Remember Joe Malone? Unless you’re a Massachusetts political junkie — or Beacon Hill hack — you probably don’t.
Malone’s announcement — that he is quitting the Republican Party to become an independent — raises two, admittedly contradictory, questions.
No. 1: Why?
No. 2: Who cares?
With respect to the first, Malone says that he can no longer “relate” to the national GOP and the Republican Congress. He complains about polarization, the Tea Party, and (insert the latest cliche about Ted Cruz). Malone claims the GOP has become too conservative and too uncompromising — which is amusing, considering that in 1998 the same critiques were made of Malone when he challenged then acting-Gov. Paul Cellucci from the right for the Republican nomination for governor.
In any event, what does the Republican Congress have to do with the Massachusetts GOP — which represents the most liberal wing of the Republican Party?
Are we seeing the havoc that medical marijuana has wrought on our political culture? Because clearly anyone who believes that Charlie Baker is cut from the same cloth as Rand Paul has been smoking some funny stuff.
To be sure, the notion that the national GOP has damaged the Republican brand in a way that may trickle down to the states isn’t entirely crazy. Unfortunately, however, Malone’s announcement plays right into the hands of Democrats who disingenuously paint with broad brush to scare and confuse voters into thinking Scott Brown is no different than Mitch McConnell and Gabe Gomez no different than U.S. Sen. Cruz.
So why is Malone turning his back on the Mass. GOP? If frustration with the Republican Congress provides an inadequate answer, what rational explanation is there?
Malone claims that the state party’s inherent weakness makes it a losing proposition. And it is true that the Mass GOP recently has struggled.
But the Mass GOP is not the Titanic. It was successful before. And it can be successful again. So, why not fight from within to make the party stronger?
“The problem with my trying to be a positive force in the Republican Party,” Malone told Michael Graham last week on Boston Herald Radio, “is that you’ve got a lot of the consultants, the power players, who will fight for their life to maintain that little petty power base of theirs.” Translation: They no longer listen to Malone.
I can certainly think of reasons one might want to be unaffiliated in Massachusetts. For starters, independent voters can choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary in each election cycle, which gives them more power to control the nominating process.
But Malone isn’t just becoming an unaffiliated voter — he is throwing his support behind independent gubernatorial candidate Joe McCormick. “You don’t have to have just Chocolate and Vanilla,” Malone says. “Sometime you can have another type of ice cream.”
Yeah, except guess what, Joe? Rocky Road isn’t winning any statewide polls. So, while you might enjoy the flavor, a vote for Rocky Road only helps Vanilla consolidate power.
Malone knows as well as anyone that supporting independent candidates in Massachusetts only helps the Democrats. So, why — really — is Malone jumping ship now?
To hurt Charlie Baker? (There must be a back story here.)
To punish party bosses, because, like Rodney Dangerfield, Joe “don’t get no respect”?
Or is Malone simply trying to remain relevant?
Which brings us to question No. 2: Who really cares what Malone thinks anyway? Other than Democrats and Joe McCormick, nobody.