What is causing the current crop of Republican candidates for federal office
in Massachusetts to falter from the high expectations of this past Spring ?
Pundits have expressed surprise that Sen.Scott Brown finds himself not only not
sledding to re-election but in the fight of his political life.
Meanwhile, the local GOP’s other great hope for the Fall, career politician
Richard Tisei, who is challenging Congressman John Tierney in the 6th district
has muddled his message and run a innuendo-ridden, personal attack campaign
against Tierney, whose family vulnerabilities are an addictive temptation to a
relative unknown like Tisei. But Tisei’s campaign looks to be in danger of
being sunk by this singular negativity tied to an empty vessel of policy
That absence of ideas reveals most who these candidates are and may also be
the key to what has spiked their campaigns’ wheels.
Some of us older fogies remember when the Republican Party was competitive in
New England. There was a reason for this. In the 20th century, Republicans in
this region still reflected the progressive values that had animated the
national GOP since the Civil War : equality of opportunity, good government, and
civil rights. It seems that for THIS new Republican guard, the first two legs of
the old local GOP three-legged stool are still missing.
What has now happened is that candidates like Brown and Tisei wear the veneer
of progressivism on civil rights issues that are no longer controversial in this
region, like gay rights in Tisei’s case and women’s rights in Brown’s case, but
say little about where they differ from the Tea Party wing on tough bread and
butter issues. Once elected, however, they are standard issue right-wingers on
economic issues; out of touch with the everyday struggles of regular
And make no mistake. If elected, they will be just as beholden to the Tea
Party extremists who set the Republican agenda in Congress
For example, when Brown got to Washington in his pickup, he played a key role
carrying cargo in his truckbed for Wall Street after being one of the greatest
recipients of special interest Wall Street money in the Senate. Unfortunately
for him, he faces in Elizabeth Warren, a candidate with genuine credibility as
someone who fought Wall Street and repeatedly beat it, a rare thing indeed.
The same goes for Tisei, who seems reluctant to give a straight answer on a
question as simple as whether he supports or opposes the budget proposal of Paul
Ryan, which would end Medicare as we know it. He has taken moderate stances on
social issues and refused to sign the Grover Norquist no-tax pledge, seeming to
hope that this would be enough to have independents of the Commonwealth not to
notice his refusal to distance himself from the draconian Ryan budget, which
would cement the 1% in power.
As for good government ? In March Tisei appeared to try to revive that old
stool leg when he asked Tierney to agree to limits on outside spending by big
money. But then on May 7, John Tierney sent a signed copy of the Warren-Brown
pledge that bans this kind of outside spending and challenged Mr.Tisei to join
him in signing it. Tisei responded that he would only sign if the Tierney
campaign agreed to his public challenge limiting PAC contributions to 20%. The
Tierney campaign promptly agreed to that exact condition but Mr.Tisei still
rejected signing an agreement. It did not help Tisei that in the interim
ultra-conservative national super-PACs pledged to bankroll him completely.
Coincidence? I doubt it. Richard Tisei simply sold out to the highest
The old centrist GOP magic is not working for a simple reason: they are not
convincing as New England moderates on bread and butter and good government
issues. They instead look like empty vessel candidates bought and paid for by
Folks, this is definitely NOT your father’s Grand Old Party anymore !
Fred Rich LaRiccia