The Gabriel Gomez – Redmassgroup Conflict

The conflict between former Republican senate candidate Gabriel Gomez and redmassgroup blogger Rob Eno over the past several days illustrates problems faced by conservatives in Massachusetts: a thin bench that elevates low-quality candidates for statewide office, and an activist element that may ignite the passions of the faithful but sometimes offends those who are not in its tiny band of true believers.

Gomez started this skirmish so let’s begin with him. Before running for the Senate, Gomez had run once for selectman in his hometown and lost. In the Senate special election Republican primary Gomez defeated two more established candidates, then State Representative Dan Winslow and former State Representative and former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. Either would likely have been a stronger general election candidate, but Gomez had something they didn’t have: money (mostly his own).

As my colleague Professor Ubertaccio tweeted the other day if Gomez is seriously planning a candidacy in 2014, associating party members with the Klan is a pretty poor way to launch a campaign. The prior weekend Gomez had tweeted of Mr. Eno and Republican activist Chris Pinto that their “level of ignorance and intolerance exhibited by them and their small ‘Klan’ are an embarrassment to our civil society.’” The affair went on for several days but my favorite part was when Gomez declared that of course he didn’t mean Ku Klux Klan; if he did he would have simply said “KKK.” Maybe he really meant Wu Tang Clan and got confused?

But then Gomez really isn’t a serious person at all. Back in the Senate race, Gomez went about in favor of term limits, a line item veto, and cutting off congressional pay until a budget is done. They all sound great but unfortunately each proposal is unconstitutional. He wanted to be Deval Patrick’s Republican in the Senate, then decided he wanted to be the Republican Party’s Republican in the Senate. He was strongly in favor of gun rights, then for gun control.

Gomez is dizzyingly unserious but the party has very little behind him.

As for redmassgroup, it is a mixture of concerned posts focused upon the prospects of the Republican Party, and impassioned and sometimes vitriolic resentments. According to The Boston Globe, “On Monday, (Gomez) criticized Red Mass Group for its views on issues from ‘immigration reform to gay marriage to how to deal the economy and everything — it’s just not productive.’” Note that RMG is an open forum; many of the posts are not contributed by Mr. Eno.

However, Mr. Eno does have to own a post (link to RMG embedded here) in which he wrote that “Leave now (sic) mistake about it, Deval Patrick knows where his post gubernatorial bread is buttered. That’s in the race hustling industry.” A commenter then posted that “Deval has always been a workhorse for the race pimps…” When I tweeted about this Mr. Eno responded “what would you call repeatedly profiting off of racism that is real or sometimes perceived then?”

So here you have two strains within the Republican Party represented by Mr. Gomez and Mr. Eno, one floundering around with no mooring in principle, the other trafficking in  views one might associate with the old State’s Rights Party.

On the bright side, no word on a Bill Hudak candidacy in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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6 Responses to The Gabriel Gomez – Redmassgroup Conflict

  1. Brad Lovoi says:

    Well said Mo.

    The dysfunction of the party and many of it’s candidates continues to astound me. The Democrats really have become a catch-all party in Massachusetts…ably assisted by the GOP’s “true believers” who refuse to compromise. Adherence to principal is admirable, but pragmatism wins elections.

    As for Mr. Gomez, his inexperience and lack of tact (even though he may have a valid point) does not increase his political legitimacy. Rather, he helps add to the notion of the GOP as the party that cannot shoot straight except when in the circular firing squad.

  2. I think this part can’t be emphasized enough.

    Note that RMG is an open forum; many of the posts are not contributed by Mr. Eno.

    Gomez or supporters at any time could go onto RMG and make their own case for things. Maybe it wouldn’t be promoted to the front page, but it would still be there.

  3. Ed Lyons says:

    Professor Cunningham,

    I am a big fan of Mr. Gomez. Yes, as a graduate of the military world, and not the foreign service, he lacks a significant amount of detailed policy knowledge, and the mindset of a politician. (Yes, I wish he ran on a more expansive platform rather than an earnest, but unrealistic congressional reform package.) I don’t think he lacks seriousness – and by the way, boy, do you three enjoy beating him up! I just don’t think he has had the time or guidance to map his views to a governing philosophy that would have made his campaign more robust. (I look forward to your views on whether Senator Franken is serious. Or whether the great intelligence and education of Senator Cruz is really the most important thing in a legislator.)

