^ can Karyn Polito be a next Republican Governor, after Charlie Baker’s likely re-election ? Can anyone be a next GOP Governor of Massachjusetts ?

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There’s been talk about whether a devotee of Mr. Trump will try to “primary” our decidedly NON-Trump Governor, Charlie Baker. I’ve heard rumblings, but the Globe recently quoted a few of Baker’s Trump-ish opponents dismissive of the likelihood. Perhaps that’s the case. Perhaps they are right, and I was wrong. Their case is a strong one: ( 1 ) Mr. Trump needs all the support his fans can give him ( 2 ) Senator Warren, whom Trump fans despise, has her own re-election for them to do battle with and ( 3 ) Baker haters seem resigned to the prospect of his very likely re-election, given his polls and his voluminous campaign funds.

I agree that Baker is likely to win re-election comfortably. He has done the job he said he was going to do; his caution frustrates some but aggravates few; and he has put himself on the side of our vast majority of voters on every hot-button issue that has arisen. He has stood with Attorney General Maura Healey on her challenges to Mr. Trump’s immigration and travel ban orders. He stands with Planned Parenthood. He vigorously opposed the South Boston Veterans’ original vote to bar the OUT Vets from marching in next Sunday’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Baker and Boston Mayor Walsh have partnered on most Boston developments; they continue to do so.

Baker has targeted state funds to environmental matters and to municipal needs. His very numerous judicial nominations have faced little or no opposition. Where scandal has arisen in his administration, he has taken swift action to end it. He works with whoever needs to be worked with : legislators, business leaders, unions. It’s hard to think of any major interest that he has disappointed. Even immigrants’ rights advocates, who would like Baker to agree to grant driver licenses to undocumented people, and to declare Massachusetts a sanctuary state, acknowledge that he has made no moves at all in the direction of Mr. Trump’s war on those who actually reside here.

All of the above has led to baker winning big approval in every poll taken : 59 favorable, 19 unfavorable in the moist re cent sounding. His numbers come out better – much better — even than the supposedly beloved Senator Warren. Only 44 percent told the most recent pollster that Warren deserves re-election; 53 percent said the same of Baker. Warren will do quite better than 44 percent next year; she will probably approach 60 percent of voters,. But so will Baker.

And then what ? After Baker finishes his two terms, at age 66, will the next Governor also be a Republican ? Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito would, I am sure, love to succeed Baker, and she has everything it takes, including unmatched experience of our municipal governments, to be a successful election winner. (Disclosure : she and I are friends.) But things do not stay the same, and the platform whence her election launches — the Republican party — is not getting stronger; and whatever new strength it is acquiring from Trump fans actually disadvantages it in Massachusetts elections, as Mr. Trump won only 33 percent of our state’s vote, and his positions and persona are anathema to almost every voter who voted against him.

Massachusetts has elected Republican Governors ever since Bill Weld won in 1990, with only Deval Patrick as an exception, in large part because our Republican nominees have been good government, reformist, referee types : and Baker epitomizes the Governor as nonpartisan referee. The very smallness of the local GOP, only eleven percent of all voters, assures the state’s Democrats that no GOP Governor can ever implement a partisan, GOP agenda; while his not being a Democrat assures that he is free of the many fractures that split the state’s dominant political party. But this system has worked — this situation of electing Governors from a very small political group — only because the local GOP has chosen electability over ideology. I’m not bullish that this realism will continue.

The Trump interest is not a realist one. Baker’s caution offends their recklessness. They do not want to win elections, they want to change how elections are run. Trump’s fans prefer that only property owners vote. They reject the welfare state, including the social safety net;  they want less legal immigration (as well as no undocumented), they dislike inconvenient people; and they insist on saying all these things, loudly and with insult. None of this is calculated to win any Massachusetts election in our lifetimes.  As our state’s aging Republican cadres continue to age, and to die — go to almost any GOP committee event. the average age of those attending is easily 65, sometimes over 70 –the only young people you see showing up are the Trump fans, the very few, all of them aware of their man’s pariah status and proud of it.

How will a Karyn Polito, s progressive as any GOP office holder these past 25 years, win the support of these insurgents ? How will anybody else gain it, other than their insult confreres ? If the GOP of Massachusetts cannot somehow win large numbers of ordinary activists to its side — and remember, eleven percent of our voters is still a lot of people, about 450,000 of them — there will, by 2022, be few, if anyone,  in the Massachusetts GOP capable of winning a statewide election after winning a primary decided by Trumpians. For the rest of us are not fools. We know anathema when we hear it spoken. Our state has elected almost only Republican Governors thanks to a political understanding unique to Massachusetts, an understanding built upon the wise realism of our political classes bolstered by some and shrewd convenience on the part of a majority of voters. I doubt that such a delicate bipartisanship can long survive the reckless radicalism of Mr. Trump and his cadre of wreckers who will perforce be all that is left of local GOP activism once the warfare of Trump and his Mad Maxes against the regular party has bled itself dry.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



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