FROM OUR PRINTED FEBRUARY 2019 EDITION
A View from the Trenches
Whole Lot of
Shakin’ Goin’ On
The Perspective of This Republican Activist
by John DiMascio
One Thursday, January 17, 2019, if Massachusetts Republican activists felt the earth move, it wasn’t a geologic event. It was a political, platetonic, permutation. Or in the words of Jerry Lee Lewis: “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On” at the MassGOP.
For the first time since the late, great Ray Shamie, the State Committee elected a chair who had not been anointed by the establishment elite and blessed by the governor or top of the ticket. Indeed, just the opposite happened. The one man who can actually fill Ray Shamie’s large and legendary shoes, Jim Lyons, won a decisive victory over the establishment pick, Brent Anderson. Of the 80 member Committee, 77 showed up and gave Jim a 17 vote win. Common Core math aside — that means the final vote was 47 to 30. From now on, let the former Lyon of the Legislature be known as James the Lyon Hearted.
The media pundits are calling this turn of events “A Break from the Moderate Massachusetts Republican Tradition.” Other headlines read: “The MassGOP Moves to the Right” or “MassGOP Elects Conservative Firebrand as Chair.”
Everyone seems to be pigeon-holing Jim’s victory as a dogmatic detour. To some extent that’s legitimate. There is no denying; Jim is a true conservative. And for that, this activist thanks the good Lord above. But if you view Jim’s election strictly as an elephantine stampede to the right, you’re missing the point.
For starters, Jim offers strong, visionary leadership that appeals across the philosophical spectrum. Secondly, let’s remember the current composition of the State Committee. The numbers just aren’t there for a conservative coup d’état.
The conservative reformers are in the minority. They hold a significant plurality that numbers in the mid-30s. But in a group of 80, even 39 is still a minority. Therefore the majority make-up is moderate to liberal. If this election had been about ideology alone, the numbers might well be reversed. Anderson would be the new chair.
I believe a combination of conservative, moderate, and perhaps even liberal State Committee members sent a message. With the voice of a Lyon they roared an earthshaking repudiation of business as usual, whereby State Committee members blindly followed the despotic diktats of a contemporary “Boss Tweed.”
But let there be no mistake about it, the State Committee didn’t just vote to reject decades-old, top-down, failed political strategies. It was very much a forward thinking, positive vote for an optimistic trailblazer whose attitude is contagious – no, it’s darn right infectious! Just what we need to reinvigorate our state Party that has been on life support for decades. The State Committee as a whole voted for a new approach to Party building. And yes, we can say that they did vote to move to the right in the following sense. As of now the so-called Big Tent has room for Republicans — that you know — who espouse Republican ideas and principles. What a concept! Why didn’t we think of that sooner?
Yes, I fully expect that we will see more conservative Republican candidates coming forward. Heck, I expect to see more moderate Republican candidates coming forward over the next few election cycles. They will do so because I believe, under Jim Lyons, the MassGOP will be much more proactive in recruiting, developing, equipping, and supporting quality candidates to run for a full range of offices, from dogcatcher to U.S. Senate. This isn’t going to happen overnight. Infrastructure must be rebuilt. Those who have become complacent need to be infused with Jim’s “can-do attitude.” Folks that left the Party because they were made to feel there was no room for conservatives need to be sought out and welcomed home.
There is much work to be done. We’ve been saying that too long. The difference now is that EVERY Republican will have a seat at the table. No doubt, we’ll continue to have political differences of opinions. Those get settled in primaries. So long as no one is putting their thumb on the scale in said primaries, we can unite behind the nominees. Don’t get me wrong. I have no illusions of the MassGOP becoming one jumbo Kumbaya Koinonia. But now we have hope that the Big Tent Party will no longer be run like a Big Tent circus.
My view is from the trenches. I’m an activist. Jim Lyons has spent a lot of time in the trenches, too. So I don’t need to tell him how to do his job. He knows what has to be done. Rather, from the trenches I want to first thank him for running and congratulate him for winning. Second, I want him to know that the foot soldiers in the trenches I’m in are ready and willing to follow his leadership. ♦
John DiMascio is president of Chapter 5 of the Mass. Republican Assembly. Learn more about the Assembly at www.Mass-RA.com.