Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, June 16, 2021
A battle for the soul of a state Republican Party is taking place, and while that state is the progressive bastion of Massachusetts, there are lessons that can be applied to the GOP as a whole.
Jim Lyons is the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee. He is an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump who not only does not shy away from traditional conservative social values, he openly welcomes those who hold such views within his party’s ranks. Needless to say, this is problematic to the ruling leftist establishment in the Bay State, who pillory Lyons as a caricature of knuckle-dragging backwardness as it feigns concern for the “soul” of the Massachusetts GOP.
But much more noteworthy is how Lyons’ stance puts him at odds with entrenched forces within the state Republican ranks itself. A Massachusetts-style GOP governor, Charlie Baker, and his allies within the party have openly clashed with Lyons. Most telling is a recent development which highlights a trend often seen in national Republican interparty squabbling. Republican establishment forces use a progressive social consensus as a weapon to tamp down populist uprisings in their ranks.
Lyons is currently in hot water once again due to his unflinching support for the right of a GOP committeewoman who is a staunch Roman Catholic to criticize a radical pro-homosexual rights Republican state congressional candidate.
Deborah Martell wrote in an email to fellow Republicans last month that she was “sickened” by the fact that homosexual candidate Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette and his “husband” had adopted two children.
The reaction among Republican officials throughout the state was entirely predictable in a place where Mitt Romney once served as a GOP governor.
“Last week 29 of the 30 House Republicans called on Lyons to demand Martell’s resignation or resign himself,” a June 14 Boston Herald editorial notes.
“They’ve since been joined by Gov. Charlie Baker and other prominent state Republicans, including a former congressman and lieutenant governor, who’ve called for Lyons to step aside over his refusal to censure Martell.”
The supposedly conservative Herald itself showed its true colors with this doozy of a sentence expressing its official, for-the-record editorial position on the matter:
A party that can barely claim to represent 10% of the state’s electorate can’t afford to be led by an avowed conservative ideologue — a minority within his own minority party.
Astonishingly, The Boston Herald, the “conservative” newspaper for the largest city in Massachusetts, is openly declaring that conservatives have no place in the state Republican Party.
The paper did run an op-ed by Lou Murray ably telling the other side of the story. Murray is a chairman of the Ward 20 Republican Committee in Boston who “was a delegate and national Catholic adviser to Donald Trump in 2016.”
Murray defined what the argument was really about. Genuine change and the internal resistance to it:
Lyons was elected after the Baker machine was soundly swept out from the majority on the state committee. The same America First voices that built a working-class Trump coalition wanted to build a new Republican Party in Massachusetts, and under Jim Lyons they are succeeding. That is why you will continue to see brickbats hurled at Lyons.
The anti-reform Bakerites just cannot have a Republican Party built on virtues and American supply chains. It comes as no surprise that 29 Republican lawmakers signed a letter slamming Lyons. They know where their bread is buttered. There are a lot of jobs and perks for state representatives, their families and their hangers-on that even a feckless Republican governor controls.
Lyons was narrowly re-elected as party chairman in January. He “overcame a challenge from state Representative Shawn Dooley, capturing a second term by a 39-36 margin after a vote by 75 members of the party’s 80-seat state committee,” The Boston Globe reported at the time.
The vote shows how deeply split the Massachusetts GOP is. Upon winning, Lyons declared that his goal is to “make the Massachusetts Republican Party great again.” One way to do that is to roll out the welcome mat for the traditional social values that are openly scorned by the party’s elite.
From The Globe’s Jan. 3 report:
“I should continue to bring conservative and pro-life voices into our party, to give conservatives a seat at the table for which too often in Massachusetts Republican politics [they] have been excluded in the past,” Lyons said in a speech before the vote. His opponents, he said, may be having a hard time accepting “new ways of doing things, of facing new reforms that upset the old apple cart, of respecting the new voices of conservatives, who have frequently been muffled or silenced.”
As Lou Murray wrote in his June 11 op-ed for The Herald:
Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette is in favor of: abortion, amnesty for illegal aliens, trans girls competing in school athletics and the so-called Equality Act — Martell had every right to issue a conservative alarm.
Surrendering across the board to the cultural Left on critical social issues may help gain “credibility” with big-box media outlets like The Boston Herald but it is hardly the way to attract Donald Trump’s core of populist supporters, who back America First economic policies and traditional moral values.
“They want respect for religious freedom and the right of historic Catholic and Baptist orphanages to serve mothers and fathers,” Murray writes. “They want their police departments fully funded, and criminals prosecuted not coddled. They are tired of teachers and school boards shoving ontological thinking and racist theories down their children’s throats.”
It may be the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, but there are lessons to be learned from the GOP battle going on there that can be applied nationwide.