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KUHNER: A dim Republican future in moderation

The Gomez loss tarnishes the party’s Hispanic outreach gambit

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Conservatives beware. The Republican Party's growing embrace of open borders and social liberalism is a betrayal of core principles. It also spells political doom and defeat. Just ask Massachusetts GOP Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez.

He was trounced Tuesday by Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Mr. Markey won handily, defeating Mr. Gomez 55 percent to 45 percent. In short, the Democrat won by double digits.

Mr. Markey is a leftist ideologue. He champions state socialism and radical environmentalism. He is anti-capitalist, voting for more than 270 tax increases over his 37-year career. He calls for massive wealth redistribution, soaking the productive classes and funneling public spending on lavish social programs. He supports "Obamacare," cap-and-trade legislation, amnesty for illegal immigrants, a major increase in the minimum wage and unrestricted abortion rights, including partial-birth abortion. He is the mortal enemy of hard-working citizens; he is the avatar of the tax-takers — government unions, public school teachers, eco-freaks, Planned Parenthood and welfare recipients. On election night, Mr. Markey even demanded universal free college education. Of course, he did not explain how this costly, sweeping new entitlement would be paid for.

Yet he is more than a rabid tax-and-spend progressive. Mr. Markey is a shameless outsider. His primary residence is a $1.3 million mansion in Chevy Chase. Hence, Massachusetts voters elected a Maryland Democrat to represent them in the Senate. Say what you want about the late Edward M. Kennedy or Mr. Kerry — at least they lived in the Bay State. Mr. Markey is so contemptuous of the electorate he doesn't even pretend to live among them.

This is why voter turnout was low (barely more than 25 percent of registered voters decided to cast a ballot). Many Democrats stayed home, rightly disgusted by Mr. Markey's arrogance and cynical opportunism. Hence, in an off-election year with a weak, unpopular candidate burdened by a president engulfed in multiple scandals, the Democrat still won — and won big — over the Republican challenger. Why?

The reason is simple: The conservative base stayed home. On paper, Mr. Gomez should have been the Republican dream candidate — a Hispanic Scott P. Brown. The former Navy SEAL was everything the national media is saying the new GOP needs to be: fiscally responsible and socially liberal, a moderate who aggressively reaches out to homosexuals, Hispanics, women and minorities. Mr. Gomez was pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-environment and pro-amnesty. He aggressively touted his support for the "Gang of Eight" immigration-reform bill, claiming that a pathway to legalization for more than 11 million undocumented workers is economically beneficial and morally just. He also referred to himself as a "Green Republican," who wanted to combat global warming and reduce carbon emissions.

Moreover, Mr. Gomez would have been the first Hispanic Massachusetts senator. His parents were born in Colombia. He speaks fluent Spanish. During the campaign, he frequently addressed Hispanic audiences completely in Spanish. In other words, he was the new kind of multicultural, moderate Republican that Sens. Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte say the party must desperately embrace — or face political oblivion.

The result: Mr. Gomez not only lost, but failed to win fellow Hispanics. In fact, the Hispanic vote went overwhelmingly for Mr. Markey. Faced with a choice between an old, rich, white guy and one of their own, Hispanics in large numbers still backed the liberal Democrat. For most Hispanics, the benefits of the welfare state — food stamps, government health care, subsidized housing, public education and unemployment benefits — trump every other issue. This includes amnesty and even old-fashioned ethnic politics.

Mr. Gomez's defeat reveals a seminal reality: Hispanics are natural Democrats. They vote overwhelmingly for the party of big government because they think that the redistributionist state — not the private sector — is the source of wealth and personal advancement. No amount of pandering can — or will — change this fundamental fact. Otherwise, Mr. Gomez would be going to Washington.

Instead of galvanizing the Republican base, the push toward open borders, same-sex marriage and abortion rights only alienated the conservative grass roots — even in liberal Massachusetts. Confronted with a Democrat and Democrat-lite, many Republican-leaning voters simply didn't vote. Conservatives — the Republican Party's foot soldiers — became demoralized and disillusioned.

Moderate Republicanism ensures permanent Democratic victories. It also guarantees the slow death of the GOP, cutting the party off from its ideological moorings.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio commentator on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.

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