Post-Election Deja-Vu: GOP State Committee Meeting

Held in the Carver function room at the John Carver Inn in Plymouth (MA), last night’s Massachusetts Republican State Committee meeting was a curious exercise in post-election analysis. The standing room only event had 65 out of the 80 state committee members in attendance with dozens of activists & onlookers – including Boston Herald “Lone Republican” columnist Holly Robichaud – seated off in the back of the room to watch the meeting unfold.

GOP Chairman Robert Maginn called the meeting to order at 7:25pm (25 minutes late from its scheduled 7pm start time). He dedicated both the opening prayer & pledge of allegiance to the memory of recently deceased GOP State Committeeman Bill Nickerson. In tribute to him, a video montage of Nickerson was presented & concluding remarks were given by a visibly emotional Brock Cordeiro, Nickerson’s fellow state committeeman & a close friend.

The Nickerson tribute (which was NOT listed on the agenda) lasted a total of 25 minutes. Combined with the aforementioned late start, the meeting was almost an hour behind schedule. The activists & onlookers were getting restless & muttered to each other their displeasure at how the meeting at that point was being conducted.

The party’s secretary & treasurer quickly gave their respective reports & received almost no probing questions from their fellow committee members. Maginn’s report as the party chairman was one that tried to put a positive spin on the party’s losses during the last election cycle. He used several sports analogies when he likened the party to the New England Patriots falling short while playing in the Super Bowl. Maginn pointed out that the loss of a few Republican legislative seats was statistically not as bad as it could have been given the nature of a presidential election year, a popular Democrat incumbent, & a rival party imbued with superior amounts of money, manpower, & technology.

He reminded the membership that the party did well raising money, building up its infrastructure (especially the analytics of its GOTV operations), & attracting more people to join the GOP. He said that the party was positioned to do well in the 2014 election cycle & that the state GOP had to work NOW in order to realize those potential gains. Maginn gave no public indication on whether or not he’d run for re-election as party chairman but activists such as Rabid Republican blogger “Iron” Mike Farquhar disseminated brightly colored pamphlets urging him to step down.

Maginn asked State Representatives Keiko Orrall & Peter Durant to provide the membership with their respective perspectives on running for re-election during a challenging election cycle. Durant in particular urged the state committee to aggressively build upon the analytics of its GOTV operations. He cited the statewide & national success of the Democrats in micro-targeting voters so that they knew who would vote for them. “Start data-mining NOW for 2014,” implored Durant. Although he was unable to attend the meeting, State Representative Ryan Fattman‘s thoughts on his election race were delivered in writing & read to the group by former GOP Congressman Peter Blute.

National Committeewoman Kerry Healey used her allotted time to give a pep talk to the group & advocate the importance of developing a “big tent” for the party given the changing demographics that show a growing presence of minorities & young people. National Committeeman Ron Kaufman provided the night’s most somber assessment. He said he was “scared to death” over the results of the 2012 national election & that it made him “afraid for our country”. Kaufman echoed Maginn’s assessment that the state party managed to successfully hold down even greater “potential losses” that might have eliminated the legislative gains that were made in 2010. He cited national exit polls that indicated the GOP message won over a majority of voters but that it was not the Republicans but the Democrats who successfully “did small things in a big way” & that the GOP “needs to learn from that (experience).”

When the main item of the agenda was introduced – whether or not the state party would endorse the platform of the Republican National Committee (NRC) – a motion was made & quickly seconded to endorse Mitt Romney‘s presidential platform & add it to the state party’s platform. The GOP State Committee, in effect, repudiated the platform of the NRC. With no discussion made about the motion in question, the Romney platform was overwhelmingly accepted by the membership through a voice vote. Maginn then agreed to suspend party rules to allow some of the activists in attendance to address the body for no more than five (5) minutes. Massachusetts Republican Assembly President Dave Kopacz, Sr., took the opportunity to remind his audience that the GOP won’t “go wrong if we focus on a message of life, liberty, & property.” Rich Howell received a standing ovation after delivering a fiery defense for the kind of conservatism embodied by Ronald Reagan & Ray Shamie. He concluded with the admonition that “we fail when we run away from our principles.” Once the speeches were done, Maginn asked the group to go into executive session. Through a show of hands, a majority of them decided to do so & the remainder of the meeting was closed to the public.

From my perspective, the meeting had a whiff of deja-vu about it. The party wanted to accentuate the positive – which is fine – but it neglected to provide any serious analysis on why the state GOP fell short building upon the legislative gains that were made in 2010. Aside from Durant’s observations, the party rarely tackled what the Democrats did & how their achieved the successes it achieved. No mention was made about Democrat Party Chairman John Walsh & his extremely sterling track record of getting Democrats elected, keeping Democrats in power, & building/broadening coalitions that benefit the Democrat Party every regular election cycle. Unlike their counterparts in the rival party, the state GOP seems to lack any interest in the kind of self-reflexivity & self-criticism that’s necessary for genuine reform & growth. Unless such an interest takes place soon, the state GOP will be condemned to repeat the same mistakes over again.

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