Baker really is a RINO
Latest jab at Trump and national Republicans underscores gulf with his party
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S status was sealed last night: He is now an officially certified leading figure among the ever-shrinking ranks of major elected Republican officials who question the sanity of their party.
It came when CNN’s Don Lemon, whose nightly show has been part of the cable network’s four-year monologue on the destruction being wrought by Donald Trump, singled out Baker for approbation. Specifically, Lemon recognized Baker as a rare voice of Republican reason for his remarks at a Tuesday State House press briefing where the governor slammed Trump for stalling the transition to President-elect Joe Biden and called news that the Justice Department will get involved in voter fraud investigations “wildly inappropriate.”
“Sanity, logic, reality,” Lemon said with his trademark earnest tone of solemnity. It came after rolling the video from Gardner Auditorium that we’re accustomed to seeing when Baker comments on new statewide COVID-19 positivity rates, not when he’s being held up as a national spokesman against the assault on democratic rule by the president of his party.
Baker said blocking a smooth transition could not come at a worse time “than amid a deadly pandemic that the federal government continues to own primary responsibility for responding to.” He restated the fact that has been widely reported by every news outlet from Fox News to the New York Times that no evidence has been produced of widespread voter fraud.
With a melancholy mien, Baker talked of being a Republican for 40 years, raising money for Republican candidates, and knocking on doors for GOP candidates.
All that was missing was for him to end by reprising Lindsey Graham’s famous observation four years ago (which he has, of course, since vigorously walked back): “My party has gone batshit crazy.”
That sort of comment is not part of the Baker preference for understatement, but it seems to telegraph exactly what he’s thinking. And it doesn’t just come down to Trump’s fact-free demagoguing of everything from immigration issues to election integrity. Baker doesn’t line up with Republican positions on some major issues of the day, such as his opposition to GOP efforts to upend the Affordable Care Act.
Baker has taken flak for saying he blanked his ballot when it came to the presidential race, but it’s hard to see what sort of sliver of standing that preserved for him within his party when considered in the context of his comments on Tuesday.
The major elected Republicans who have dared to recognize Biden as the president-elect could caucus in a phone booth (perhaps a fittingly outmoded image given how out of date they are with the Republican Party of today). And Susan Collins, one of the few Senate Republicans Baker seems to embrace, who is famous for her conditional equivocations, might have one leg dangling out of the booth with her comment congratulating Biden on his “apparent victory.”
Though some have speculated that Baker could shed his party label and win a third term as an independent, there is no sign that he’s planning to ditch the GOP.
Even the Massachusetts Republican Party, with its full MAGA orientation, bears little resemblance to the one Baker grew up in. But its vanishing membership still grudgingly gives him a vote when faced with a Democratic alternative. Meanwhile, unenrolled voters, now the state’s largest voting bloc, and some number of Democrats seem to have no problem voting for Baker as a Republican — as long as he continues to make clear just how much he’s not actually a Republican in many of the ways that label is now defined.
It would be worth asking Baker if that’s a Republican viewpoint he agrees with.