Can Charlie Baker Tame the GOP Wild Boys?

As my colleague Professor Duquette argued yesterday the Republican Tea Party faction presents a challenge to the Charlie Baker-Karyn Polito ticket. That is the sort of political conundrum good pols solve.  A more portentous problem for the campaign may be, can the uber-manager tame the Wild Boys of the GOP whose excesses have driven recent Republican campaigns off message? Let’s recount a few of those episodes.

In 2012 the great hope of the state Republicans to defeat Elizabeth Warren focused on the non-issue of Warren’s heritage: real Native American or costume party Indian? This one had the punditry in a frenzy which was all the more distinctive because the public at large could not have cared less. So along came the Wild Boys to provide one of the more memorable performances of the year in the infamous tomahawk and war whoop video. Remind me again, how did Brown do with minority and women voters?

They are fun though, the Wild Boys, and they love to play dress up. In the 2006 campaign in which Deval Patrick faced off in the gubernatorial election against Lt. Governor Kerry Healey two of the Wild Boys showed up in front of Patrick campaign manager John Walsh’s home one morning outfitted in orange prison style jump suits. The stunt’s effectiveness as a campaign technique was blunted by the fact that Walsh had already left for work as had his wife. However, the play actors did manage to frighten the Walsh’s twelve year old son who had not yet left home to catch his school bus.

That was really nothing though compared to my nomination for most despicable campaign tactic in state history. That was the release in 2006 of the information that Deval Patrick’s brother-in-law was a convicted sex offender, presumably by someone at the Republican controlled Executive Office of Public Safety or the Sex Offender Registry Board. The Boston Globe’s Joan Vennochi wrote on October 16, 2006 in “Politics Trumps Law,” it was “more than dirty politics. It also demonstrates outrageous contempt for the law.”

Perhaps such ugliness is a thing of the past; but perhaps not. For example last year I did a post titled Redmassgroup and the “race hustling industry” which began

So yesterday after posting a potpourri of political thoughts I came across a blogpost at Redmassgroup titled Five Things You Should Know Today, July 12, 2012. The first item noted that Gov. Deval Patrick had traveled to Chicago for Jesse Jackson’s annual conference and began in this manner: “Leave now (sic) mistake about it, Deval Patrick knows where his post gubernatorial bread is buttered. That’s in the race hustling industry.” The first comment under the post reads thus: “Deval has always been a workhorse for the race pimps…”

Over on Twitter conservatives are far more prominent than they are in the actual population. Here is an example of a contribution from a regular tweeter

Capture Dunn  And here is Mr. Dunn’s current Twitter Profile summary:

Capture Dunn Charlie


You’ll notice that none of the above excesses occurred during Baker’s 2010 campaign. He’ll need to keep a tight rein on the Wild Boys because with friends like these . . .


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.
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5 Responses to Can Charlie Baker Tame the GOP Wild Boys?

  1. Ed Lyons says:

    Professor Cunningham:

    How many conservative Republicans are there who are like this? Of the 450,000 registered Republicans in this state, my guess is that we are talking about a couple of hundred people, at most. Red Mass Group – a den of iniquity – is very visible but represents only the fringe.

    The Democrats have these people too. Just spend some time among the socialist rallies in Jamaica Plain – and I mean real hammer-and-syckle socialism! Or the Occupy Wall Street chapters. Or the crazy people in the faculty lounges of many local colleges! (heh heh)

    But the Democrats have a huge and powerful establishment that keeps these people on the sidelines and many more normal Democrats whose activities drown out the crazy people.

    So, yes, we Republicans should work harder to keep the nut jobs and immature political activists where they belong. I was a vocal critic of the “fake Indian” crowd and saw that were war whooping our way through a fatal underestimation of Elizabeth Warren. Will these people learn? No. But ignoring them is not enough. We must fight against them.

  2. Maurice T. Cunningham says:

    How many? Enough to generate some wonderful news stories for the opposition.

    Your point is very well taken though. You and I and Jerold and others have been discussing the anti-intellectual drift of the GOP; the Wild boys are another manifestation.

  3. Where were the wild boys during his 2010 run? You find them at work during Healey in 2006 and Brown in 2012. Did he contain them in 2010, and if so, why would he be unable to contain them now? And if he contained them in 2010 but still lost, maybe the wild boys aren’t the deciding factor you think them to be.

  4. Maurice T. Cunningham says:

    Did I say deciding factor? More like an unwelcome distraction that pushes a campaign off-message. If you read to the end I note no incidences that I recall in 2010. A Republican can’t match the Democrats ground game unless you get a real outlier like the Brown special election, but a strong passionate organization run by a well-organized campaign can help. That is tougher if elements of the base create more problems than they solve.

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