The GOP Gang Of Seven

The creation of a “new” GOP group on Beacon Hill dedicated to the idea that “we need to take back Beacon Hill” bears some analysis. This direction is necessary in light of the fact that the seven Republicans who comprise this “GOP Gang of Seven” (Lew Evangelidis, Susan Williams Gifford, Don Humason, Jeff Perry, Karyn Polito, Todd Smola, & Dan Webster) were the same Republicans who recently voted against current House Minority Leader Brad Jones’ ultimately successful bid to hold on to his leadership position. Yesterday (1-08-09) Evangelidis announced to Red Mass Group (RMG) the formation of the GOP Gang of Seven & encouraged RMG bloggers to help out the new group. Almost immediately the news generated conflicting perspectives from RMG’s resident bloggers. I see an opportunity here that must be seized. Hence this diary.

Some RMG bloggers see the GOP Gang of Seven as a “magnificent” group of public officials who have drawn the proverbial line in the sand by announcing that the status quo on Beacon Hill is unacceptable. Others are perplexed if not outright peeved at the action taken by the seven GOP House legislators & feel that this approach taken by these Republican state representatives can only divide & damage their party – perhaps even destroy it. Given the robust debate produced by Evangelidis’ announcement, let’s add to the discussion the kind of perspective which touches on the past, the present & the potential future of these developments.

The GOP Gang of Seven obviously sprang from Evangelidis’ failed attempt to be the new House Minority Leader. Evangelidis claimed in a recent PolitickerMA.com article that “his efforts to defeat Jones were unfairly squashed.” In a statement from his Beacon Hill office which was quickly issued to the press after the GOP caucus vote was taken, Evangelidis (as reported by PolitickerMA.com) fretted over the following:

“The most disappointing aspect of today’s caucus was the way the process was conducted attempting to shut down all debate,” the Holden Republican said. “Our caucus always laments how the majority party abuses its power and authority to serve their own particular needs, not the voters of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, that was the tact that was taken by the leader of our caucus. There was a refusal to allow the clerk of the court to come down and rule on a procedural matter of whether or not we had to adhere to the existing house rules. There was a refusal to have this election conducted by secret ballot and our current leader offered no plan when given the opportunity.”

My reaction to this whining was two-fold: incredulity & a subsequent loss of respect. Was Evangelidis THAT naive to think that the leader of his party known for rubbing shoulders with (if not back-slapping) the Democrat Speaker of the House wouldn’t utilize the same tactics of the majority party to secure his own leadership position? Surely one reason for the Evangelides insurgency was the recognition that his own party was too cozy with the Democrats on Beacon Hill – that in many ways the House GOP were enablers to the Democrats & thus a part of the problem. Surely this (correct) insight should have not only justified his challenge to Jones’ position but it also should have produced from Evangelidis the determination to formulate a campaign strategy using tough tactics to win the position of House Minority Leader. That didn’t happen. Why? Naivite?

As a former campaign manager & elected official, I would have advised Evangelidis to wage an all-out confrontation with the kind of GOP Jones represents. In many instances, Evangelides was (& to some extent remains) circumspect. He obviously lobbied hard to secure the support of his Republican House colleagues – & left it at that. Once a plurality of support was identified within the House GOP, Evangelidis should have asked key members of said supporters (who had no qualms about being public about their support) to help him lobby key GOP activists across the state. He & said key supporters should have instructed said activists to relentlessly & aggressively lobby their GOP state reps into supporting Evangelidis – or pay a price two years hence. Meanwhile, Evangelidis & his key supporters should have pounded the media drum – especially in media friendly sites such as RMG – to articulate the rationale of his candidacy & what it meant for the party, for Beacon Hill, & for Massachusetts.  Activists would have been excited at this display of leadership from Team Evangelidis & believe you me it would have made a difference in flipping a few votes. Creating HUGE expectations among activists & the media meant that all eyes would be gazing at the House GOP Caucus. Anticipating any potential shenanigans from a by-now desperate Jones, Evangelides would make damn sure that procedures such as a secret ballot would be properly promulgated. Had these (& other tactics like busing in activists to Boston) been utilized, Evangelidis would have been the new House Minority Leader. The fact that he’s not owes as much to Evangelidis’ failure to follow through on his campaign’s rationale as it does Jones’ fierce determination to use every legitimate trick in the book to hold onto power at all costs – even if the cost happens to be creating bad feelings among his fellow Republicans to the point where some of them decide to strike out on their own.

