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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, May 02, 2008

No. 2 -- and slipping

What do the Massachusetts Republican Party and the Boston Herald have in common?

Well aside for a common ideology and a penchant to march in lockstep editorially, the ability to come up a day late a dollar short.

Take the state's shrinking GOP. Please. Despite some tailor-made opportunities to build from the ground up, running against a "do-nothing" Legislaure headed by an increasingly controversial Speaker, the Tired Old Party managed to find only 58 people willing to run for 200 legislative seats.

Half of the state's Democratic congressional seats are going unchallenged, including the Fifth, where Niki Tsongas did anything but coast in a special election. Her challenger in that race, Jim Ogonowski, opted to join a crowded field of sacrificial lamb challengers to John Kerry who, if he is going to lose to anyone, will probably fall to his Democratic opponents.

The Globe's Matt Viser points out the obvious obstacles:
Democrats, for example, are backed by entrenched interests such as labor and teacher unions. The state's large and small cities remain heavily Democratic, while rural and suburban communities, more likely to have Republicans and independents, are still catching up in terms of population and clout.
He politely avoids the, er, elephant in the room, that this now is the party of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Iraq and the loss of civil liberties, making it an extremely tough sell in a state that gave rise to Republicans like Frank Sargent, Frank Hatch and Ed Brooke (see Republicans can have good relationships with journalists!)

Or the damage done to the state GOP by "Hit and Run" Myth.

Governor Mitt Romney vowed to be a party builder as he campaigned in 2002. And in 2004, during the midterm elections, he recruited a field to contest 121 seats in the Legislature, the biggest crop in years. Despite the high number of candidates, the party lost three legislative seats.

Then Romney launched a bid for president. "From now on, it's me, me, me," he told the Globe's editorial board after the 2004 elections.

"Whatever party building [Romney] did was to enhance his own stature," said Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. "When that was done, he left, and I think he left the Republican Party in bad shape."

The base is busted, the national party is an albatross and GOP leaders claim they are focusing on those areas where they have the best chance of success. Sounds like the same game plan they've had for at least 20 years.

All of which helps explain the messes that the various House Democratic speakers have found themselves in, including today ongoing problems being faced by Sal DiMasi.

With no other party acting as a check, it falls to the media. Like the Incredibly Shrinking Boston Globe and the Ever Disappearing Boston Herald.

The Globe has done a far better job, for the most part, in unearthing DiMasi's activities. The Herald has been sharper, especially of late, in following the efforts at a palace coup.

The GOP has called for investigations.

But sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures -- like today's Herald story, saying the House Ways and Means Committee, under the direction Robert DeLeo, one of the seekers of DiMasi's crown, is changing bills to help Sal's friends.

Sorry, but where is the smoking gun? The committee's job is the review every bill, line by line and frequently rewrite them from scratch. Where's the evidence that actions favorable to Sal's Pals were changed as a result of direct intervention by DiMasi and/or DeLeo?

And why would DeLeo help DiMasi if he wants his job? Create a scandalous situation where it would be discovered DiMasi helped his friends so the Speaker would be embarrassed and resign or get indicted? It's a stretch and where's the proof?

So we are left with a situation where the No.2's -- the GOP and the Herald -- swing wildly and miss, appealing only to their true believers and watch as their own base dies or walks away.

It is sad, because competition is necessary -- in politics and the media -- to keep the other side fresh and honest.

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Blogger Rick Burnes said...

In some ways, I think your site, Universal Hub, Blue Mass Group and others like them are filling the vacuum you describe.

Of course, the blog world doesn't always provide a broad, established base of facts the way news traditional orgs aim to. The more bloggers can do that, they more they will become the opposition you say is missing.

May 02, 2008 10:22 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

With no other party acting as a check, it falls to the media.

That is certainly the media's inflated perception of their own role. However, as they are now painfully discovering, the mainstream media companies operate as a business and are now rapidly losing market share and revenue.

Elected politicians in opposition, by contrast, live in the political domain and (regardless of ideology) they are focused on their own politcal survival and prosperity.

A real 2-party system providing competition for control of the legislative branch would be of immense value to Massachusetts. Certainly the Mass GOP deserves much of the blame for their present atrophied condition. But Massachusetts also has a significant fraction of reflexive Democratic voters. The finest example occurred when 10-20% of Massachusetts voters pulled the lever for both Ronald Reagan and John Kerry on the same ballot.

May 02, 2008 12:05 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Rick, I'll take that as a compliment. But yu are correct that bloggers can't take the place of either activists, organizations or reporters.

Harry, the media have always seen its roles as being to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." It is a task laid out for it by the First Amendment. Nor has it done a really good job of it lately because of the rise of corporate media.

And I would be the first to agree with you that a robust two-party system is the answer. In Massachusetts, that hasn't happened for a long time and the media have filled the vacuum, somewhat.

On the national level, there's far too much attention on setting agendas (on both the left and right) and settling scores.

I'd be quite happy to see a little less partisanship and a lot more attention on trying to solve some real problems -- without as much finger pointing.

May 03, 2008 8:44 AM  

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