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Reflections on 2012: General Education and the Boston Red Sox

by: mecowett

Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 09:51:22 AM EST

( - promoted by Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno)

NB: I intend this only as a starting point for further thoughts. More to come in the next couple weeks.

Tuesday was the last day of my first general election campaign as the GOP state committeeman for Middlesex and Suffolk. Needless to say, our party's loss of a US Senator, a Governor's Councilor, and 4 seats in the state House did not make for a pleasant night. Many candidates we all knew and liked lost, some very narrowly, others by surprisingly wide margins. I've spent much of my time since Tuesday, as I'm sure many others have, trying to figure out what happened, and I'm left with two main thoughts, both prompted by a recent anecdote.

mecowett :: Reflections on 2012: General Education and the Boston Red Sox
For the past two and a half years, I've served on Harvard's Committee on General Education (GenEd), a group of faculty and students responsible for overseeing what amounts to Harvard's program of distribution requirements (though it's set up to be something more.) Recently, we discussed the problem of communicating our vision of the program to other faculty and students, especially since many of us were frustrated at how little both the broad intentions and specific goals of the program seemed to be understood. One professor made a very crucial point: the dozen or so of us sitting in the room were there for a reason, namely that we all had a rough understanding of, and believed in, the goals of the program. It was obvious to us why GenEd was valuable; the challenge was to get others to see as we did. She suggested that the key to resolving this problem was to (try to) recall what had convinced us in the first place: how had we viewed the program initially, and what had converted us to the ranks of the believers?

It seems to me that her advice is spot-on for those of us in the MassGOP. Those of us who are out there, whether running for office, volunteering for candidates, or both, already get it: we know why Scott Brown would make a better senator than Elizabeth Warren, why Richard Tisei is much superior to John Tierney, why despicable liars like Denise Andrews should be replaced by honorable public servants such as Susannah Whipps Lee. What we evidently have failed to get is why so few of our fellow Bay Staters have reached a similar understanding.

One approach is that taken by Howie Carr and Holly Robichaud in Wednesday's Boston Herald,1 and by countless others in my Facebook news feed and my Twitter stream: blame the voters, for if they can't figure it out, they're just too stupid to know what's best for them. Even if this is true, and I doubt that it is, it is an utterly unproductive way of thinking. "You're too dumb to have voted for my candidate" is not the slogan of a healthy party. However frustrated we may be at voters' sometimes limitless-seeming toleration for criminal and incompetent Democratic politicians, we cannot blame the voters if we hope for increased future success. We must figure out what prevents our fellow Bay Staters from seeing the world as we do, and I think it would prove fruitful to start by trying to remember how we saw the world before we saw it as we do now. It is, after all, not enough to know how to present an argument; it is equally important, if not more so, to understand how it will be received. To be sure, this is only the beginning, and not everyone will be persuadable. But if we don't believe that at least some are, we're probably better off watching more of the Sox or Pats (or Celtics or Bruins!) every year anyway.

The mention of our beloved Red Sox brings me, at long last, to my second point. I should mention, for those of you who don't know me, that I'm the youngest member of the state committee; I only turned 21 this past August. Thus in the realms of both politics and sports, I've gotten spoiled by success: Boston pro sports teams have won 7 titles in my lifetime; I was only 13 before I watched the Red Sox break the Curse. I also cast my first vote in Massachusetts for Scott Brown in the 2010 special election. This has gotten me used to winning, which, especially after similar ill fortune befell the Red Sox and Republicans this year, I must say I like a lot better than losing.

When trudging back to South Station at 11 pm on Election Night, I (not terribly seriously) asked my friend whether this was what it usually felt like. I found his reply telling: "Yeah -- we expect to lose, just like we expect the Red Sox to lose." Granted, we live in Cambridge, where Scott Brown lost in 2010 and 2012 by 69%, but I fear his comment is generally applicable. Though it's understandable, it seems we are a party that, in many ways, does not believe we can win: during the past cycle, for instance, we failed to contest 4 of the 5 most Republican Senate districts in the Commonwealth (including the top 2), as well as an overall majority of seats in both houses of the General Court.  I fear, too, that this is in part the product of having spent far too long buried deep in the minority. All of our legislators, whether they've served for two or twenty years, have served our state, their constituents, and the GOP honorably, but I worry that the decades of being buried deep in the minority have done great harm to their belief in the possibility of victory and the value of providing a distinct alternative. Sooner or later, and my preference would be the former, those who have led others in fighting the good fight seemingly in vain for so many years must give way to a new generation imbued with hope of victory, just as the end of futility at Fenway came only when new blood replaced old on the highest rungs of the Yawkey Way ladder.

I do not mean to deflect blame by writing this. I take full responsibility for my role as a member of the state committee in the defeats we suffered this week. I know full well how much more I could have done, and I apologize for failing in that regard. Indeed, I suspect that only begins to scratch the surface of what is ultimately possible, even in my deep-blue district. Moreover, we are a conservative party, and a conservative party must always have room for voices of wisdom borne from experience. We must also, however, recognize the constancy of change, and the power of harnessing the energy of those who don't know what "impossible" or "pointless."

