the first two legs of the old local GOP three-legged stool are still missing.
What has now happened is that candidates like Brown and Tisei wear the veneer of progressivism on civil rights issues that are no longer controversial in this region, like gay rights in Tisei’s case and women’s rights in Brown’s case, but say little about where they differ from the Tea Party wing on tough bread and butter issues. Once elected, however, they are standard issue right-wingers on economic issues; out of touch with the everyday struggles of regular Americans.
And make no mistake. If elected, they will be just as beholden to the Tea Party extremists who set the Republican agenda in Congress
For example, when Brown got to Washington in his pickup, he played a key role carrying cargo in his truckbed for Wall Street after being one of the greatest recipients of special interest Wall Street money in the Senate. Unfortunately for him, he faces in Elizabeth Warren, a candidate with genuine credibility as someone who fought Wall Street and repeatedly beat it, a rare thing indeed.
The same goes for Tisei, who seems reluctant to give a straight answer on a question as simple as whether he supports or opposes the budget proposal of Paul Ryan, which would end Medicare as we know it. He has taken moderate stances on social issues and refused to sign the Grover Norquist no-tax pledge, seeming to hope that this would be enough to have independents of the Commonwealth not to notice his refusal to distance himself from the draconian Ryan budget, which would cement the 1% in power.
As for good government ? In March Tisei appeared to try to revive that old stool leg when he asked Tierney to agree to limits on outside spending by big money. But then on May 7, John Tierney sent a signed copy of the Warren-Brown pledge that bans this kind of outside spending and challenged Mr.Tisei to join him in signing it. Tisei responded that he would only sign if the Tierney campaign agreed to his public challenge limiting PAC contributions to 20%. The Tierney campaign promptly agreed to that exact condition but Mr.Tisei still rejected signing an agreement. It did not help Tisei that in the interim ultra-conservative national super-PACs pledged to bankroll him completely. Coincidence? I doubt it. Richard Tisei simply sold out to the highest bidder.
The old centrist GOP magic is not working for a simple reason: they are not convincing as New England moderates on bread and butter and good government issues. They instead look like empty vessel candidates bought and paid for by big-money interests.
Folks, this is definitely NOT your father’s Grand Old Party anymore !
Fred Rich LaRiccia