Some introspection is in order.
This morning, I listened to WBUR’s Anthony Brooks report on a story about the current state of the Massachusetts GOP. I was interviewed for the piece, and Brooks described me this way: “a Republican activist who ran unsuccessfully for Secretary of State.”
I know Anthony and he’s a great guy. I respect his honesty and integrity as a political reporter. It’s always a pleasure to speak to him. And his chosen description for me is accurate: I’m relatively active in the shrinking moderate branch of the MassGOP. And in 2018 I was beaten—soundly—in my run for Secretary of State.
Still, as decisive as my defeat was three years ago, I don’t view it as unsuccessful. To be sure, as I write this, I sit at my desk in my modest home office, not in the ornate chambers currently—and seemingly forever—occupied by William Galvin. But shortly after my ill-fated campaign, I listened to an interview with George Will in which he spoke of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. The Republican nominee from Arizona was decisively beaten by the incumbent President Lyndon Johnson. Still, his efforts were described by Will as a sort of “constructive” losing. Goldwater accomplished what he had hoped to do. As Will put it, he “reinvigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically.”
Now, I definitely did not reorient my party ideologically. Not by a long shot. In fact, three years after my campaign ended, my state party and I bear little resemblance ideologically, mainly because I believe quite firmly that it must separate itself from its devotion to former President Trump. Not only does such a strategy portend electoral disaster in the state where he is least popular, but because, in my view, slavish fidelity to any one person isn’t what government should be about. (Not to mention that if we were to attach ourselves to a figure, the 16th president more than suffices!).
So, what does this have to do with security?
In my campaign, I had that rare opportunity that being a major party’s nominee affords: a short-lived but relatively prominent bully pulpit. This allowed me to say to the media and directly to the sitting Secretary of State that I was concerned about the robustness of the security infrastructure underpinning our voter records; that I worried about the actual Russian interference we saw in 2016—attempted manipulation of voter rolls at the local level (few recall that there were actual federal indictments handed down for such attempts); that voter ID could be accomplished without infringing on the rights or pocketbooks of anyone; and that for a state office to win the trust of the people, it must be wholly transparent.
Because I ran, I was able to force the Secretary of State to address these issues because in a campaign you really have no choice but to respond. That brought me a great deal of personal satisfaction and I do believe that it was a public service.
“Unsuccessful” is truly in the eyes of the beholder, I suppose. I’ve been looking for missing paintings for more than 16 years, so I understand better than most that the only true failure is never to try.