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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Only half the story

Joan Vennochi makes the obvious and logical argument that Massachusetts voters upset over the state of tax affairs can do something short of the political suicide represented by Question 1, the income tax repeal.

But Vennochi is far too gentle on the state's GOP, swiftly passing over the dearth of candidates on the ballot this year and allowing failed candidates to offer excuses without examining the root cause of the Massachusetts Republican Party's problem: too many chiefs and no Indians.

Nor does she examine the fact that mere tag "Republican" can be toxic in this state, despite its tradition of electing leaders like Frank Sargent, Ed Brooke and Leverett Saltonstall, and yes, even a one-time Holbrook state representative named Andrew Card.

It seems that for as long as I have watched Massachusetts politics, the GOP's interest has been the top of the ticket. Charlie Baker -- who is probably the only high quality Republican candidate out there today -- is quite right that 1990 represented a high water mark for the GOP in the Legislature.

Aided and abetted by the state's fiscal meltdown, the party actually recruited and elected candidates for the grassroots office represented by the House and Senate. And they captured the governor's office and the treasury.

But once Bill Weld took the Corner Office and Joe Malone became Treasurer, the focus shifted not toward party-building but personal growth. We know how Weld lost focus and shambled off to challenge John Kerry and then write novels. Or Malone and Weld's No. 2, Paul Cellucci, engaged in rough and tumble battles for the right to succeed Big Red, a battle Cellucci won until he opted for the job of Ambassador to Canada.

Perhaps the most egregious self-aggrandizer was the last GOP governor. After two years and an effort that actually led to the loss of legislative seats, Mitt Romney decided to try his hand on the national stage, kicking the very state he purported to lead.

In the meantime, the party ran through chairs from Kerry Healey (the pattern continues) to Peter Torkildsen, who is part of the last great GOP loss -- when he and Peter Blute lost congressional seats and left the state delegation as 100 percent Democrat.

None of these chairs succeeded at what should be the most basic job of a party leader -- building the ranks. The number of Republican candidates has continually shrunk and we have been left with an apparatus where junior spokesmen hurl meaningless sound bites in an effort to keep the party in the headlines.

Of course, there is a logical question of why anyone would want to run as a Republican in Massachusetts when the party can't help its favored candidate even get on the ballot, not to mention the masochistic nature of running under the McCain-Palin banner.

Yep, voting Republican would be a good alternative to approving suicidal tax cuts. Now all the Massachusetts Republican Party has to do is provide good candidates, not rhetoric.

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