THE LITANY of well-known Republicans passing on the chance to succeed John Kerry as senator underscores the extraordinary feebleness of the state GOP. It underscores as well the degree to which politics is broken in the Commonwealth. The answer, perhaps, is not some vain effort to revitalize the GOP, but rather to rethink our elections altogether.
With no effective two-party system in the state, Democrats have a kind of hegemony. Gubernatorial races excepted, general elections are often pointless affairs: The Democrat always wins. The “real” election, if you will, is the primary: a small-turnout, intramural event dominated by partisans and often won by someone securing well less than a majority of the vote. Moreover, once in office, always in office. Parties discourage internal fights, so incumbents — whether at the state level or the federal — safely stay incumbents. The politics we get is often inward turning and (judging by the parade of House speakers who have faced criminal investigation if not jail) corrupt, largely immune from the check of voter dissatisfaction.