TRYING TO FIND A PURPOSE IN THE MASSACHUSETTS REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATE PRIMARY

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^ US Senate candidate Beth Lindstrom chats with East Boston Community Health’s Manuel Lopes at National Night Out event yesterday

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Three candidates seek Massachusetts’s Republican party nomination for the United States Senate seat now held by Senator Elizabeth Warren. Given the unpopularity of Mr. Trump in our state — for very strong reasons — the question has to be, why does this Republican nomination even matter ? And if it does matter, why ? In a recent WBUR poll, 66 percent of our voters disapprove of Mr. Trump’s performance; only 29 percent approve. It’s hard enough to defeat an incumbent in any office, much less a Senator who voices passionately the anti-Trump views of an overwhelming majority of our voters. Yet the nomination is there. Why should we who dislike Mr. Trump even care ?

I’ll try to answer this question. First of all, you should note that the primary is not the election. One can like one of the three Republican candidates, and want him or her to win the nomination, without committing to a November vote against Senator Warren. That is where I stand.

My view is that voters should have two excellent choices on the ballot, not one excellent choice and one who is unthinkable. Mr. Trump has, in mind, terribly corrupted the national Republican party and made it flagrantly illegitimate to all but his band of followers. But Mr. Trump is not immortal. He will be gone soon enough. Those of us who want to see a useful Republican party on the scene can start recovering a useful Republican party by nominating the best of the three now seeking the Senate nomination.

We can do that and still vote for Senator Warren in November.

In my own case, I have decided that Beth Lindstrom is the candidate most able to restore political sanity to the national Republican party. To that end, it helps that t.he GOP in New England has retained much of its reformist roots. Governors in Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as our own Charlie Baker, hold mainstream views and govern as common sense reformers. Though they’re not part of the national GOP, they do at least provide example to activists who like Republican reform but aren’t sure that it has a future in the age of Mr. Trump. Granted, that the numbers are small. How could they not be —

“every journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” — Lao Tzu

— yet single steps offer one big advantage in politics: with few around, you get listened to a lot by the candidate. And together, you and she learn.

Of John Kingston, there isn’t much to say. Though he is no friend of Mr. Trump, he has adopted Mr. Trump’s terrible immigration message and, on other matters, has had little to say beyond standard Trump-era talking points. He also knows hardly anyone in our SNtate’s political community.

The third candidate, State Representative, Geoff Diehl, was Mr. Trump’s Massachusetts campaign chairman. ’nuff said.

Mr. Diehl won the Republican convention’s endorsement, with 56 percent, but Beth Lindstrom won 29 percent and Kingston 15. It is highly unlikely that the 400,000 primary voters will be anywhere near as ideologically rigid as the convention delegates. And even they — most of them — understand the need to be practical in a state where they count only a small minority of us all. They want to win.

Beth Lindstrom will likely not win in November; but neither would Diehl or Kingston. Recent polls give them each about 20 to 22 percent against warren’s 53 to 55. But right now that is not the point. The point is to nominate the candidate who can best exemplify a usefully reformist Republican position.

Lindstrom’s campaign is far from perfect —

( 1 ) it has taken her all year to become the persuasive campaigner she now is — to develop the confidence to listen to all manner of voters, knowing that listening is often more persuasive than talking.She’s there now, but the time is late.

( 2 ) She still struggles to find a message that appeals to the majority without risking the support of Republican primary voters. Yet how can I blame her ? It would take extraordinary political integrity to advocate a majority position, as a national office Massachusetts Republican, in any year. In the era of Mr. Trump, you might have to be a martyr. Nonetheless, Beth is working her way toward a message : boiler plate on the issues that salivate Mr. Trump, reformist specifics on issues that actually matter to participatory voters.

( 3 ) She has been out of the political world for almost a decade, and it shows. She needs badly to catch up on who’s who these days and what is being discussed by those who drive our state’s political opinions and agendas. Like almost all Massachusetts Republicans other than Governor Baker, she doesn’t appear to know much about city politics or city voters. (Beth lives in Groton, in the Route 495 belt.) As a result, she almost entirely lacks a personal political following : because it’s in the cities that followings are won.

— yet these deficiencies, though grave, aren’t deficiencies of character or good will. Beth wants to be a responsive candidate, wants to embrace city issues, wants to know more and talk about more than just the usual RNC talking points. Whether she actually gets top that point, or not, of grasping city issues and being able to advocate specific reforms that generate an actual campaign, is not at all certain. But she is definitely a part of the solution. And that for me is good enough reason to advance her candidacy for an otherwise otiose nomination.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphedre

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