(Ed's latest substantive discussion. Do you agree, do you not agree.. - promoted by Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno)
[This is the latest on my series of articles to try an inject some substance into the MassGOP chairman's race.]
One of the most difficult problems we face is that the GOP has lost the cities. Not just in Massachusetts, but nationwide. Romney lost most of the big cities by a lot. Here, Scott Brown got crushed in all the urban areas. The MassGOP Wards (RTCs) in dense urban areas are some of the weakest we have. (Trust me, I am on the Boston Ward 21 Committee - we barely exist.)
The penalty for the MassGOP isn't just that the Democrats run up the score in statewide elections. It means that we can't win most senate seats because of the urban anchor. (Look no further than my friend Jamison Tomasek. He would have won his Senate race in 2010, as he won everything but Lawrence.) Similarly, some of U.S. Congressmen cannot be dislodged for the same reason - they have urban strongholds where they cannot lose and where they can make up for losing the suburbs and exurbs.
This is the bottom line: we will never be strong in this state unless we can become competitive in the cities. Period.
(If you want to read a comprehensive article about how the national GOP lost the cities over the decades, look at this lengthy NYT piece here. The little section on Jack Kemp - as a counter-example - should inspire us.)
We need a plan. And the problem is so big, it will not be solved by "organization" alone - not by a long shot. We can organize after we put an agenda into place.
So do the MassGOP chair candidates have a plan? No. Of course not. It's too difficult. Yes, they all admit it is a problem, but even Dean and David - they have the most detailed plans - don't have answers. And what is the pressure? None. For who is on the state committee? A diverse group of multi-colored city-dwellers who want an urban agenda? No. I have watched the SC a few times. It looks like a suburban rotary club. You know I am right.
Here are my thoughts:
AN URBAN MASSGOP AGENDA
1. Establish policy initiatives to reform mass transit, education, city management, licensing/permitting and public health (start with all the wonderful work Pioineer is doing). Get all of these ideas into a central place, inject them into all MassGOP campaigns.
2. Come out for comprehensive immigration reform. (This isn't a federal issue, but we must show solidarity with the illegals who want to become citizens and their relatives who are citizens. The GOP always thinks they can divide the new immigrants who are legal from those who are not - but that has never worked. We must find ways to support all hard-working urbanites who make cities work.)
3. Support non-profits. (This will be an easy one.) Non-profits, including charities, hospitals, churches, colleges, and foundations - are critical components of many large and medium-sized cities in this state. They often aren't treated well by the Democrats here. (Just look at how Mayor Menino beats them up here in Boston.) We need to go to them, ask for their urban political pains, and support them.
4. Sponsor volunteer projects to improve urban life. There isn't really a way to improve city life by penetrating the traditional urban political machinery of places like Boston and Lawrence. Instead, the party of private-over-government solutions is going to have to prove that point. We should look at the needs of cities, find those that fit our view, and then sponsor volunteer projects around them. For example, perhaps a charter school could use some volunteers to set up a new facility. Perhaps city services are failing and we could somehow augment them. Perhaps a city could use some online help to make services better and we could fund a Code for America fellowship to improve them. Perhaps we could conduct training for a smaller city like Framingham on city management, using the materials Pioneer created for its "Middle Cities Initiative."
5. Create city-specific websites for all cities in Massachusetts, featuring all policy proposals and volunteer efforts. Make them available in all languages spoken in each city. This will involve some serious translation work. But with Google Translate and some other help, we can do it.
6. Make all MassGOP websites multi-lingual ( the main one and all campaigns ). This is mostly branding, but it is the cheapest way to be accessible to urban ethnic enclaves who just might want to know what we think in their own language.
7. Support gay marriage. Most large cities have a large and respected gay community that contributes a lot to urban culture. We must respect these gay communities. In the state where gay marriage began, and where the battle ended years ago, and where gay marriage is now, according to polling, supported by a large majority of citizens - we must at least accept gay marriage, even if we don't celebrate it. If you think we can get the support of gays in this state while fighting gay marriage, or adopting the Romney platform on it, for example, you're kidding yourself.
Well, that's my thinking at this time. I realize some of this will be utterly rejected by the suburban and exurban conservative Republicans who don't give a damn about the cities. They have had years of time do come up with an urban agenda - and they've got nothing. It's time for new ideas. Think you can do better than this? Leave your thoughts in the comments.