Republicans knew early in 2012 that they were staring at demographic obsolescence, and that the only way to stave off a prolonged trip to the electoral wilderness was to broaden their base, and adopt a more liberal stance on immigration. Instead, the party tacked to the right, and handed President Obama a second term in the White House. The cause and effect were obvious long before Election Day, and the GOP deliberately chose a losing path — both for the short and the long term. Two years later, Republicans face a strikingly similar choice. They’re doing everything they can, nationally, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And in Massachusetts, there’s a clear undercurrent pushing the GOP’s brightest political hope, Charlie Baker, to follow suit.
New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait all but called the 2012 presidential election for Obama in February — nine months before Election Day. He argued that the demographic shifts forecast in the 2004 book The Emerging Democratic Majority were taking hold. A Republican Party grounded in older and less-educated whites was being outflanked on every side — by black and Hispanic voters, by young voters alienated by the GOP’s hard line on social issues, and liberal, college-educated whites. The national Republican Party was “staring down its own demographic extinction,” Chait wrote, and it was responding by moving hard to the right, and betting everything by adopting the posture of “a party of anti-government fundamentalism powered by sublimated white Christian identity politics.”
That bet failed in spectacular fashion. And in the span between their 2012 defeat and the 2014 midterms, national Republicans have gone from acknowledging the political imperative of shrinking their deficits with Hispanic voters, to moving to the right of their losing 2012 position.
This movement culminated last week in an implosion in the House. Republican leadership had tried to pass a moderate package responding to the wave of children massing at the US border, and using the issue to put pressure on Obama and congressional Democrats. Advocates of a hard line on immigration drove the Republican caucus into disarray, and leadership wound up killing its own bill.
A Wall Street Journal editorial this weekend ripped what it called “the GOP’s Deportation Caucus,” and said that the party “again gave the country the impression that its highest policy priority is to deport as many children as rapidly as possible back from wherever they came.” The Journal argued that the House was pushing Republicans far to the right: “A party whose preoccupation is deporting children is going to alienate many conservatives, never mind minority voters.” And it noted that “the last Republican in an election year to support deporting immigrant children brought here through no fault of their own was Mitt Romney. A splendid voter attraction that was.” The Journal editorial warned that the GOP’s rightward swing on immigration could cost the party a big victory in November.
Chait, who’s rarely aligned, ideologically, with the Journal’s editorial page piled on, saying he was baffled by “the sheer political illogic” of House Republicans’ immigration stance. The Republicans, he argued, were replaying the same strategy that lost them their last election — a losing proposition that makes even less sense, given the GOP’s ticking demographic clock: “A party that began the Congressional term hoping to move left from Mitt Romney’s immigration stance has instead moved toward Michele Bachmann’s.”
In Massachusetts, the Republicans’ hope for recapturing the governor’s office, Charlie Baker, is caught in a similar dilemma over immigration. Baker has gone to lengths to cut a more moderate path than he did when he lost the governor’s race four years ago. Boston magazine’s David Bernstein has argued that immigration looms large in this effort. Baker tried to hit Gov. Deval Patrick hard on immigration, and it largely backfired; instead of winning Baker political points, the immigration hard line fed Democrats’ caricature of Baker as an angry, unfeeling Republican. So this time around, Baker is sticking close to Patrick’s position on temporarily housing immigrant children in Massachusetts. And, just like in Washington, moderation on immigration is sowing angst in Baker’s political base.
A recent Boston Globe poll had voters supporting Patrick’s stance on immigrant children — the one Baker is trying to stay close to. The Globe poll had 50 percent of Massachusetts voters backing Patrick’s stance, and 43 percent opposing it. That’s not an overwhelming majority, but it’s a majority. And at 7 percentage points, the margin is wider than the gap that separated Baker and Patrick four years ago.
Even so, Baker’s political base is clearly growing anxious. Before Baker sided with Patrick on housing immigrant children, the Globe’s weekly gubernatorial tracking poll had Republican voters solidly lining up behind their candidate; two weeks after, Baker’s standing with Republicans had dropped by 14 percentage points. The Republican base is clearly uncomfortable with their candidate’s moderation. So Baker faces a similar choice: whether to tack sharply right, or play the long game and buck the base.
— PAUL MCMORROW
The MetroWest Daily News calls out the good, the bad, and the ugly in the last days of the legislative session.
A small business loan fund operated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority has allowed more than half of its accounts to fall into serious arrears, the Globe reports. CommonWealth reported in the past on the fund and its generous treatment of The Bay State Banner.
Some speculate that Eric Cantor may have resigned early to get a jump on the hiatus he needs to take before looking for a job that might involve lobbying his colleagues back on Capitol Hill.
What happens to federal whistleblowers who stay on the job? Not much, which is the point.
A Lynn advocate for a higher minimum wage is honored by the White House, the Item reports.
Two prominent Reagan biographers are feuding over their books and their subject, with one author accusing the other of plagiarism.
A Globe editorial backs the idea of a law requiring candidates to spend down their campaign accounts each election cycle or have the money revert to the state as a way to foster more competition in races.
The two Democratic candidates for attorney general, Warren Tolman and Maura Healey, have similar stances on most issues but appeal to very different bases, WBUR reports.
Outsiders have a long track record of success in Massachusetts elections, wrote the Globe’s David Scharfenberg over the weekend, but Don Berwick has not been able to catch that wave. CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas dove deep on this idea in the magazine’s spring issue, describing the remarkable nearly 60 year run the state has had in which no constitutional officeholder has been elected governor.
This should be fun: Florida begins redrawing its unconstitutional congressional districts.
The Wall Street Journal looks at Sen. Rand Paul’s quiet efforts to build a campaign machine for a 2016 presidential run.
Arthur T. Demoulas offers to return to work and get the Market Basket chain back on its feet while sales negotiations continue, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
A new assessment of the Gulf of Maine cod stock shows slippage on all fronts, the Gloucester Times reports.
America’s economically squeezed middle class is moving inland — and liking it.
A North Shore couple’s divorce tests the state’s new alimony law, the Salem News reports.
Jon Bon Jovi tries to reassure Buffalo Bills fans that he would be a good owner, but many residents worry he will move the team to Toronto, the Buffalo News reports.
A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse finds that about 31 million adults in the country have completed some college but not enough to earn a degree, including more than 4 million who have completed two years without a degree or certificate.
Talk about higher ed: The Northeastern Institute of Cannabis in Natick will train workers for the new marijuana dispensary industry. Meanwhile, public and private colleges and universities around the state say students with a prescription for the drug cannot use or store it on campus because of federal regulations classifying it as illegal.
A new Boston organization may join the push for more charter schools in the state, the Globe reports.
Texas is preparing to fund research into new transportation technologies, including self-driving cars, drones, jet packs, and solar roadways, the Texas Tribune reports.
The Natick MBTA commuter rail station becomes Natick Center to help visitors figure out just where they are when they get off the train.
Transportation officials say “mechanical issues” on the replacement Fore River Bridge at the Quincy-Weymouth line, which had been slated to be open in 2016, will delay completion of the project by a year.
California will move ahead with its high-speed rail network without an additional infusion of federal funds.
Toxins in Toledo’s drinking water force residents to stop using water from the tap for the second day in a row, the Associated Press reports.
New federal guidelines would likely result in more frequent closings due to pollution at some Massachusetts beaches.
A federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision in a civil suit that Plymouth police officers were justified in the deadly shooting of a teen in 2006. Earlier this year, CommonWealth took a look at the issue of fatal officer-involved shootings.
David Carr visits Glenn Greenwald’s Brazilian compound.