Watching the Valley Patriot debate it was evident that the two key candidates in the race had clearly different styles and approaches.
Kirsten Hughes’ background as a trained lawyer, MassGOP staffer, campaign leader and city council woman are solid credentials to take a leadership role in a campaign. Just the way she did during Scott Brown’s losing campaign for Senator.
Rick Green’s background as a trained business person, entrepreneur and founder of a PAC are solid credentials to lead and build an organization. Drawn to politics through Scott Brown’s special election win, Green won a State Committee race, but evidently Green is relatively new to organized politics.
The candidates’ backgrounds foretold two different approaches and styles during the debate as well. Hughes appeared more as a politician, while Green more of a problem solver. Both are talented. But who is best to lead the Mass GOP?
Seeing and hearing Hughes recant party platitudes of “family values” and “limited government” can remind one of Debbie Wasserman Shultz. And this is not criticism. Like or loathe Shultz’s politics, she is an effective leader of the DNC. Shultz appears to represent and embody a common thread among the liberal nucleus of the Democratic party. And beyond this, she exudes the politics of her constituency and thus is able to display such politics well in public and private settings, as well as among the Democratic grass roots. Enough so to inspire a crusty old union worker or an impressionable, young college student during a campaign to hold signs and chant policies they themselves don’t fully understand.
So, then, the questions are can Hughes effectively represent the MAGOP this way? But, moreover, should this be the type of leader the MAGOP seeks?
Judging from the fractures in the MAGOP already, it is evident Hughes’ inspiring and galvanizing the party would be a very tall order. Doing so would require a far different skill set than the inside party politico Hughes has exhibited thus far. Republicans are inspired more by trust, evidence, reason and proof, and less by rousing speeches and flamboyance. And as we saw in 2012, by 2,000,000 fewer Republicans voting for Romney than for McCain (in 2008), Republicans’ votes and active participation must be often painstakingly earned. However, and more important, is an enthusiastic and pleasant public face what the MAGOP needs the most now?
Since based on the track record over the past several decades none of us are experts to answer this question, we should turn to things we know better. As consumers, we all are expert shoppers. As Massachusetts residents and activists we are also excellent citizens. Elsewhere in the US, the battle between the Democrats and Republicans is akin to Schick vs Gillette. Advertising, special deals, promotions – all techniques of industry experts – are what determine who wins their battles.
We must wake up and recognize in Massachusetts the Republican party is not a Schick nor a Gillette. Rick Green’s debate reminder of the perpetual start up nature of Republican campaigns should remind us that more accurately Democrats are the PhDs and Republicans are the Kindergarteners. They are Stop and Shop and we are the hot dog vendor at the town fair. John Walsh represents a Fortune 500 machine, while our winning candidate would start with a volunteer bake sale.
So, while Kirsten Hughes may be a true Republican party trooper and a good candidate perhaps for a elected political office, such credentials are not what the MAGOP presently needs if the party wants to grow up. A party on the verge of extinction in Massachusetts requires a leader, like Rick Green, who has the ability to recognize the present dilemma for what it truly is, and who also has the tools and motivation to make the party what it should be.