Great men are often gifted with extraordinary vision.
Where lesser mortals see only a dumpster fire, the great discern the forge of Vulcan, about to bring forth objects of such exquisiteness as to leave tears in the eyes of the gods.
Where those of pedestrian imagination see nothing but a smoldering pile of rubble, they spy a phoenix about to rise from the ashes.
Such a man is Massachusetts Republican State Committee chairman Jim Lyons.
It’s a somber mood besetting many moderate voters in Massachusetts this week, and for seemingly good reason: With Governor Charlie Baker exiting the electoral scene, stage center, the porch light appears to be flickering out on the state GOP’s competitive hopes.
But political viability, competitiveness, statewide appeal — those concepts mean nothing to a visionary like Lyons. No indeed. The bats of happiness are fluttering merrily about in his belfry, positively exultant about Baker’s decision.
Lyons, who helped arrange for Donald Trump to anoint Republican gubernatorial hopeful Geoff Diehl the MAGA chosen one, credited the former president’s blessing of Diehl with pushing Baker out of the race.
“It’s clear to me that Charlie Baker was shaken by President Trump’s endorsement of another Republican candidate in Geoff Diehl,” spoketh the GOP chairman, via statement. Declaring the state party now committed to Trump’s agenda, Lyons proclaimed the GOP is “turning a new page here in Massachusetts.”
That, certainly, is one way of putting it. But just to maintain a bridge to those who must dwell in the real world, it might be best to choose a relatable title for those turning pages, one that at least nods in the direction of more common perceptions.
“Chaos Management in Theory and Practice” comes to mind, though “The Big Book of Bedlam” is pithier and perhaps more apt for a diverting coffee-table compendium.
One chapter, “The Petition Submission Attrition,” could gently tell the story of how the questions Lyons hoped to put on the 2022 ballot to set up a right-wing electioneering effort — a voter ID requirement, a mechanism to hobble a Baker-backed climate-change effort, and an abortion-related question — were either orphaned or fell thousands of signatures short of the required number.
Another chapter, “Rules Are Simply a Great Man’s Tools,” could chronicle the many ways the GOP chairman has, um, stretched and elongated — ignored, even — the state committee’s cumbersome bylaws. That chapter could include this engrossing summary of recent state committee gatherings.
At its October meeting, state committee members unanimously passed a resolution asking its national committee man and woman to find a parliamentarian, the better to help ensure the monthly sessions operate within recognized process curbs.
But after the national committee folk did as asked, chairman Lyons copped a nutty — um, make that, raised strenuous objections — and declared he wouldn’t allow that parliamentarian to participate in Tuesday night’s session.
Frustrated, several dozen state committee members then boycotted the gathering, leaving Lyons 13 votes shy of the 40-member quorum required to conduct official business. This might have thwarted a chairman whose crimped imagination rendered him a prisoner of process, but not chairman Lyons. No indeed! He countered by declaring he was calling a meeting of the party’s executive committee, a group empowered to make decisions for the full state committee in certain instances. Here, a trivial matter arose: According to party rules, five days advance notice must be given for such an executive committee meeting to take place.
But as Admiral Farragut might have declared had he once been GOP State Committee chairman, damn the process torpedoes, full speed ahead! Lyons not only proceeded apace, but ingeniously appointed his loyalists as substitutes for missing executive committee members, the better to churn his way forward.
Alas, Lyons is still left with an immediate problem: Because the executive committee can’t pass a budget, there is no official spending plan for next year. Actually, two problems: The very same night, the GOP lost the special election to replace Brad Hill in the Fourth Essex District, a seat the party GOP had held for four-plus decades.
Perhaps the next time he faces the lack of a quorum or other such inconvenience, Lyons could officially declare what another of history’s notable sovereigns would if confronted with a similar situation: “Le comité d’etat du GOP, c’est moi.” That principle formally decreed, he could then decide everything according to his royal whim.
So where will the Big Book of Bedlam take us next? On Wednesday, some 30 concerned state committee members convened by phone to share concerns about the party’s careening course, though nothing concrete was decided.
But here’s a safe bet for those hoping to beard the mighty Lyons, rendered in mere-mortal terms: Affairs at the state committee seem destined to become more combatively absurd before sanity finally prevails.