Gomez reboots MassGOP, crushes socons, opens big tent

[Note: I have no connection to any of the three campaigns.]

Tuesday, in the MassGOP Senate Primary, Democrat and conservative Republican activists were united: they were counting on Mike Sullivan to win, validating the image of the Massachusetts Republican party as conservative, uncompromising, and in opposition to the mainstream of liberal Massachusetts’ politics.

Fortunately, John Walsh and Red Mass Group did not get their way. Both saw their nightmare scenario: a moderate, who pledged to work with Democrats, was chosen.

But what happened yesterday isn’t just about our choice for Senate. It’s much bigger than that. Yesterday, the majority of Republican activists went to the polls and crushed the perceived dominance of social conservatives in the party culture. We no longer need to fear them. Moderates and pragmatic conservatives throughout the party can now say that we are the majority. RMG, Michael Graham, and Fox News do not speak for the party in this state. As Dan Winslow said, Massachusetts Republicans are a different breed than the national Republicans. For the social conservatives that are the same breed as the national Republicans, they have been crushed. Thank God!

Let me review why I think this is true:

1. First things first: “socons” versus social conservatives. Two different things.

2. Mike Sullivan was the ideal candidate for socons. How could he lose?

3. Have the socons dominated the MassGOP? How?

4. Gabriel Gomez – ringleader of the MassGOP’s new Big Tent

(read more…)

1. “Socons” versus social conservatives

First, there is nothing wrong with being socially conservative. There is great dignity and integrity in presuming that things that have worked should get the benefit of the doubt and that change should be justified. Also, even in a socially liberal state, it is possible to be wise and make contributions to a wide variety of political debates on how we should live our lives. Social conservatives should be a part of the Republican coalition, as they have been part of the party for a long time. I try to be one of these worthy conservatives.

But we all know there is a special kind of activist social conservative that does not draw his inspiration from the tradition going back to Edmund Burke; a tradition that questions new things, but one that compromises with massive social change and is thoughtful about the issues. No, this new breed of social conservative activist is someone we often call a “socon.” This guy’s identity is a self-righteous declaration of social conservatism based on roughly four things: opposition to abortion, gay rights, gun control, and comprehensive immigration reform. They are not interested in facts. They don’t respect the other side. They don’t care if they live in a place that disagrees. They “talk the talk” about other issues mattering, but if you cross them on one of the big four, you are a RINO – or a Democrat. (Michael Graham does this all the time on his show.)

These people are corrosive to the viability of the MassGOP, because they are the Republicans that people all over Massachusetts see on television and dislike immensely.

And on Tuesday, their ugly campaign to trash Gabriel Gomez utterly failed.

2. Mike Sullivan was their savior.

Social conservatives and socons know their beliefs are not universally held in this state, and other than blaming everyone else for this, they have been looking for their “knight in shining armor” to gain high office, someone of stature who is both fiscally and socially conservative who will not compromise.

Mike Sullivan was that guy. A distinguished public servant who has impeccable character and has defended America. Someone who goes to church, is completely opposed to abortion, doesn’t approve of gay marriage, is against all current gun control measures, and doesn’t want “amnesty” for illegals. He had a ready base of support, and activists mobilized for him. The special election primary was perfect for him as lots of ordinary Republicans wouldn’t even show up to vote. Even better, a last-minute terrorism attack would not only play to his strengths as a defender against terrorism, but he would get free TV air time for days. In fact, his appearances on cable news for a week probably ended up being a significant chunk of Gomez’s paid TV ad time. (Even I didn’t attack his character or record. I praised him. I only attacked the idea he could win a general.)

Yet. He. Lost.

Not only did he lose, he lost 2-1. That’s right. The social conservatives, who think they are the center of the party, found out that they only could muster 1/3 of the vote in a turnout model that couldn’t be more favorable to them. They, of course, saw the letter from Gomez to Governor Patrick, and decided his candidacy was over. RMG and Michael Graham discarded the candidacy. Gomez was a Democrat. An Obama-lover. Of course, no one could possibly see the letter and vote for him. It was over.


Here is what I wrote in Facebook on March 14 after the letter appeared and the socons rejected him:

“…many activists now think the Gomez campaign is over because they think it is over. They will be surprised to learn that he goes on, buys lots of ads, and that most Republicans have still not even heard of him, or the other two. When they do hear of him, it will be from an ad he bought. The scandal around the letter will affect mostly a group of a few thousand activists who would not have voted for him anyway. Red Mass Group will scream about this, but RMG really has little impact on anything. After all, this is the site that had two-dozen front page stories about what a “fraud” Elizabeth Warren was, everyone there said she was going to lose, and she won by 8 points.”

Of course, I was right. Why? Because I don’t live in the activist bubble like many of the writers here. I saw the Gomez surge a few weeks out. I knew it was coming together. I knew the timing was perfect for a guy like Gomez. I love Dan Winslow, but I saw what was happening.

