Signifiers In The Local Special Elections

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I share with my fellow RMG bloggers the disappointment over the results of yesterday's special elections in the districts of 8th Essex, 23rd Middlesex, & 32th Middlesex. I don't reside in those districts but based on news reports & second-hand information from friends who do live there, I think these races provide “teachable moments” for Republicans who want to learn from them.

First off, a few RMG bloggers were quick to correctly point out some obvious problems facing Republican challengers from the start. MerrimackMan hit the nail on the head with this (emphasis mine):

Why we need to work on our Republican Municipal and Town Officials. Worden and Leary had no shot winning in Ultra Liberal Arlington, and Ulta Democratic Fall River, thats just a matter of the territory. However, in terms of Hutchinson and Blaisdell in Melrose and Marblehead, though both of these districts are Democratic Leaning, they are winnable. However, without any prior name recognition and experience in elected office, they are not going to win. Republicans in Massachusetts have a distinct disadvantage and if we want to win anything, we have to have a candidate that has all the edges covered, and that includes having some political experience before running. I think had a person of Worden's political stature run in either of these districts, Ehrlich (no political experience, example of how Democrats can get away with this), if not Clark (School Committeewoman) would have been faced with a much tighter race. I feel bad for Worden, the guy really did deserve to win. Just sucks he lives in Arlington I guess….

(…)The Democratic Opposition needs to unite in Massachusetts if we are to ever challenge the Democrats seriously. If that means the Republican Party needs to appeal to more moderates to keep them in the party, or if the Republicans need to apply additional pressure against Independents to lose their ballot access or something of that nature, so be it. This can't continue….

WhatWouldReaganDo was even more blunt with this admonishment:

Let this be a lesson to ALL our Republican candidates for special elections: focus on voter ID and get out the vote. Pay for it if you have to through paid phoning and canvassing. Neglect it at your peril….

Gittle contextualized MerrimackMan's comments with this astute observation:

Lori Ehrlich is an “environmental activist.”
And she has an MPA from the Kennedy School.  Some snippets from the newspapers endorsing her:

The Marblehead Reporter:

In Lori Ehrlich, Patrick would be getting a partner not only with impeccable credentials (22 years experience as a CPA, master's in public administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government) but one who has done considerable thinking – and acting – toward their shared priorities, and who won't hesitate to object, politely but forcefully, when she feels the governor is going astray.

The Salem News:

The Marblehead resident is a founding member of the influential environmental group, HealthLink, and also played a major role in the cleanup of the area around Wenham Lake. A certified public accountant, she has the education, experience in public policy matters and familiarity with the community to make an outstanding public servant.

As for Blaisdell, the extent of his public service record is exclusively in law enforcement and the military.  That's not a bad thing; in fact, it's quite admirable, but he hasn't worked to develop any public policy initiatives.  So while they both had not held elected office prior to this point, it seems to me that the voters wanted somebody who was working to resolve public issues.  And, unfortunately, there still is the stigma attached to partisan identification.

Let's not forget that these seats are all up for re-election in November.  There's still an opportunity to re-capture them.  This is a setback, but it's only minor.

Gittle has the right attitude & spirit. November will be more difficult due to the environment of a Presidential Election which usually favors Democrats. However if Clinton & Obama tear each other apart, the Democrats may have problems being united against the GOP standard-bearer. That could be helpful to Massachusetts Republicans if they're skillfull in exploiting the situation.

MerrimackMan wishes Independent candidates would “stop running” because they split non-liberal/non-Democrat votes with Republican candidates & thus assure victory to Democrat candidates. BrocktonDave wisely counsels that the GOP should persuade Independents to join the Republican Party:

Republicans should find a way to convert these anti dem Unenrolled to Republicans, because there is a reason they aren't…

find these reasons and make us appealing to them (not by changing our beleifs only the message), and we will grow registrations, and win offices.

The tactics that the MassGOP are using are a great start and they assuredly work, but we need to market ourselves too.

The answer is not necessarily just stop these independants from running, it's to have them run, but as Republicans.

