As part of its unceasing campaign for complete political irrelevance, the Massachusetts Republican Party has taken a bold stand denouncing two congresswomen who don’t represent Massachusetts.
As first reported by Commonwealth magazine, the party, or what’s left of it, passed a resolution attacking US representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for their alleged anti-Semitism. The resolution listed a large number of supposed offenses, many of them imagined or inflated.
But facts don’t seem to matter to the state party’s would-be power brokers, who leaped at the opportunity to show their allegiance to President Trump. The resolution they passed was pretty much modeled on a similar measure passed by the Alabama Republican Party.
There aren’t 500 people in Massachusetts who even know that the Mass. GOP did this. But one of them is particularly prominent: Governor Charlie Baker. For the self-proclaimed guardian of two-party government in this state, this is just another big step in the opposite direction.
Baker has constantly positioned himself as the reasonable Republican, the man who has nothing to do with the shenanigans engulfing the GOP, and often disavowing Trump’s latest offense. But he is quickly becoming a man without a party.
Not that long ago, our state actually had two functioning political parties. That has steadily atrophied, as witnessed by the incredible shrinking GOP caucus on Beacon Hill. Becoming ever more in thrall to Trump will only make matters more difficult.
How long can Baker credibly disown his own party? If his disdain for Trump is as real as he insists it is, why won’t he separate himself from his nutty acolytes?
Superficially, the resolution was a show of support for Israel. But it was transparently intended to show support for Trump’s attacks on “The Squad” — Tlaib, Omar, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and, of course, Boston’s own Representative Ayanna Pressley. But Omar and Tlaib are in a different category because they happen to be Muslim. (It must also be noted that Pressley is the sole member of The Squad who does not support the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement, better known as BDS, that seeks to end what its backers see as Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.)
It’s been odd to watch the increasingly out-of-touch machinations of the state party. In the Bill Weld-Paul Cellucci years, its brand was fiscal conservatism wedded to a moderate social politics, a formula that played especially well in the suburbs.
But the march to the right socially has been going on for years now, with no sign of abating. It has alienated voters and donors alike. And it’s threatening to turn the party into a literal lunatic fringe. It moves farther from the mainstream of the state’s voters all the time. How can that be good?
This has reduced Baker — theoretically, the party’s standard-bearer — into a man who barely wants to talk about them in public. If he’s actually thinking about seeking a third term, disowning his own state party will only get more untenable. Over the past few election cycles, the state GOP’s more rabid members have gleefully embraced xenophobia and homophobia, while putting virtually nothing positive on the table.
Charlie, are these really your people?
There is an obvious path forward, but it would take some guts to take it. Baker should cut ties with the party, and declare himself an independent. He should proclaim that he is departing a party that left him first. As a student of Ronald Reagan, Baker knows there is precedent for leaving a party.
Trump Fever has consumed the GOP, so why would the Massachusetts state party be any different? But this isn’t Alabama, and the activists running this party are killing it. One day — and it may be soon — Charlie Baker is going to have to decide whether he is in or out.
E-mail Adrian Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.