Massachusetts Republicans are a fringe party

While I recognize that state party platforms are often pretty meaningless and individual candidates often don’t agree with them anymore, I think it’s still worth noting — nay, stopping still to stare in open-mouthed amazement at — the fact that the Massachusetts Republicans’ 2014 platform is, drumroll please…

  • opposed to same-sex marriage
  • opposed to abortion rights

Let’s check in on where folks in Massachusetts stand on that:

a September poll [in 2013] found that 85% of Massachusetts voters saw a positive or little to no impact from gay marriages in the commonwealth. In the poll, voters in the state support legalizing gay marriage 60% to 29%.

In the same poll, if you go to the crosstabs, you find

  • 78% of Democrats say same-sex marriage should be allowed
  • 53% of independents agree

The platform is actually consistent with the 60% of Massachusetts Republicans saying they do not think same-sex marriage should be allowed…but that’s in large part because everyone else became independents or Democrats to escape the crazy, leaving the Republican Party to be a mirror opposite of state opinion.

And more importantly, identifying with the 29% of overall voters who oppose same-sex marriage — in a state where 85% say it’s been a positive or had no impact a decade after legalization — is not a good way to get Republicans elected in the state. Without significant support from Massachusetts independents, who tend to be fiscally conservative but socially indifferent, Republicans remain a tiny majority out of power.

It seems kind of needlessly self-destructive too, including that in the platform, considering even 61% of Republicans in that poll admitted same-sex marriage had had no impact on their lives.

But back to that original point about candidates distancing themselves from the state platform… turns out self-styled moderate, pro-gay, pro-choice Republican frontrunner for Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, has been unwilling to loudly condemn the platform because he’s too busy trying to woo its supporters.

Social conservatives who lost the battle against gay marriage on Beacon Hill have grown increasingly organized and influential within the MassGOP, proving themselves able to fill the gap in leadership that emerged in the party.

Last spring, Massachusetts Republicans elected as National Committeewoman Chanel Prunier, executive director of the Coalition for Marriage and Family, an organization that opposed gay marriage. Baker’s campaign has tried to appease Prunier and other conservative activists, in part by selecting as a running mate a candidate said to be their favorite: former state representative Karyn Polito, a Shrewsbury Republican who was a stalwart in the fight against gay marriage, though she backs abortion rights.

Baker’s spokesman declined to make Baker available or to discuss why he steered clear of the platform debate: “Charlie’s position is clear. Charlie is pro-choice and respects a woman’s right to make decisions about her medical care. Charlie is and has always been a strong supporter of marriage equality.”

So, inconsistent with his own views, frontrunner Baker has chosen an anti-marriage equality “stalwart” as his running mate. What a show of character and spine! (Meanwhile, Baker’s 2010 running mate in his unsuccessful previous campaign, a former state senator who has long been openly gay, got married last year.)

Now, regarding the abortion point, this is not something that appears to be frequently polled in Massachusetts, so I had trouble finding recent data. Although there’s a bit more intra-party disagreement on both sides, I think the state has been consistently pro-choice for quite some time, and both the Democrats and Republicans in office have tended (with a few exceptions) to be pro-choice. The only poll I could find were two SurveyUSA polls from the summer of 2005, which showed Massachusetts voter support for abortion rights at 67% and 68% respectively — significantly higher even than the 2013 numbers in support of marriage equality. I doubt much has changed on that front.

In short, opposition to marriage equality and abortion rights are fringe positions in Massachusetts. No major party in the state should be enshrining either position in their platforms.

Will it matter much in the grand scheme of things? No, probably not. But it’s certainly another nail in the coffin of the state party’s credibility — and a fresh strike against its viability.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official.
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