Mass. GOP’s unconvincing urban strategy
Is party’s unpopularity in cities due to neglect or hostility?
REPUBLICANS ACROSS THE NATION gleefully passed the popcorn this past weekend as they watched the spectacular fall of Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia. Northam, who had defeated his Republican opponent in part because of the latter’s support for protecting monuments to the Confederacy, suddenly came under fire for his own apparently racist past as documented in yearbook photos from his medical school days.
Among the Republicans relishing this reversal of fortune was our own Massachusetts Republican Party, which on Saturday called on Northam to resign for having contradicted “our American values.” The timing of Northam’s troubles may have especially pleased the Mass. GOP because it worked to reinforce the message of a press release they had sent out on Martin Luther King Day last month – the launch of a new initiative aimed at re-engaging the state’s urban communities, by which they meant primarily but not exclusively people of color.
Recent MassINC polls confirm that the Mass. GOP rather badly needs an urban initiative of some kind. While the Republican Party struggles for relevance all across the state, its standing in urban communities is particularly dismal: the percentage of voters statewide with a favorable opinion of Donald Trump is already low at 31 percent; among non-white voters and voters in Boston and the inner suburbs the number drops to 18 percent.
The possible success of such an initiative is another question altogether. The Mass. GOP seems to regard its current unpopularity among people of color not as the result of decades of overt hostility to their interests, but the result merely of its own neglect, a failing easily corrected through engagement: “If we make engagement a priority, we can compete and win in these communities,” said Republican State Committee member Rachel Kemp in the party’s Martin Luther King Day press release.
Margaret Monsell is an attorney practicing in the Boston area.