Twenty-two years ago, a swing of less than 15,000 votes in 5 districts would have given our party control of the Massachusetts Senate. If we want to return to and surpass that point, if we want to double and then triple our 2010 gains in the state House, if we want to elect our first congressman in 20 years and our first governor in 12 years, we must not yield to the temptation of blaming the voters, but instead focus on ourselves, and how we can help others see what has long since been obvious to us. We must also, if not immediately, then soon, begin the process of transitioning to the new generation of leadership, one less laden down with the baggage of the past and more trusting in the possibility of ultimate success.

"If you always do what you've always done," the saying goes, "then you'll always get what you've always gotten." If we wish to avoid the "then," we must render the "if" false. I certainly would not dare suggest a path to lasting relevance -- ideas, for one thing, and better-targeted messaging are far too important, as are a host of other issues. But I do believe that the two steps I've outlined here represent a good place to start.

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Thanks for the thoughful post (5.00 / 1)
Michael -

Thank you. More state committee members should publicly write about what they are thinking.

I could not agree more that our alienation and low expectations affect everything. Candidates who know they can't win go through the motions of running. Volunteers go through the motions of helping. RTCs go through the motions of supporting them. Republicans go through the motions on election day. We then go through the motions of thanking the losers for "at least giving us a choice" on the ballot.

But alienation has another price. One we forget how to win, we start doing things that make losing even more likely. But we don't notice, because there aren't a huge number of people who won to stand up and say, "Whoa! We can't do that if we want to win."

So, if tonight, the Democratic State Committee was presented with a resolution to embrace marxist positions on a few things, you'd have 75% of the members say, "Whoa! We can't go that far to the left!!!! We'd lose elections that way!"

But tonight, there will be lots of MassGOP committee members and supporters in the gallery who want us to embrace the no-compromise, far-right positions of the National GOP.

How many people tonight will remember what it is like to win and stand up and say, "No way! We'd lose elections that way!"

Or will we have so long forgotten what it is like to win that we won't think it matters if we embrace those positions.

We shall see.

Very Well Said (0.00 / 0)
And looking forward to what comes next in your mind.

My thoughts are:

1) I agree with Rep. Frost in that adopting the National GOP platform would be a significant mistake.  It would position us right where the Dems say we are and further reinforce the negative stereotypes that they were able to use so well against us last election.  This is NOT to say that socially conservative candidates cannot run and win, but that, as a Party, we cannot afford to be put so easily into a box the Dems built for us.

2) The State Committee needs to determine the role of the Party Chair and the employees of the State Party.  Perhaps it is a coincidence that John Walsh announced he is seeking anther term as Mass Dem Chair, perhaps not, but it should serve as a wake up call for the SC and State Party.  We need to determine the role of the Chair and find someone to fill that role who will last multiple cycles to build the Party rather than having rebuilding "seasons" practically every other year.

My thought is that we need someone in the role of Chair who is focused more on building the Party at the local/grassroots level and less on fund raising.  In short, we need our own John Walsh.

This should then lead to a determination of how the party should staff the office and how it will interact with the SC, candidates, elected officials and local organizations.

Then, figure out how to pay for the organization we want.  If this means another person or group responsible for fund raising then look into it, but let's not wait.

3) Leadership of House and Senate.  Yes, this also needs to be looked at with a very critical eye.  In the Senate you have Senator Tarr who, as near as I can tell, has learned his position well over the last two years, but his reluctance to endorse candidates such as Ms. Rhoton causes me concern about how much he can build the Party for the future.  Maybe its time to have Senator Hedlund in a leadership role.  He would be hard to fit into any box and has a broader appeal to younger and more libertarian (small l) voters.  Given the issues with the Liberty Slate, etc. he may be a person who could help bridge that gap.

Rep Jones has been minority leader in the House for several terms and appears to get along well with House Leadership.  Heck he even is the Jones in the Patrick Jones Health Care Cost Containment Bill.  That alone should cause us all to ask if its time for new leadership in the House.

4) Lastly, for now, we need to build bridges to the minority and ethnic communities in the Cities and Regions of the State and Fast.  We have to bring a message of how hard work brings greater prosperity to them and their families, how personal responsibility is better than relying on the state and how the American Dream is built on making your own way to success not relying on someone else to do it for you.  But we need to do more than talk about it, we need to recruit more members who are in these groups and LISTEN to them.  They have a lot to offer us as a Party and as individuals, let's listen to them.

Thanks for your reflections and I hope more SC members do the same.

We have a lot of work to do, it won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

Great reflection (0.00 / 0)
This is a great post. I wish more State Committee Members would have posted somewhere a post-election analysis in their own views. Glad to see that you've taken the initiative and doneso here.

Maybe your analysis is true of the direction our party should go in. Time will tell. I just hope that tonight more people take the mentality of Rep. Frost than that of members of the Republican Assembly and others who are oping for a staunch veer right in the direction of the party here in Mass.  

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