What keeps Independent candidates motivated to run can be a reason as simple as the fact that the GOP fails to have a candidate run against the Democrat. Such was the case in the 7th Bristol district where there was no Republican challenger. A paucity of GOP candidates creates a void & merely emboldens non-Republican candidates to run again & again. The solution? The GOP must create & sustain a credible presence in all 351 cities & towns. Independent candidates will only join the GOP if said candidates feel the party is credible to themselves (the candidates), to their community, & to society at large.

A few sidebar comments were interesting. This observation from pablo caught my attention:

There was a large vote looking at Worden, just hoping for an alternative to Garballey, but the abortion and marriage issues proved to be a barrier to these voters.

Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on the context of the situation. The Arlington Advocate's editorial endorsement of Worden contained a caveat that the paper's editors found “Worden's refusal to publicly state his position on abortion & gay marriage disappointing.” Worden's reticence was, I believe, a mistake. Voters today want authenticity (real or percieved) & transparency. Just as Jim Ogonowski's refusal to state his position on SCHIP helped to doom his candidacy, I believe the same thing happened to Worden. If he took the advice of certain Republican activists (following the current party line) to avoid talking about social issues at all costs, then the cost might have resulted in Worden losing the election.

Yes, Arlington trends liberal but a liberal argument can be (& has been) made against abortion & “gay marriage”.  Whether Worden was a conservative or a “conservative liberal” on either or both issues is irrelevant. While he still wouldn't have garnered all the votes of citizens who support those two issues, he might have carried some if said voters percieved him to be forthright & weighed those two positions with his overall positive record of public service. On top of that, had Worden been presented himself as – at minimum – modified pro-life & pro-DOMA, he would have attracted a percentage of conservative voters (even in a place like Arlington) who support those two issues. With the perception that nobody represented their positions, said conservative voters probably stayed home.

At least one RMG blogger despairs over the perception that “gay marriage is here (to stay) & it isn't going away no matter what anyone does.” I disagree. So does republicanvoices with this response:

You can count on gay marriage being an issue this cycle and our side actually has some great chances of winning the 4+ seats we need to start making what the people want into a reality: a vote.

Just as pre-Reagan era Republicans were content to manage the “inevitablity” of communism, so too a lot of Massachusetts Republicans are content to accept the “inevitability” of “marriage equality” (no surprise either since some Republican activists are also homosexual activists).

While Republicans cling to the illusion that electoral success can be achieved by focusing on economic issues & ignoring social issues, the Democrats intuitively understand that both issues reinforce each other. The ideology of the New Left is such that ALL matters (especially economic ones) are “moral”. With a “moral” ideology to unify its various liberal factions, the Democrats then translate said ideology into a practical program that affects all facets of society. Thus as hierarchical institutions (like traditional marriage) give way to its socialized counterparts (“marriage equality” isn't confined ONLY to “gay marriage”), other hierarchical institutions become fair game until socialism as a totalitarian reality emerges triumphant in Massachusetts. Is this “inevitable”? Reagan wouldn't think so & neither do I. 

Success breeds success & thus voters will go with the percieved winners. Thus even a Democrat “newbie” with no political experience can win so long as s/he ackowledges the authority of the New Left Democrats & their fellow travelers. Once acknowledged, the machine swings into play & the rest is history. Is the average voter enamored with the Democrats? Far from it (which is why unenrolled voters in Massachusetts constitute at least 50% of the state's registered voters). But neither are the voters enthralled with Republicans. If the GOP is perceived to be either “Libertarian Lite” or “Democrat Lite,” the voters will always go for the real deal – the “authentic” party – & vote for the Libertarian Party or (more often than not) the Democrat Party. The Republican Party will become competitive again when it has a practical ideology – a “brand” if you will – whose “conservative communitarianism” (“conservative liberalism”) will appeal to Massachusetts voters proud of their state's revolutionary heritage but wary of the attempts by the Democrats to inculcate them into a New Left ideology which is foreign to them.

Yesterday's results indicate once again the Republican Party's collective failure of imagination to understand the paradigm in which they find themselves (& thus understand how to fight within it). The results also reflect the legacy of said collective failure of imagination to come up with a practical ideology to counter that of the Democrats. There's still time to turn things around so long as GOP activists don't feel that the party's downward trajectory towards the ashcan of history is an “inevitable” one.

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