From what we at RMG have heard from reliable sources, it looks like Jim Ogonowski will bypass this year’s election cycle after failing to obtain enough certified signatures to be placed on the ballot. I’ve argued that the O-Man still has the opportunity to wipe the tarnish from his reputation by taking on Niki Tsongas for the Fifth Congressional District. I pointed out that even if Ogonowski lost by a smaller margin this year than last (47% instead of 45%), his showing would increase pressure on Tsongas, grow his base within the district, & allow him to reclaim & enhance his recently damaged political reputation.
If Ogonowski remains firm in his desire to stay above the fray for this year, then his decision should be & must be respected. Obviously the man has come to terms with his limitations. So too must the GOP.
Those who had supported Ogonowski mustn’t be dissapointed that yet another Republican professing to be a leader in service to the ideals of his party & in service for the public good has come up short. As long as the state GOP has no practical ideology to guide itself, it will remain irrelevant to society at large as it continues to be irrelevant to the needs of its own members. So long as party activists refrain from taking out the RINOs who have ruined the party or tolerate the party’s poor leadership from its supine practitioners (like, for example, Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei who recently voted AGAINST reducing the state income tax back to 5%), then said activists have no one else to blame for the party’s low standing which it inflicts upon itself – & “rising stars” like Ogonowski – with breathtaking regularity.
If one thought of Ogonowski as a “rising star” within the state GOP, then one must now reassess said opinion. It can be a heady experience for someone to have a certain amount adulation from voters desperate for someone – ANYONE – to challenge & change the status quo. Even more so when one is whisked to Washington, DC, & talked up by a lot of important & powerful people. Yes, perception can be reality wherein like a mirror one can see what one wishes to see. But perceptions in their most organic sense can be like a reflecting pool, subject to the “ripple effects” caused by the pebbles of adversity. The distortion of the image may not last but new perceptions then spring anew. Whether they last depends more on the reality of the image’s source than on the image itself. Is the source real – or a mirage?
Ogonowski offered the image of leadership; we now know it was a mirage. There were clues sprinkled throughout last year’s campaign which indicated the O-Man wasn’t the leader many hoped he would be. Ogonowski tried to straddle the SCHIP issue; Leaders don’t equivicate – they LEAD. Ogonowski claimed to offer “post-partisan” solutions yet refused invitations to Democrat forums where he could debate his “post-partisan” ideas; Leaders don’t avoid opportunities to engage their opponents – they SEEK them out. Ogonowski exploited anti-illegal immigration sentiment; Leaders don’t pander to the base instincts of the voters – they EDUCATE the voters about the complexities of an issue so that solutions can be achieved which satisfies ALL parties involved (especially in this allegedly “post-partisan” world of ours).
A lot of people in the Fifth District placed their trust, hopes, & dreams on Ogonowski. Many of them volunteered time, money, & resources where any one or all three were in short supply among some of these true believers. They BELIEVED in Ogonowski; they made his candidacy possible & the election results hinted at all sorts of possibilities. But in the end Ogonowski followed the state GOP script whereby a losing candidate either drops out of sight (never to be heard from again) or goes for higher office despite the fact that he hadn’t won anything to justify the move up the political ladder. Of course consultants encourage this move because they financially benefit from it. The party “leaders” encourage it too because they need to keep the smoke & mirrors in motion lest people watching discover they have absolutely NOTHING to offer ANYONE. Left behind are the voters – abandoned yet again. No wonder they give up & opt out of the system; no wonder many of them are leaving this state; no wonder they & any other objective observer can’t help but conclude that the state GOP is a sick joke with no punchline.
This year in the Fifth District we have issues (FISA, the cost of energy, healthcare, & so forth) that with the right campaign from a serious challenger could either knock off or seriously impair the current incumbent. The opportunity to strike is NOW – not the next election cycle. Ogonowski’s handlers may counsel him to wait until 2010 or some other date to make a comeback. But if he can’t make the effort to display REAL leadership when his district needs him NOW, then he shouldn’t bet the farm that district voters will rush back to him when he deigns it opportune to mix it up with the masses. A leader doesn’t pick & choose when to lead – he LEADS & he leads when the situation demands his leadership. To act otherwise reveals a person to be either a dilletante, a fraud, or unqualified.
I don’t think Ogonowski is a dilletante or a fraud. Based on what happened this year, however, he appears unqualified to be a leader in the Republican Party & unqualified to be an elected official. Instead of listening to “insiders” flashing polls in front of his face to run against Kerry, Ogonowski should have continued the hard work he started in the Fifth District by having a rematch with Tsongas. He should have strengthened the parts of the district that gave him his best showings & (more importantly) between election cycles he should have spent more time in those areas where he underperformed. He should have been on a first name basis with ALL of the GOP grassroots activists & familiar with the key activists in the Democrat Party. He should have been mentoring young GOP activists 24/7. He should have been attending important hearings across the district which impact communities in ways big & small. In short, he should have been a LEADER who LEADS & not someone who follows the cue of his political consultants who are more interested in lining their pockets than they are in helping people who sincerely need help.
It pains me to write these words but write them I must. I say good luck to Jim Ogonowski & I wish him well in his non-political endeavors. As for the state GOP, I have this observation to make.
When I attended the GOP state convention in 2006, a part of the proceedings involved the introduction of a new award named after former US Senator Edward Brooke. Now I have a lot of respect for Brooke (who gave a great speech at that convention) & the work he did on behalf of the party. But it struck me then as it still strikes me now: the state GOP creates an award named after a pre-Reagan Republican who had nothing to do with the national re-birth of the GOP & was either unable or unwilling to sustain his party here in Massachusetts. I would have thought that Ray Shamie should have been so honored since it was his spadework that made possible the GOP gains in 1990 (a highpoint in hindsight). Yet the Brooke Award suggests that the state GOP is more interested in celebrating the past than it is celebrating the future. Party luminaries hold get-togethers (“Lincoln” or “Reagan” dinners) in order to give awards to each other & use the moment to luxuriate in their self-importance while the party continues to shrink into near-fatal emfeeblement. The party seems to be content these days to be a social club where elections are a game & are used for social advancement into the inner circles of business or Washington politics.
I’ve been honored to work with a lot of grassroots activists in BOTH parties who truly care about making the world a better place & endure tremendous sacrifices in time, money, & resources to make it happen. More often than not you won’t hear about them – & that’s too bad. The assholes (RINOs & DINOs) will continue to win as long as we go along with the bullshit they fob off to us in order for us to get along with them. Ogonowski is the latest casualty & he won’t be the last – not until we as a party wake up & DEMAND from our alleged “leaders” & OURSELVES a higher committment to the principles we claim to embrace & then ACT ON THEM. If we act, people will gladly join us. What the hell are we waiting for?