Your Guide to the State Republican Civil War

To rebrand or not to rebrand, that is the question.

Republicans Scott Brown and Richard Tisei’s electoral losses have inspired some major hand-wringing among Republicans in the past week. “The MassGOP … is dead,” reads a blunt Red Mass Group headline. Losing an election typically leads to an inter-party “civil war” of sorts in which the commentariat debates how best to rise from the ashes, or whether it’s even possible. This is going on nationally (not to alarm you but the words “Whig Party” appear in a New Yorker story,) but it’s going on more urgently in oh-so-blue Massachusetts, where the national party is largely blamed for the state party’s poor fortunes. Much of the talk focuses on the Republican party’s relationship with women. Here’s a little guide to the most prominent voices in the debate this weekend:

Former Gov. Jane Swift wrote in WBUR that women find the “social agenda out of touch and offensive,” and the problem will only grow worse with tiem.

In an email on the day after the election one of my recent students, who has interned for GOP candidates, wrote “the social stuff has no future as an issue. Everyone my age I know, from all regions of the country and demographics, is at most extremely apathetic towards gay marriage/abortion.” Same-sex marriage advocates had been 0-32 at the ballot box until Tuesday, when they won gay marriage ballot questions in all four contested states.

The Herald’s Holly Robichaud, meanwhile, thinks the party doesn’t need to compromise its principles (Read: change its positions) it just needs to “rebrand”:

Moreover, we need to stop letting the Democrats talk down to women voters. For more than 30 years they have scared female voters with the threat that Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned. The GOP can show women we know that they are not just voting their uteri.

She leaves unsaid whether Republicans who want to overturn Roe v. Wade should change their tune, and sounds more like she’s just trying to get the party to change the subject and focus on winning the fiscal debate. (Funny, that kind of sounds like the Romney campaign strategy.)

The Globe’s Jeff Jacoby says we don’t need any of that “rebranding.” Instead, we need people at the grassroots level like state representative Ryan Fattman:

Talk to Fattman about Republican prospects in Massachusetts, and he doesn’t bend your ear with laments about a toxic “brand” or how the national GOP platform is too extreme. He talks instead about liberty, limited government, and low taxes. About how the “R” after his name stands for “reform.” About how Massachusetts is one of the most difficult states to do business in, thanks to a Democratic monopoly that is “intrusive and expensive.”

As for who is winning this debate over whether to grow more moderate or more conservative, the jury is still out. The Globe’s Stephanie Ebbert reports that the state party will finally (and somewhat belatedly?) vote on the national platform and there’s some disagreement over whether to reject it. Some actually think the Republicans should embrace it in order to provide a more stark choice to Massachusetts voters:

Valanzola, who wants a new chairman, also supports the national platform, saying Republicans in Massachusetts need to set themselves apart from the majority party.

“If people are given the choice between a Democrat and a faux Democrat, they’re going to vote for the Democrat,” he said. “We need to really make sure that we are a clear opposing voice.”