This op-ed originally appeared in the Boston Globe
In 2016, amid the Republican National Committee kowtowing to the policies and rhetoric emanating from our nation’s capital.of Donald Trump, my 16-year-old self, a political newcomer, found solace and a political home in the Massachusetts Republican Party. At the time, MassGOP offered a sharp contrast to some of the polarizing discourse emanating from national politics. Buttressed by the state’s widely popular governor, Charlie Baker, its pragmatic approach to policy-making, and its effective outreach and civil tone, MassGOP demonstrated that Beacon Hill was a beacon of hope, unlike the gridlock and childish, even dangerous, behavior emanating from our nation’s capital.
However, since Jim Lyons took over the reins as party chairman, in 2019, this no longer holds true.
MassGOP no longer distances itself from national politics to focus on state issues.Instead, it boldly embraces the president’s questionable policies and behavior, including statements delegitimizing the presidential election results. The party no longer engages in reasonable policy-making nor seeks to engage civilly across the aisle, running further into rabbit holes of more radical policies aligned with Trump’s voter base. Beyond losing numerous elections under Lyons, which notably has left the party with three state senators out of 40, the party is losing something even greater: relevance.
When Lyons ran for chairman, he promised to shift focus toward local and state legislative races. He campaigned on promoting local candidates and broadening the party’s grass-roots outreach. But the social media pages of Lyons and MassGOP heavily comment on national politics — often in an unprofessional way — rather than highlighting state issues. The countless posts of Trump photos and “zinger” captions do nothing to advance the party’s policy ideas in a state often dominated by the political left.In fact, they severely discredit the already small party.
Republican candidates have been consistently losing, sometimes by large margins, in districts long held by Republicans, such as the Second Hampden and Hampshire Senate district, which the GOP has controlled for the past 25 years. In special elections since2019, Republicans have lost three seats in the Legislature. The disappointing showing in the November elections, which netted the loss of an additional House and Senate seat, sharply debunks the Lyons theory that riling up the Trump base is an effective campaign strategy in a state the president lost by nearly 33 points.
By continuing to embrace unreasonable ideas and engaging in unproductive and divisive discourse, Lyons has deepened the rifts within the party and caused it to lose its integrity. Thus, it has become evident that Jim Lyons is unfit to lead the MassachusettsRepublican Party. He preaches the wrong message, engages in bad-faith discourse, and seems too enamored with the president on a daily basis to focus on the political priorities facing our state — such as efficient spending, affordable housing, and transportation. He has failed to achieve his stated goals of supporting local candidates, winning elections, and unifying the party.
To reclaim its values, the party should discard its cultural infatuation with a national political figure and instead promote clear policy-driven solutions to the issues confronting our Commonwealth. MassGOP should recruit viable candidates, gain sufficient resources, and employ locally appealing messaging that raises the prospects of electoral success. I’m not asking that Republicans abandon their principles by compromising to the point of becoming Democrats, but Republicans can be far more effective legislating and keeping the veto-proof Democrats in check when our Beacon Hill ranks are not suffering continuous attrition. Winning seats comes down to effective messaging that appeals to the average Massachusetts voter, not the Trump base. Lyons has failed to recognize this, and the lost legislative seats during his tenure leave the party less effective and struggling to address the urgent issues facing the state. The upcoming party leadership election in January will determine the future viability of the Massachusetts Republican Party.
It has become unbearable to watch the state party that provided me with a political home stripped of what it once was: an effective and productive counterbalance to the political domination of Beacon Hill Democrats. If MassGOP hopes to maintain any remnant of relevance, it needs a new leader.