Woe is the rare Republican who tries to make a career outside the cult of Trumpism — even in relatively sensible Massachusetts.
If not for the quislings who are all-in on the former president and his Big Lie of a stolen election, Shawn Dooley would be head of the state Republican party right now.
“If I hadn’t lost the party chairmanship to the extremist by two votes, we would probably have a red wave in Massachusetts this year and Charlie Baker would be about to win his third term,” said the rep from Wrentham now running for state senate.
Dooley is a moderate Republican by national standards — like Governor Baker, who, despite the fact that he is hugely popular with voters here, decided not to seek re-election to the state’s top job this year, partly because the sentient members of the state Republican party have lost it to Baker-hating Trump acolyte Jim Lyons and his wild crew. Lyons seems willing to cede every office in the state to Democrats rather than lift a finger to help elect any Republican who, like Baker, has failed to demonstrate unquestioning fealty to the orange megalomaniac.
How longingly Lyons must be looking westward now!
Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney was absolutely demolished in her Republican primary on Tuesday. The Congresswoman, the ranking member on the House January 6th Committee, has become a hero to those who cling to beliefs that have fallen out of favor with a good third of the country — quaint notions like, “democracy is good,” “the rule of law is vital,” “facts exist,” and “encouraging the execution of one’s political enemies is sub-optimal.”
Before she became an American hero for refusing to endorse an autocrat’s efforts to smash our electoral system to bits, Cheney was a member in good standing of the party’s most strident wing, voting with Trump 93 percent of the time. She has opposed legislation on expanding voting rights, better environmental regulations, and more affordable health care. She’s a hard-liner against choice, and for guns. She has said she supports waterboarding. For a time, she even opposed same-sex marriage, even though her own sister had married a woman.
But even a record as heartless as that doesn’t matter any more: Loyalty to Trump is all. Never mind the fact that backing the party’s mercurial, irrational, and eminently indictable leader requires contorting oneself into all manner of ridiculous and humiliating poses. Anything short of absolute, unshakeable support for him is political suicide in a Republican primary — and in a general election, too, in many deep-red states.
Not here, mercifully.
In Massachusetts, the party’s embrace of candidates who adore Dear Leader amounts to “taking our players off the field,” Dooley said. Since Lyons took over, the GOP has hemorrhaged seats on Beacon Hill, and the party’s finances are a disaster.
The front-runner for the Republican nomination to succeed Baker is Geoff Diehl, a former state rep who, after briefly dissociating himself from Trump’s Big Lie, read the red wind and reversed himself. Calling the election rigged won him an endorsement from Trump, the backing of the state GOP, and a big lead over businessman Chris Doughty, who is trying to appeal to the vanishingly small sliver of moderate Republican primary voters who remain.
But Diehl has no hope of beating Maura Healey, the Democratic nominee. Dooley says she will crush him in debates, if he’s brave enough to do them.
“Trust me, I served with Geoff Diehl, no one has ever nominated him for MENSA,” Dooley said. “Not even his supporters think he can beat her. She will rip him to itty bitty pieces.”
It’s telling that the only way Dooley sees out of this morass is to change the way we do primaries in Massachusetts. If we had open primaries like Georgia does, he said, more voters would cast ballots in them, the influence of extremists would be diluted, and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would face each other in the general election.
That sure seems like a lot of work. Instead, maybe the fever will break, and the Republican Party here and across the country will come to its senses?