By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Suicide solution

I don’t know who’s behind Massachusetts GOP News, but today it advances a breathtakingly stupid notion — that the way for the Republican Party to reestablish itself in this bluest of blue states is for a Democrat to win the governorship this November. Here’s a taste:

Let’s allow the Democrats to win the corner office therefore removing their argument that real progress has been stymied by the Republican Governor. Once they have control of the corner office they own the explanations for a poor economy, escalating crime rate, low education results, unemployment, continuing exodus of jobs, people and companies from the commonwealth. They own it and they will have to explain why their plan doesn’t work. They will have to stand up and say time and again how they need more of your money to make things work. The Democrats will have to look people in the eyes at the “state of the state” address and talk about how they have supported the Lawyers, big unions and special interests over the taxpayers one more time. Democrats will have to explain why good legislation like Melanie’s Law didn’t get passed under their leadership. It is a Jujitsu approach that uses their own mass and momentum against them.

Apparently “jujitsu” is Japanese for “suicide.”

There are two reasons that Republicans consistently win the governor’s race in Massachusetts. One is that the Democrats control everything else, and voters naturally want someone to keep an eye on them. That would appear to be the Mass. GOP argument. It certainly worked for Mitt Romney four years ago.

But that wouldn’t be enough without a second factor: Only the governor’s race is big enough for voters to focus on and not just automatically vote for the Democrat. Only the governor’s race features two major-party candidates who’ve gotten enough media coverage that they’re equally well-known. Only the governor’s race attracts Republican candidates who are well-funded enough to compete on a level playing field.

This may be a minority opinion, but I think Kerry Healey has the potential to be the most attractive Republican candidate since Bill Weld in 1990. Romney beat Shannon O’Brien by as narrow a margin as he did in 2002 because of well-grounded suspicions about his larger ambitions and his social conservatism. There are no such concerns about Healy. Nor does she bear the taint of insiderism that Paul Cellucci brought to the table, or the whiff of arrogance that undid Jane Swift.

I have no horse in this race, although I do think it’s important that Massachusetts become a two-party state. Mass. GOP would move us in the opposite direction. (Via Universal Hub. Also, see Jay Fitzgerald’s take.)


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11 Comments

  1. Chalicechick

    Yeah, the “elect ’em, watch ’em screw up and then WE will be in charge for years” was my theory with George W. Bush. And his re-election made it clear how that turned out. CC

  2. Steve

    I always assumed the reason the Dems couldn’t get elected governor in Mass (or New York, or Minnesota) was because they couldn’t get their shit together at the party level, and always ended up nominating weak candidates.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Steve — I think Scott Harshbarger and Shannon O’Brien were actually pretty strong. Take away the perceived need for a Republican governor to balance the Democratic everything else, and I think they both would have won.

  4. Rick in Duxbury

    And can you imagine Shannon “cleaning up the Big Dig” right now? We dodged a bullet on that one. (Although her husband, Emmett, would have given Howie Carr column fodder far exceeding that of Jane’s blueberry farmer, Chuck).

  5. sco

    Dan, Harshbarger didn’t lose because voters wanted split government. Harshbarger lost because Finneran and company wanted split government. The Dem establishment abandoned Harshbarger — the city machines never turned out for him. If Harshbarger had done as well in the cities as Shannon O’Brien did in ’04, he’d have won.

  6. John Galt

    Tip of the cap. sco.Finneran opted to support Celucci in order to keep his power unchallenged. Shannon O’Brien committed hari kari on TV. Three times!

  7. Charles Foster Kane

    Personally, I was amused by the idea that since the “mainstream media” doesn’t pay much attention to local races, GOP News things GOP candidates would have better success in the local races. That is, they’d have better success if they could actually find candidates to oppose the Democratic candidates.

  8. Anonymous

    John Galt is right. O’Brien came off as shrill and unpolished in the debates. And Romney flat out lied about his social policies. And about his intentions to oust the Finneran gang.I don’t think anyone would have voted for what they actually got. And I don’t think Ms. Healy will be able to remove the stain of being his co-governor. I personally would love to hear someone ask this: “Kerry, you worked very closely with the governor the last several years. I’d like to know if you hate this state as much as he does?”

  9. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Democrats traditionally kill each other off campaigning for the nomination, that’s why the pre-primary conventions were abolished for a number of years after the Bellotti-Peabody and White-Donahue bloodbaths. More recently, O’Brien and Harshbarger were undone by intra-party nastiness and Silber’s portrayal of Bellotti (the best governor the state never elected)earned the same result.What is more curious is how the Democrats are letting the Republicans control the spin on the Tunnel Scandal, to the point where the idea of the tunnel as a vast boongoggle, rather than an important public project, has attached to the public consciousness. They’re getting away with blaming Dukakis and Salvucci for thinking the thing up, while the Weld fascination with letting the foxes guard the hen-house under the brand of privitization, the Cellucci proclivity for log-rolling, Swift’s utter incompetence and Romney’s years asleep at the switch (dare we call it brainwashing?) escape serious scrutiny. It’s the job of the executive branch to administer contracts — and the Republican governors and their politically charged Republican governmental apparatus have botched it.Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go read another very excellent Ginny Buckingham column or editorial on incompetent management of a public authority, a subject for which she is the poster child.

  10. Anonymous

    Dan, your 12:28 comment is crazy. Harshbarger and O’Brien ran unbelievably stupid campaigns. They did an absolutely horrible job of connecting with the voter the way a gubanatorial candidate needs to do.Your argument ignores the difference in voter expectations for the legislative vs. the executive branch. If you want to be governor, you have to be able to sell yourself to the voter as a figurehead, a symbol of what and who the state is. That was the one thing, the ONLY thing, Weld and Celluci and Romney could do. Substance in a governor is great, but you have got to be able to muster some style, and O’Brien and Harshbarger failed. Miserably. I’m still furious at both to them. Stupid a**es. Remember O’Brien’s cowboy commercial? And the spelling bee? Idiotic.

  11. Anonymous

    Just because Healy is an “attractive” GOP candidate according to Dan, it doesn’t mean that she may not go down very hard. Last I heard it wasn’t the greatest time to be running as a Republican. The piece was just a way of putting the best face on what could be a potential blowout loss,if the polls are accurate.

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