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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, July 10, 2009

Same old song and dance

Massachusetts Republicans are giddy with excitement over Charlie Baker's decision to take the plunge for governor in 2010. And they should be.

But any thought of effecting any real change is just a thought unless and until the party does what it has either refused or failed to do for a generation -- build from the ground up.

The saga of Deval Patrick and the Legislature should make abundantly clear that true power in the Commonwealth presides in the Great and General Court. And with the track record of the last three speakers it proves Lord Acton correct:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
Not that Charlie, Tommy and Sal are bad men, just that they got carried away with their authority.

Let us also not forget that the dynamic today is not all that far-removed from that of the 16 years between 1990 and 2006, when Republicans named Weld, Cellucci, Swift and Romney called the Corner Office home (at least part-time).

And we could probably take a good guess that what gave them wanderlust was their inability to take a chunk out of the Democratic stranglehold in the Legislature. Not, of course, that they or the state party ever tried.

As someone who covered the Statehouse during the late '80s and 1990, I can tell you with great assurance the mood today is not similar. It was venomous then -- fury at Michael Dukakis for embarrassing Massachusetts in the 1988 presidential election and a state economy that was far worse than the national one.

Today, the embarrassing governor is the last ex, the one who used Massachusetts as the butt of his jokes. And there is no doubt that Massachusetts is in the same hole as everyone else. In fact, a little better off because our leaders actually managed to get a budget in on time and have avoided the nightmare that is California (you know, the one with the Republican governor?)

What is the same is the imbalance in D and R numbers in the Legislature. The fury of 1990 prompted enough candidates to run for legislative seats that Weld actually got enough Senate votes to sustain vetoes. Today, the Gang of Five can't even call for a quorum.

Does anyone realistically think that Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray will change should Baker or even Tim Cahill get the keys to the Corner Office?

So while I don't want to dampen the spirit of Massachusetts Republicans, who have a candidates who has the potential to win over Democrats and independents, I do think they need a dash of cold water.

Recruit strong candidates to win legislative seats or nothing is going to change. And that will inevitably include the next Republican governor throwing up his or her hands in frustration and walking away.

Just call this some friendly advice from a stranger.

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