Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lessons Learned, or Not.

I write in the morning, having awakened to find, not surprisingly, that Representative Ed Markey, the Democrat, defeated Gabriel E. Gomez, the Republican, 55% to 45%. It was a special election, held on a stifling hot day in June with 27% turnout. That means that 15% of registered voters cast a ballot for Senator-elect Markey, and 73% of the registered voters didn't bother with the election. Nevertheless, a win is a win.

It would be interesting to poll registered voters who did not participate in the election and try to determine why they were not interested. Were they just two uninspiring candidates? I can't speak for the rest of the Commonwealth, but in my neighborhood I witnessed very little interest in either man, outside of few persons who are passionate about every election. Was there in sufficient difference between the candidates on issues that matter to voters that nearly three-quarters simply didn't care which one won. Or did large numbers of registered voters accept the conventional wisdom that Markey was going to win anyway, so there was not much point in bother to vote? We'll probably never know which answer, or combination of answers is correct. I have one bit of advise for my Republican friends: Don't believe anyone who claims to have THE answer to why Gomez lost. All you are getting today and for the next several days is people's speculation.

In that spirit, let me offer my speculation, carefully worded to sound like brilliant insight, yet consisting of little more than my personal bias.

1. The more experience man, Mr. Markey, who had run for and won a seat in the state legislature, followed by a seat in the national legislature, continued in a career he had been following with success for decades and has been elected to the U.S. Senate. A man who had never run, let alone won, any office before, tried, and failed, in his attempt at one of the highest offices in the land on this first time out. Lesson: Politics is not for amateurs. Sure, there are some "super stars" who pop in and win a Senate seat on their first attempt at public office (Hillary Clinton, Al Franken, for example). But who other than his own mother had heard of Mr. Gomez before he ran for Senate?

2. The vast majority of the Hispanic vote would have gone Democratic in this election no matter who the GOP ran, so having a first-generation Colombian-America candidate was not going to help the GOP this time. For years Republicans, overall, have treated the Hispanic vote in three ways --

(1) Ignore the Hispanic vote. They won't vote for us anyway, so why bother.

(2) Vilify the Hispanic vote. Call them illegal aliens, welfare frauds, and criminals.

(3) Condescended to the Hispanic vote. Don't you realize that you, a Catholic with strong family values, "should" be Republican (as if to say you are too stupid to know your own mind).

That said, the GOP can appeal to Hispanics if we persist and give reasons for at least considering our party. I fear the brain trust that runs the GOP will say: "Tried that, it didn't work, see what happened with Gomez." It took decades for the Black vote to realign from 90% Republican to 90% Democrat, but too many on our side think if we can't re-align the Hispanic vote in a single election, it's not worth trying.

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