No. 2 -- and slipping
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.
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.
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."
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.