Yesterday, at precisely high noon, two hours before maximum solar eclipse, State Representative Susannah Whipps announced that she is leaving the Massachusetts Republican party.

She provided the following, very lengthy statement to me before announcing it publicly :

Whipps chooses “People Over Party”

2nd Franklin District Rep. Susannah Whipps of Athol has officially changed her voter registration from republican to unenrolled (independent).  “I represent a district where nearly 2/3 of the voters are unaffiliated with any major political party” explained Whipps.   Public records show that 65% of voters in the 2nd Franklin District are unenrolled, 22% are registered as members of the Democratic Party, and 12% are registered as members of the Republican Party. 

 “Serving as state representative while not affiliating with either major political party will allow me to more effectively utilize the relationships I have developed with the members and leadership on both sides of the aisle, and will allow me to better serve all of the people of my district, without the obligation of towing any particular party line,” Whipps continued.  “I want my party affiliation to reflect my position as an independent voice for the people of my district.”

The second-term representative, whose district includes Athol, Belchertown – precinct A, Erving, Gill, New Salem, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Templeton, Warwick and Wendell, currently serves on the Joint Committee on Higher Education, the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use & Recovery, and has been a republican member of the House Ethics Committee.  “Leadership has the authority to change my committee assignments,” said Whipps, “however, I have requested to remain on the Higher Education Committee and the Mental Health, Substance Use & Recovery Committee, which is particularly relevant to me as it is a topic I feel very passionately about and is also very important and helpful to the people of my district.”
“I often say that the federal government could look at Massachusetts as a model, in regards to the way our legislature and state government operates,” said Whipps.

“That contrasts sharply with politics at the national level, where the current political atmosphere has become unpalatable for me and many other folks I know.  The once healthy, lively debate of issues has turned to almost constant partisan attacks.”  Whipps continued, “This is a decision that I have spent a great deal of time making.   I look forward to having the freedom to support colleagues and candidates regardless of their party affiliation, and I look forward to continuing to work hard for the great people of this district and the Commonwealth.”

Whipps spent some time reaching out to her neighboring colleagues as well as legislative and party leadership last week to make this transition as smooth and undisruptive as possible.   “I just want to do my job and that being said, I don’t intend to make any further comments on this change,” she said.  “The purpose of this change is to avoid partisan bickering and politics as usual, and accordingly I will not engage in any commentary that suggests blame, reaction to any particular person or incident, or anything other than professional growth and a desire to best align with and serve the people of my district.”

This is a huge loss for the Republican party in our state. Whipps has total electoral command of her district; her voting record is as uncompromising on civil rights issues as any legislator’s in this state — on women’s health care rights too. As she once commented on a facebook post (I am paraphrasing, I do not have her exact words at hand) : “you say the Republican party opposes big government, but until it gets out of the bedroom, stops telling people who they can and can’t love, and stops interfering with women’s health care rights, I say it is indeed a party of big government.”


Our state’s GOP needs voices like Whipps’s. Heck, the entire GOP nationally needs such voices. The Republican party must become, again, a voice of rational reform. Our politics need two such parties, because neither party has all the answers.

The GOP must cease being the party of vengeance; of undoing 130 years of social progress; of deconstruction; of fear and rage, directed at all sorts of Americans and soon to become Americans. Whipps’s leaving does not help that to happen.

Maybe the national GOP is too far gone to recover its historic mission ? Certainly the GOP’s brightest and most generous cadres are dropping their party enrollment with increas8ing frequency. They’ve have had enough of the madness, the political slapstick, the reactionary wastage.

In our state the GOP is so small that one elected legislator leaving it hurts plenty. There were only 35 in the House, six (6) in the Senate, in each case less than a quarter of all members. One less makes the party that palpably smaller.

The more minuscule our state’s GOP, the less important it becomes, no matter what this or that it happens to talk about. As Whipps shows, only one out of eight — 12 percent — of her District’s voters are Republican. Why should she have to fight a primary, against the usual brand of pissy zealot, in a primary that involves such a small portion of those she is responsible to ? When by running in the general — the November election — most likely in a three way race against a Republican and a Democrat, she almost cannot lose ? (An incumbent who can’t win a three-way race is either under indictment or dead.) And if the sentences I just wrote sound cold calculating, most facts are just that.

I feel sorry, nonetheless, for Whipps’s progressive GOP colleagues : in the House, Hannah Kane, Kim Ferguson, Sheila Harrington, Jim Kelcourse, Randy Hunt, David Muradian, Shawn Dooley, Paul Frost; in the Senate, Richard Ross. All voted “yes” on last year’s transgender civil rights bill, as did Whipps. These civil rights Republicans will miss their colleague.

Governor Baker, too, will need to work even harder. Though Whipps assures me she is solidly, “100 percent for Charlie” — and I know she is — Baker is trying to establish centrist reform as the #magop brand. It does not help his cause to lose a voice as importnat in that direction as Whipps’s.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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