To: Charlie Baker
Re: The GOP Follies and the Future
Um, Charles, can you spare a minute? I know, I know, you’re busy putting DCR’s list of scenic state hiking trails in alphabetical order, but your party is caught in the middle of a tornado.
It’s time for you to step up.
See that orange-haired guy wearing a suit Jeeves would have given to the gardener? That’s Bill Weld — and he’s gotten more attention by signing aboard a Peter Pan mission as Libertarian Party VP than you have as the most popular governor in the country.
That’s because you’re laboring away down in the gopher hole, while William of Orange is gamboling about the national landscape, scattering his quirky locutions like a linguistic Johnny Appleseed. Mind you, we shouldn’t begrudge him his role; it’s good to see him back in the game. But he’s off on a libertarian lark. You could be central to the debate about the GOP’s future. After all, once Donald Trump gets thumped, your party will have to do some serious soul-searching and then start to rebuild.
Which is where you should come in. Even before Trump, the GOP had veered off the centrist path and into the political puckerbrush. There’s the fundamentalist-driven social policy that essentially says gays and lesbians should be second-class citizens rather than full participants in American society. The who-can-be-the-craziest contest on illegal immigration. (Winner: Trump!) The works-in-fantasy-but-not-in-fact supply-side-ism that holds the party in thrall to top-heavy tax cuts. The science-denying stand on climate change. The NRA-driven extremism on firearms.
How much of that remains once Trump finishes his tractor drive through the Republican tent remains to be seen. Let’s hope it can all be discarded. But that will only happen if moderates play a big role in putting the party back together again. Rule Chris Christie out. Once thought to be the future of establishment Republicanism, a vanquished Christie has been transformed into the Donald’s yes-man-servant. That’s no doubt preferable to the fate that supposedly befell Roman emperor Valerian after his defeat (think: human footstool), but when Trump sinks, Christie will go down with the ship.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has never quite outgrown his youthful adoration of Ayn Rand, thinks he’s the official curator of GOP philosophy, but despite his Republican reputation as a thinker, he’s basically an ideologue in disguise.
So: Change your plans and get to Cleveland. Not to celebrate Trump’s Republican National Convention coronation, but to make the rounds and talk to delegates. And to hold some discussions and even a press conference, maybe with other moderates, to outline your vision for the GOP.
Like, say, honest, old-fashioned tax-cuts-don’t-pay-for-themselves budgeting of the sort governors must deliver. Meanwhile, if you could help drag the GOP into the 21st century on marriage equality, you’d be doing both the party and country a big favor. Why, you could even say that it’s time to give up on repealing the Affordable Care Act and focus on making it work. And to end the mindless inveighing against the EPA and endorse sensible, market-solution environmentalism.
You should reassert the importance of compromise, of working across the aisle. You’ve done that well here. Nationally, people are sick to death of shut-down-the-government brinksmanship, of endless filibustering, of gridlock.
If and when Trump loses, the right-wingers will contend, yet again, that his defeat demonstrates the need to nominate a true conservative. But given the fate of the various conservatives who auditioned for that role, that’s a hollow argument.
Actually, the GOP needs to find its way back to the center if it’s to win again nationally. As a Republican with sky-high numbers governing a blue state, it’s time for you to dip your paddle into the debate.
Who knows where that might eventually lead you?