This brings us to the current situation with the introduction of the “Take Back Beacon Hill” group. Was this group formed out of pique? Out of spite? Out of a desire to dramatize its members’ break from the legitimately elected House Minority leadership? To the outside observer, the success or failure of such a group depends on the rationale of its existence & the type of purpose it serves for the greater good of the party organization (in this case, the state GOP). Therefore, one must examine the website to see which direction said group will go. Most of the features of this site are under-developed but that’s OK because- after all – it’s still new. The most important part of the site (at least for me) is its agenda. I click onto that part of the site titled “Compact With Massachusetts” (like Newt Gingrich’s “Compact With America”?) & find the following:

“We, the undersigned, do hereby promise the people of Massachusetts that we shall observe the following principles as their elected officials:”

OK. So you make a conscious decision to formally launch a GOP group which creates the impression that said group is breaking away from House Minority leadership. So far, so good. I’m expecting to hear what activists have longed to hear. And the stated distinction from the House Minority leadership is…that you’ll follow a set of principles? I smell boilerplate, bromides, & bullshit (BBB). But I’m open minded enough to continue reading.

“We will never vote to increase taxes or tolls. Government must learn to live within its means.”

BBB. That’s the standard GOP party line. That’s the official position of the House Minority leadership too. Is the GOP Gang of Seven implying that its House leaders don’t support the party line? Why not boldly state this as a fact? If no such inference is intended, then what’s the point of this declaration within the context of differentiating yourselves as different from the current minority leadership in the House?

“We will never vote to cut local aid or education funding for our communities.”

BBB. Again, is the GOP Gang of Seven implying that its House leaders don’t support these two items? Why not boldly state this as a fact? If no such inference is intended, then what’s the point of this declaration within the context of differentiating yourselves as different from the current minority leadership in the House?

“We support ethics reform to curb the power of special interests on Beacon Hill and to place term limits on legislative leadership.”

BBB with a twist. Is the GOP Gang of Seven yet again implying that its House leaders don’t support these institutional reforms? Why not boldly state this as a fact? If no such inference is intended, then what’s the point of this declaration within the context of differentiating yourselves as different from the current minority leadership in the House? The twist is the bit on term limits; was this tacked on due in part to the loss the GOP Gang of Seven recently suffered in its failed attempt to oust Jones? Jones supporters could rightly cite this line as proof that what motivates the GOP Gang of Seven is sour grapes.

“We support efforts to make state government more efficient by cutting costs, duplication and waste.”

BBB. Yawn. Stating basic party principles also held by the GOP Minority leadership is becoming a sleep-inducing drone. Once again, is the GOP Gang of Seven implying that its House leaders don’t support the party line? Why not boldly state this as a fact? If no such inference is intended, then what’s the point of this declaration within the context of differentiating yourselves as different from the current minority leadership in the House?

“We oppose pork barrel spending and believe every dollar spent in the budget shall be justified.”

BBB. Must…stay…awake…. My eyes. Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah. Is the GOP Gang of Seven… Ah, the hell with it. Read my previous responses & you’ll essentially get the same kind of observation.

“We oppose giving taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens.”

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

Seriously, I have to ask: Is that it? As regular readers of this blog know, I strongly supported the ouster of Jones as House GOP Minority leader. I was hoping – based on a variety of field reports from many Republican activists – that Evangelidis would be the man to replace Jones & turn things around for the GOP. My hopes have been dashed. The “Compact With Massachusetts” agenda of the GOP Group of Seven is a regurgitation of classic Republican talking points. There’s no practical ideology. There’s no vision that actually differentiates this group from the other Republicans – let alone many Democrats. Save for the last point (which is worded in a way that will unintentionally yet needlessly antagonize a subset of ethnic groups), there’s no specific proposals to justify the group’s existence nor is there any documentation against the current House GOP leadership which would offer a rationale for the group’s founding. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones decided to use some the group’s own talking points against them to punish their lack of loyalty. “Opposed to pork barrel spending? Good for you,” he might sniff. “So I guess you don’t need me to put in a good word for you to the Speaker on that road repair grant.” A wink or a nod is all it takes – nothing else needs to be said.

Forgive me the amount of verbosity expended on this subject. Conservatives/Republicans need to get serious – & I mean SERIOUS – about generating profound change inside the state Republican Party, inside Beacon Hill, & inside Massachusetts. The GOP Group of Seven’s performance piece amounts to nothing more than political posturing – a pathetic form of “voguing – that needlessly causes frivolous tensions within the party & deepens the cynicism of its grassroots (or at least the ones who can see through the charade). I hope the upcoming chairman’s race offers something different – something REAL. If not, the state GOP’s future looks bleak.

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