Gabriel Gomez and The ‘Massachusetts Republican’ Dilemma

Gomez isn't doing much about the GOP's brand problem in Massachusetts.

On Monday, Gabriel Gomez tried to push his independence from the national Republican brand, as he must do in order to win. He vowed to be a “pain in the butt” to other GOP Senators, which is the first time I can recall a candidate describe himself as a Mitch McConnell hemorrhoid. He also recited supposed policy differences with his party, which—perhaps because Gomez has taken very few detailed policy positions—amount to a pretty slim bill of particulars, along with some meaningless verbiage.

In his one comment on the economy (per the speech text provided by the campaign), which is the alleged central focus of his campaign, Gomez shot off this odd prescription to his fellow Republicans: “We must promote a natural economic growth, not fake, phony, pretend growth and stimulus, directed top-down by Washington.” Which, aside from being vague, nonsense pablum, is precisely what congressional Republicans have been saying for the past five years. Oh how they’ll hate being told to oppose federal stimulus spending!

It also perfectly encapsulates the failed challenge of the parade of high-profile Republican candidates who have tried to persuade Massachusetts voters that they are entirely different from those awful Republicans seen on TV. Gabriel Gomez like Scott Brown, Charlie Baker, Richard Tisei, and others before him, told us that he is not a not fringe lunatic. Gomez, for instance, is not a climate-change denier and does not think everyone should have the most deadly weapons arsenals imaginable. Brown assured us he did not hold certain bizarre misconceptions about the female reproductive system.

But those crazy outlier beliefs represent only one piece of the Republican brand problem in Massachusetts. The bigger problem is that the national GOP appears to have absolutely no serious ideas to address anything of any importance. As most voters around here see it, Republicans in Washington spent the entire recession saying things like “We must promote a natural economic growth, not fake, phony, pretend growth and stimulus, directed top-down by Washington” instead of actually supporting any actions to improve the economy. They try to repeal ObamaCare every other week, but offer no alternative plan for health care reform. They criticize the Occupy movement and Elizabeth Warren, but do nothing about growing wealth disparity, the foreclosure crisis, or student loan burdens. Some would argue that this is not true; that the GOP does have real proposals on these issues. The voters of Massachusetts, I assure you, do not believe this. So far, after all these recent high-profile elections—and particularly in Gomez’s campaign—”Massachusetts Republican” seems like someone with no real plans or policies. And, even without the occasionally loopy belief, that actually identifies them with, rather than separates them from, the national brand.

Climate change is another great example. In Monday’s speech, Gomez called himself a “green Republican,” saying: “I think climate change is a real problem, and I believe that humans are a big part of the problem.” Which I suppose is a slight improvement on Baker, but still says nothing much more useful than “I don’t believe in the boogie monster.” His previous comments and the information on his website, aren’t much more specific.

I asked his campaign to provide information about what policy directions Gomez supports to address the problem of climate change. I included several specific questions about the Ed Markey- and John Kerry-sponsored cap-and-trade approach, the idea of a national carbon tax, and the EPA’s regulatory approach. Here’s the response in full:

“Climate change is real. Some Republicans deny science, but some Democrats deny math. I support a free-market approach to addressing global warming, incentivizing businesses to be environmentally responsible and encouraging research and development of green energy.  I refuse to believe that the only way to combat global warming is to raise taxes and costs for businesses, or raise prices on energy and fuel for consumers.”

In short: Gomez hypothetically favors a policy that addresses global warming as long as it has no downsides or costs, but he will not say whether any actual policy does or does not do so. Really, the only thing you might take away from this statement is that Gomez is likely to oppose just about any actual legislative effort on climate change. (Note that Brown, who also understood the reality and seriousness of the issue, was key in killing the last major effort in 2010.)

All of this is very disappointing to many of us who have been waiting, in vain, for a new definition of Massachusetts Republican to emerge. And it is making it all too easy for Ed Markey to saunter through this campaign without doing much more than calling Gomez a Republican.