SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 14, 2012

From anger to a plan for the Republican Party

Barbara Anderson
The Salem News

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“There’s no hope.”

— Jerry

Williams, WRKO talk radio host

From 1989 to 1995, I spent two hours a week on Jerry Williams’ radio talk show, first with Howie Carr, then with Bob Katzen. It was fun until the last few months, when the above quote became Jerry’s mantra. It was really annoying to an optimistic activist like me.

I now realize our difference was due to his superior age and experience. He died in 2003, or I’d have called him election night and told him he was right.

Avi Nelson, still on WRKO on Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m., talked last weekend about the stages of electoral grief: “foreboding, denial (maybe Ohio called too soon, voter fraud in Florida), shock, depression, disgust, anger, leading to resolve or drop out.”

I started with heavy “foreboding,” therefore avoided too much “shock,” except for the congressional race. “Depression” isn’t in my DNA; I went straight to “disgust,” then “anger,” which lasted for three full days. It was focused on the Libertarian candidate Dan Fishman, who got 16,668 votes; Tisei lost to Tierney by 3,650 votes.

Now I seriously doubt that there are 16,000 Libertarians in the 6th Congressional District. Someone “offended” by Tisei’s position on social issues posted on a Facebook page that, “Maybe we social-conservatives deserve some credit for Tisei’s loss. Maybe that’s where the protest vote for Fishman came from.” No doubt. But I have to believe that most social conservatives, as well as most Libertarians, wouldn’t vote for a third-party candidate if it could mean re-electing John Tierney, which is what happened.

At least those foolish Libertarians who did vote for Fishman were voting for someone who shared their values, no matter how futile the campaign. The soc-cons who voted for Fishman re-elected Tierney, one of the biggest fiscal and social liberals in Congress. How dumb is that? Perhaps their motivation wasn’t so much ideological as bigoted against Tisei, who is not just in favor of gay marriage, but gay himself. So ideological prissiness, stupidity or bigotry: Take your pick, but you still can’t have reached the number 16,668.

Many of Fishman’s votes most likely came from NOTA voters. Massachusetts doesn’t offer the “none of the above” ballot choice, so Democrats who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Tierney, yet were uncomfortable voting Republican, chose the third name on the ballot, whoever he was. Casual independents who didn’t like the negative television ads, and couldn’t be bothered studying the differences between the two major-party candidates, went there, too. I’m convinced that a large majority of those 16,000 voters would have preferred Tisei, if they’d had to choose between two.

I’d asked Dan Fishman to please not risk re-electing Tierney; on election night, I was so disgusted that I vowed never to call myself a Libertarian again. Starting now, I’m just an independent who wants to save America but knows that spouting Libertarian platitudes and acting as if pragmatic voters don’t have “principles” isn’t going to accomplish anything.

Not that Tisei didn’t have other problems, as the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the Massachusetts Teachers Association sent me 22 fliers associating reform-minded, pro-choice Tisei with the most radical members of the Republican Party and tea party.

A few days after the election, John Walsh, chairman of the Democratic Party, was asked by WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller what the Massachusetts Republicans did wrong. Walsh replied that they’re “jerks” and “pretty soon they’ll have to have candidates that don’t think rape is a good thing.”

This vicious “lies for silly women” strategy is what Republicans are up against: How can they win? A new push by a few Massachusetts social conservatives, to adopt the national Republican platform denying abortion even to save the life of the mother, isn’t going to help. I’m sure these fundamentalists won’t prevail, any more than fundamentalist Libertarians will ever win anything, but nevertheless, they make me angry.

I did have to laugh, though, when Keith Lucy sent me a paraphrase of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that foolish men do something stupid.”

So I was moving into the final-phase choice, “drop out” (another Jerry Williams mantra: “I’m getting out of the business”) when I remembered a poster sent to me after a tough, losing ballot campaign in 1990. It showed a stork trying to swallow a frog, which had its little hands tightly around the stork’s throat. The caption read, “Don’t EVER give up.” My partner, Chip, just ordered us bumper stickers.

So now it was Veterans Day, and I set aside Jerry’s mantras for a quote from our nation’s No. 1 veteran:

“We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth New Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times.”

— Gen. George Washington,

letter to Maj. Gen. Philip

Schuyler, July 15, 1777

Thank you, Gen. Washington. You moved me into the final-phase choice of “Resolve.” I actually have a proposed plan for election 2014 in Massachusetts, will get to the national problem later.

Bill Weld is moving back, some say to run for U.S. Senate again. This works for me, if that’s what he wants, but Barbara’s Plan reflects the year he became governor, when Ray Shamie was a strong chairman of the state Republican Party and presided over substantial victories. I would ask Bill Weld to become chairman, giving the GOP the face of a fiscal conservative/social liberal like Scott Brown and Richard Tisei, both of whom would run again. Since we know Bill likes to delegate details, he sets the campaign themes and works with the media, while Peter Torkildsen moves into the job of political director.

So on the 2014 ballot, we have Scott Brown for U.S. Senate, Richard Tisei for Congress in the 6th, other Weld-Republicans running in other congressional districts. Charlie Baker runs for governor again, with Karyn Polito for lieutenant governor. The best of this year’s Republican legislative candidates give it another try, now part of a coordinated Weld-Republican effort. Social conservatives will be encouraged only if they stop beating the dead election issues of abortion/gay marriage and get serious about the national debt and the fiscal problems of Massachusetts, more serious than presently admitted.

Jerry, look, there’s hope!

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Barbara Anderson is a Salem News columnist.