3. But what social conservative dominance?

I know that some socially conservative friends of mine – like State Committeeman Brock Cordiero – might ask, “What dominance? Nobody put us in charge.”  (He has said this to me before. Oh – and I really like Brock. He isn’t the problem. He’s the kind of smart social conservative activist the party needs. At no point did he join in or endorse the ugliness of the RMG crowd against Gomez. He’s too smart to write people off because they don’t agree with him.)

Here is my answer: the social conservative activists are a minority in the party, but they are abetted by two things: the national party is a lot like them, and so is right-wing media. The state is flooded with messages from the national party and the conservatives on TV, and the social conservatives here are powerful and influential because of that air support. As pragmatic people have fled the GOP brand during the past 15 years, their influence has grown. Unfortunately, because of this situation, the average voter can’t help but think that the MassGOP is just like the national GOP. The Globe today, in a wonderful story about Gomez, put it perfectly:

Republicans running in Massachusetts face the perennial problem of being married in voters’ minds to the more conservative members of their national party.

Even the socons who know they are in the minority want to be the core. Here is a conversation I had last year with a very well-known activist who posts here from time to time. (I will call him, “Fred”)

“Fred, we need a big tent.”

“We tried that. It didn’t work.”

“The party can’t just be people like us. We will never win.”

“We… can have a big tent. But we [social conservatives] must be the center pole.”

“No one will want to come into the tent if you are at the center.”

“We are the activists. We are the grassroots. We must be at the center.”

“Where is Richard Tisei in this tent. Is there room for him?”

(Laughs) “Richard… is maybe a tassel hanging off the outside of the tent.”

Now, good people like Brock will disagree with that. (But Brock also believes that the platform committee of the State Committee should add a pro-life plank to the MassGOP’s platform. He sees it as a matter of principle. I see it as an impediment to winning in the most pro-choice state in America. Let the platform be silent and let candidates do their own thing.)

Ultimately, the socons believe they are the center of the party. When they turn on Fox News, read conservative blogs, listen to Michael Graham, or check out RMG, everything confirms that belief. (The unenrolled voters, perusing the same media, come to the same incorrect conclusion and we must stop them from believing that!)

But as of Tuesday, we now know they are not the center.

4.Gabriel Gomez – ringleader of the MassGOP’s new Big Tent

65% of primary voters in a very low turnout election opted for someone other than a great conservative man like Mike Sullivan. They voted for moderation. They voted for a chance to win in June. They voted for Winslow and Gomez – both an anathema to social conservatives.

But most of them voted for Gabriel Gomez – who so enraged social conservatives that the editors of this blog front-paged a string of nasty, suspicious, rants, ending with a “poll” where you could click one choice and agree. Grow. Up. The fact that their overall Sullivan endorsement was of more moderate tone was irrelevant. After trashing Gomez so badly, to say that you hope he stays in Republican politics was totally insincere and patronizing. If you think anyone but the socon flock gives a damn who you endorse, you need to get out more.

We now have a new ringleader of the MassGOP’s big tent: Gabriel Gomez. He doesn’t hate President Obama – like most people who live here. He will work with Democrats in the Senate, unlike man-child Senator Cruz. He can gain the support of Hispanics and gays, as he doesn’t upset them. He will welcome great citizens like Richard Tisei into the tent, not hang them on the outside.

Gomez’s identity, style, and positions are some of the medicine this party needs. The press is giving him a serious look. All across the country, moderate, sensible Republicans who are alienated by the wacko birds down in Washington, D.C.  will see him and say, “Of course! Massachusetts is the state has produced a reasonable, charismatic, Hispanic Republican!” (Hopefully they will find the donation link on his website.) Had we picked a doomed social conservative, they would have scratched their heads and thought we were nuts.

I don’t know if Gomez will win. The odds are really against him. He will need lots of money and media and new voters. But for now, the MassGOP has a big tent and a charismatic ringleader at the center.

Even if he fails, we know that we no longer need to fear the socons who want to be at the center of an empty tent. Sure, right-wing media will continue to make it seem like they are the entire party. But thanks to Winslow and Gomez, we now know they are not the entire party. Their feared activists are not to be feared anymore. We will never again see a serious statewide Republican candidate be against abortion or gay marriage or immigration reform. That’s all over now. Thank God.

The big tent is open now! Let’s welcome everyone in, including the social conservatives who can respectfully debate the issues, and make contributions. Even I will be quite nice to them, because as a pro-life Catholic, I am certainly one of them. 🙂

About edfactor

  • Yes, I would like to see a pro-life plank yet I got grief in 2010 for us not going far enough in that direction by some other socially conservative brethren.  We haven’t had a pro-life plank since at least 1998 & even then that took a pass on abortions, except for partial birth which was denounced.

    As I’ve often said, we’re here to create a platform for our party & not a catechism for my church.  I already have the latter.

    The platform has largely been silent with but a whisper of recognition of pro-life conservatives in the party.

    What we need is a free wheeling, wide open, discussion of the various issues at the Platform Committee and out of that brouhaha recommend a document that respects party principles while being tailored to the Commonwealth.  Personally, I think we’d be better served by consideration of going back to something more resembling the 1998 State Platform.

