Whose Party Is It? GOP Debate 4/10/2013

Dan Winslow says the Republican Party is the Party of Lincoln. Michael Sullivan won’t come right out and say it, but his GOP is the Party of George W. Bush. And Gabriel Gomez isn’t sure what party he is in, but he knows he doesn’t want to share it with any politicians.

In the short term, it may be Michael Sullivan’s party. But in the long term (and maybe as soon as April 30), if there is going to be a long term, it had better move toward Dan Winslow.

Winslow doesn’t miss an opportunity to say the GOP needs to be the Party of Lincoln and it’s a pretty positive association. In twenty-first century terms Winslow means a party open to women, LGBT, the young. He doesn’t play to the conservative base on abortion, but forthrightly supports choice. That seems to be the nub of his argument about the party of Lincoln and it is a limited one but where the party needs to be in Massachusetts.

Sullivan doesn’t really say whose party it is but his answer when asked about Iraq was telling. Sullivan said Iraq was worth it and the other two danced around it. I draw from the answer that Sullivan is closest to the Party of George W. Bush. His more conservative positions including vowing to repeal Obamacare where the other two equivocated lend themselves to that interpretation too. The problem here is that if that position plays in the primary, even some national conservatives have concluded that W’s Iraq adventure is killing the party.

Gabriel Gomez may have a future too, but there needs to be a lot of growth. He knows he isn’t a politician, but doesn’t know much of anything else, at least that he admits to. His candidacy is largely based on a very attractive biography but if he goes to the Senate, I admit, I think of Robert Redford at the end of the movie The Candidate: “What do we do now?”

Speaking of biography, we’ve now had closing statements from all five Democratic and Republican candidates this week, and they all stressed biography.

My favorite strange moments of the debate tonight: I thought I heard Winslow make the case for his ability to work with both parties by saying that he had worked with Republicans 98% of the time and Democrats 50% of the time. Doing the quick math on 98+50 I tweeted “don’t let him near the budget!” Then Rob Willington responded that Winslow “Voted with Democratic Majority in House 55% & voted with GOP in House 98%”. Just to clear that one up.

My other favorite weird moment was when Gomez was pressed on the infamous letter to Deval Patrick in which Gomez offered himself up as a sacrificial senator. Gomez seemed to defend himself by saying that the letter was inartful because he’s not a lawyer. Huh?

Gomez did however have an effective closing in which he repeated the theme that he has earned his good fortune in this country. In such moments you can see how he might be an effective candidate some day; just not today.

The candidates got into a tit for tat on who has given money to Democrats, who has been a lobbyist, etc. I think it was Sullivan who said that doing business with government is the wrong reason to give campaign money to a political figure. But really, how much money is given for other reasons? Not 0% certainly, but somewhere in the area of 98% + 50%.

The important outcome here, probably more important than who wins the primary, is whose party is it. Ronald Reagan left office before most anyone under 35 paid any attention to politics. George W. Bush is fresh in all our memories – too fresh.

Lincoln is long gone too. But great books like John Burt’s Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism continue our fascination with him, and the decorated movie Lincoln reminds us of his greatness. There may be a lesson there, GOP.



About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
This entry was posted in Mass Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *