The GOP’s Woeful War Over Warren

What’s the old line about a post turtle? He doesn’t belong there; you wonder how he got there; he can’t do anything while he’s up there; and you just want to help the poor thing get down?

If that doesn’t describe the Republican incompetents running against US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), nothing does:

To the chagrin of the party establishment, Republican party veteran and former state official Beth Lindstrom is staying in the race for the GOP US Senate nomination. She’s not moving into the race for the Third District that US Representative Niki Tsongas is vacating.

Lindstrom announced her US Senate candidacy last month. But then this week Ellen Murphy Meehan — the ex-wife of former congressman Martin T. Meehan — decided not to seek the Merrimack Valley-based seat. Many local political observers see the Third District as an increasingly light shade of blue, so the decision by Murphy Meehan, a Democrat, stirred up some interest in GOP circles who have some glimmer of hope for picking up that seat.

The idea that Lindstrom–who seems to think that being Mitt Romney lackey is a qualification–would be a top-tier candidate for either a US House or Senate seat is beyond laughable. Bay State GOPers know it. So, as per usual with Republicans, there’s an ulterior motive:

Lindstrom isn’t changing races, party sources said, and now the heavy odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination [for the Third District] is Rick Green, the wealthy Pepperell business who has been at odds with the current party’s insiders and loyalists to Governor Charlie Baker.

Green’s right-leaning positions could add to Baker’s serious discomfort in 2018 if state Representative Geoff Diehl, a strong Trump backer, wins the US Senate nomination.

The presence of Diehl on the statewide ticket with Baker and with Green carrying the GOP banner in Third District — a race that is shaping up to be a barnburner — would only further frustrate the governor’s strategy to project a moderate image in his own race.

In other words, Baker doesn’t want Diehl and Green reminding Bay State voters of the fundamentally unhinged nature of his party. Of course, if Lindstrom is on the ballot against Warren, she will also, inevitably, remind Bay State voters of the fundamentally unhinged nature of Baker’s party, her claims to moderation notwithstanding. After all, Lindstrom was former US Senator Scott Brown’s campaign manager in his successful 2010 effort to claim the seat left vacant by the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy–and we all saw just how reasonable Brown turned out to be.

As Dave Denison suggests, rather than try to obscure how deranged his party is, Baker could declare war on the wingnuts:

Boldness has not been Baker’s strong suit. Unlike President Trump, he’s careful about what he says in public. Yet it’s been clear since early 2016 that he was appalled by Trump’s candidacy. Four days before the New Hampshire primary, he endorsed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. “My view all along on this was to not get involved, but I have been concerned about the slide of the party,” he told the [Boston] Globe. You can’t say he didn’t see what was coming: “I don’t believe Mr. Trump has the depth of experience, the temperament, or the seriousness of purpose to be our next president,” he said.

But then “the slide of the party” only intensified as Trump went on to win the GOP nomination and then the presidency. Baker told reporters on Election Day that he declined to vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton, leaving the top of the ballot blank. Now it’s the slide of the nation into dysfunction, discord, and disgrace we should be worrying about…

If he is determined to call himself a Republican, he ought to fight to reform his party. I can imagine him — if he were acting from conscience instead of caution — holding a “take our party back” rally with other pragmatic Republicans, like Vermont’s governor, Phil Scott, and Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan. They could bring along some members of the Ripon Society, a think tank founded in Cambridge to advance centrist Republican ideas, whose 1964 manifesto rings even truer now: “We believe that the future of our party lies not in extremism, but in moderation.” Here’s a slogan they could put on their hats: Make the Republican Party Great Again.

The irony in all this is that Warren herself used to be a Republican until she left the party because of the wing-nut freakshow—the same wingnut freakshow people like Trump, Diehl, Green and yes, Lindstrom embody. Warren knows that the only place one can find actual moderate Massachusetts Republicans is in the Boston Globe obituary section. She also knows that as much as members of her former party loathe her, they are wholly incapable of making a coherent case against her.

Bay State Republicans had the right idea fifteen years ago, when they didn’t even bother fielding a candidate against then-US Senator John Kerry rather than run someone who was either a jerk or a joke. It can be argued that, for all intents and purposes, Warren is running unopposed in 2018—or at the very least, unopposed by a serious challenger.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.