    I wish I knew Mr. Gomez better, as we only spoke once, for several minutes. However, in those several minutes, right at the outset of his campaign, with some prompting from me, he spoke sincerely about a few issues that I thought could easily have been the foundation for a campaign about issues rather than just identity. Alas, we never spoke again, and my vision of spending a weekend with him to talk about politics and philosophy never happened. (Though, as of Christmas Eve, we are friends on Facebook and my wall is a protein shake of viable Republican political philosophy and ideas for all who ingest it. :-) )

    Here is something about Mr. Gomez that is probably invisible from your vantage point: Mr. Gomez did a lot for the Republican Party, even though he didn’t become our senator. That senate primary was a war-of-the-worlds between the activists and the rest of registered Republicans, whose politics are nothing like the scorched-earth conservatism found in unsafe neighborhoods like Red Mass Group. And the moderates won! If the party has a future as a statewide organization again, we will date its founding to Gomez beating Sullivan. Sound silly? Gomez’s events were, according to activist friends, the only ones where they saw lots of new people and from demographics the party struggles with. While a few months of effort were not able to change the voting habits of Hispanic voters, he spoke to many of them, and in Spanish. All very good stuff. But the crushing of the conservatives mattered even more. The activists, who had every advantage (special election in winter, low turnout, highly motivated base, and two moderate candidates for a potential split of that vote) *should* have had their Sullivan victory. They were all but certain of it after their impressive signature-gathering for his campaign. But their worldview and their out-of-state politics were crushed. Sullivan couldn’t raise money. The media either criticized his views or ignored his campaign. Red Mass Group and other alienated groups of Republicans endorsed him, but they found out that – as we all know – they are irrelevant to Massachusetts politics. Gomez won handily despite being trashed by the activists. Our fear of having two moderates in the primary did not lead to a narrow Sullivan win. Finally, we had *proof* that registered Republicans in this state are a far more moderate and reasonable group than the activists who pretend in their minds that they represent the party. They do not. This knowledge makes everything possible for our reform efforts.

    Mr. Gomez might not return to politics. But to all of us who want a viable party in this state, he is a hero and a leader, even if not one you respect. The amusing thing about the kerfuffle this past week is that Mr. Gomez already defeated the conservatives at Red Mass Group in the worst possible way: he proved they don’t matter by winning the primary.

  4. Maurice T. Cunningham says:

    Folks,

    I do think Gomez’s strengths have been more biographical than anything else, and that is a very good place to start. It is an enormously appealing background with service to country that we should all honor. Unfortunately that biography has been accompanied by a lack of seriousness and direction. I really thought he got off easy in the Senate campaign — I mean, he was going to the Senate to work full time on unconstitutional policies? He really didn’t take enough flak for that. He has been a political comedy of errors. As Prof. Duquette points out today, he would have benefited from some real training — maybe another run for selectman and win this time. I’ve always thought that politics looks a lot easier to inexperienced candidates who have succeeded in other areas of life than it is. Politics is very hard.

    Sullivan and Winslow both stood for something in the Republican Party — Sullivan for a muscular conservatism, Winslow for the GOP as the party of Lincoln. Maybe neither would have gained more votes than Gomez in the general, but they each would have been a better candidate. The party would have gained some clarity.

    I don’t think the GOP’s “Wild Boys” provide much help to the party — perhaps if Gomez really takes them on, that would be a contribution.

    In any case, I appreciate the comments. Our democracy doesn’t work without two competitive parties. The comments above show that there are intelligent and devoted conservative voices out there, and it is important that they be heard in our commonwealth’s debate.

    • Ed Lyons says:

      Hey! Professor Cunningham!

      Some of us are proud and strong Republicans who do not call ourselves conservatives in the current political climate. (Why do Democrats all over the country keep calling me that?)

      One day, when the conservative label is ripped from the talons of Glenn Beck and returned to the capable hands of Edmund Burke, I will again call myself conservative. :-)

  5. Maurice T. Cunningham says:

    Ed,

    Here in the northeast Republicans have often been more liberal on social issues than Democrats and that goes back many decades into the 20th century. More recently Bill Weld was a lot more liberal on social issues than the conservative legislative leadership.

    Your point is well-taken though; conservatism is suffering from a bad sounding brand here in NE. A few years ago EJ Dionne did a wonderful column about the kinds of contributions that conservatism can make, including Burkean considerations, morality, family, sexual ethics, etc. I wish I had kept that column.

    Conservatism .2013 is radical unless you consider shutting down the government and nearly defaulting on our debt conservatism. I just typed that last part and thought — default on debt! The horror! No conservative would countenance such a radically misdirected policy.

    Bring back New England Republicanism Ed; that would be a great start.

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