The “Big Tent” leans in more than one direction.

( – promoted by Paul R. Ferro)

On Thursday, June 12, 2014, The Boston Herald published in it “letters to the editor” section part of a commentary submitted by me responding to a column by Adriana Cohen headlined “GOP need to unite, not divide, party.” The following is the full text of my response:

You don’t need to go camping to understand that the concept of a “Big Tent” leans in more than one direction.

For Republicans to broaden the Big Tent, we must be prepared to include those with whom we disagree on a range of issues. And we must be inclusive toward those with whom we disagree, whether they stand to our political left or our political right, as well as to those who espouse libertarian and other independent positions that often transcend the conventional left/right dichotomy.

Too often, those who invoke the Big Tent use it as a means to invite activists with more liberal positions into the GOP, while excoriating those who hold more conservative or “maverick” views.

A recent article by Herald columnist Adriana Cohen demonstrated the pitfalls of a narrow application of the Big Tent. She indicated that the Texas Republican Party excluded Log Cabin Republicans from “equal access” to the state convention. I think we can all agree that a big party with a big heart must open its Big Tent to welcome all contending views, including those out-of-step with the “party brass” in any particular caucus or convention.

Being open to new ideas and to new members is the lifeblood for any growing organization. At the same time, holding secure the values and principles that animate a political party is its heart and soul, uniting supporters across generations and geographical boundaries.

Cohen accurately points out that “the GOP party brass are shooting themselves in the foot” by excluding those holding varying opinions, whose presence will encourage vibrant debate.

Unfortunately, the reaction from the pro-Log Cabin Republicans, themselves, fails to pass the Big Tent test. Instead of challenging their opponents, who after all represent the vast majority of Republicans in Texas, they lashed out, saying: “The Texas Republican Party is stuck in the Stone Age.”  Cohen adds some red-meat language to the mix, referring to the Texans as “ultra-conservatives” and “ultra-right wing.” One expects such divisive labels from Democrats and the liberal media, rather than from fellow Republicans. Particularly from Republicans who want to broaden rather than narrow the reach of the party.

Finally, Cohen offers conservatives from other states some advice “if they want to start winning key elections.” As Massachusetts Republicans, it would be wise for us the show a modicum of humility on this subject. After all, Republicans are winning local, state, and federal elections in places like Kansas and Nebraska, Wisconsin and Wyoming. And, yes, in the Lone Star state of Texas.

We Massachusetts Republicans do have the opportunity to extend a generous outreach to a rich variety of opinions, ranging to our left, to our right, and to those defying easy categories.

Just as we Massachusetts Republicans hope that others can learn something from us, perhaps it’s time for us to admit that we can also learn a few things from others. Let’s start with learning some lessons on how to win more elections.

About JIM LYONS