  • I respect the thoughtfulness you put into your posts. That being said, I respectfully disagree with your conclusion that average Republicans have repudiated the further Right by electing Gomez. I think this came down to one thing,and one thing only, Gomez was the only one on TV. Outside of core supporters the other candidates were complete unknowns. By introducing himself to the masses via TV, Gomez enjoyed name recognition alone that the others couldn’t come close to. And in a low-turnout election with a truncated time frame that’s all he needed.

    The average voter most likely didn’t even know that he ass-kissed Deval for the temporary appointment to the extent that he did. They heard his personal story and liked it. And since that’s all they most likely heard that’s all they needed to hear to vote for him. Sad as it is, most voters don’t inform themselves to the extent that we do. They don’t dissect positions or even think about candidates in any depth.As I said in one of your Facebook posts, my definition of low-information voters has taken on new meaning since I saw the poll that 42% of Americans don’t even know that Obamacare is the law of the land.

    In that environment, and with only a short amount of time to introduce themselves to voters, Sullivan and Winslow had no chance by not going on TV. The End.

  • is the ballots cast for our guys vs theirs. Markey got more votes than all three of our guys combined by 2-1 in Reading alone. We are not going to win this.

  • At my committee’s last meeting, the last one before the vote, 3 ladies who liked the idea of Gomez point blank asked what letter we were talking about. This after it ran in the Globe and was on newscasts. As engaged activists very aware of the letter, we sat there in shock, almost not knowing what to say we were so dumbfounded. These are supposedly people who pay the most attention to this sh*t! What, then, should we expect from average voters?

  • Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno

    Funny how people like you say we need to build a bridge, but your first public post is neener neener.  Classy.

  • of a story going around that a Sullivan supporter called the Gomez campaign yesterday looking to help out and they were told that Sullivan supporters can go screw themselves? So much for the big tent.  

  • “And The Winner Is…Barack Obama!”

    Rabid Republican Blog

  • Karl Marx

    The socons are getting smaller but more vocal. As reality sets in they become more shrill.

  • RMG is a place for healthy exchange of ideas, not just an echo chamber, and Ed’s a key “factor” in generating discussion, much appreciated.

    I voted for Sullivan, but I understood the motives of people who viewed Gomez as the Mass GOP’s best shot at defeating Markey.

    I read Ed’s post and thought, he’s discounting the fact that Gomez had TV ads – anecdotal, but my circle had no clue who Sullivan was. I agree with Karl that the lack of ads probably did play a role here.

    All that said, though I was not a Gomez supporter in the primary, I see a HUGE opportunity in his candidacy, for the party to make some inroads in some of the cities, Boston and the 20+ cities around the state whose people are mired in economic hardship (New Bedford), poor performing schools (Springfield), local political corruption (Lawrence) – Gabriel could go into those cities and inspire those voters, he could speak their language – literally – and say to them, this is NOT as good as it gets – he can be a model to them, inspiring them to hope for a better life for themselves and their children, let them know that the American Dream is so much more than some dreary life of social dependency that aspires to nothing higher than section 8 and food stamps. Contrast that with Ed Markey – who has done NOTHING for low-income and minority communities but proliferate the cycle of government dependency, and whose own neighbors in Malden don’t even know he lives among them. Who are these people more likely to vote for – some MIA old Irish guy who spends his time visiting various unions, or this amazing young role model who went out to their community to talk to them?

    Gomez has an opportunity to change people’s minds, their world view, to make them aspire to a better life than the one they think they’re stuck with. He can be an incredible force for a deeper kind of transformation – IF his campaign really does fulfill the promise, and GET HIM OUT into Lowell, Lawrence, Holyoke, Worcester, Brockton – not just the staged rallies with the business community and the same MassGOP regulars, but the people he DOESN’T know yet, whose support he can’t count on– the people who will most likely vote D. He has to go out of his way to meet them on their own turf. But what an inspiration it would be – sort of like when Scott Brown went to Southie. I can picture the ad.    

  • Ed,

    I know you can’t resist doing a little dance. And in that little world you live in, you probably think you had something to do with Gomez’s win.  

    For now most of us that supported Sullivan, are busy supporting the nominee of the party in spite of our fundamental disagreements.

    And for the record. Gomez has repeatedly said he is pro-life.

    So really there only social issue that we disagree on is marriage.

    There is plenty of time to do post mortems on the Sullivan campaign. After the general election.  

    And we’ll be able to at that point see how well Mr. Gomez does in the general.  For now, those of us who believe in a Real Big Tent, are choosing to party unity and we’re not withholding support.

    But as usual Ed, you’re too self-absorbed to worry about the party. You’re too busy worrying about promoting yourself in blogosphere.  

  • Silent Cal

    As far as I am concerned there is no point getting involved, I’ll vote for men or women who believe in some priciples but I am not ashamed of defending traditional values despite all the nasty things people say. I realize now that I am a thorn in the side to the powers that be. I am sad to say the poster is right I will be out of the way.

    G.K. Chesterton once said

    “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions”.

    I am sorry for getting in the way of the “master minds”