If the Massachusetts Republican Party was a restaurant, their local board of health would have shut them down by now. From the courts to the ballot, it seems nothing they serve up can make it past the customers’ gag reflex.

The latest state GOP gambit – a bid to persuade the Supreme Judicial Court to block permanent mail-in and early voting – was flushed away by the court yesterday after a hearing in which their disgust was palpable.

GOP attorney Michael Walsh didn’t get far into his argument that the Legislature unconstitutionally exceeded its authority by locking in practices that have been in use in some form for years when Justice Scott Kafker put a torch to it: “We’ve been doing early voting for eight years now. So every one of those elections was illegal in your view?“

Walsh countered that bad laws “deserve to be overturned.” Cue this dry interjection from Justice Elspeth Cypher: that spin was “also what they used in Dobbs [the recent case in which the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade] so I’m not sure it’s a good argument.” Credit Walsh with at least some sense of shame. “I’m stuck with the tools I’m given I’m afraid,” he said.

Among them, the rancid recipe of the Trump-era GOP which indefensibly promotes the Big Global Lie that any election where they get smoked must be fixed. Justice David Lowy cut to the chase: “Somehow our right to a free and fair election is implicated here? Where’s the support for that?” Walsh gamely cited a 1999 case in which a Springfield state rep primary result was thrown out because local officials allowed a handful of inactive voters to cast ballots. “Absentee voting is treated as susceptible to fraud…not that we have any evidence of that,” said.

No evidence. No good arguments. Just a boatload of fear, the defining characteristic of the Jim Lyons-era state GOP.

It’s one thing to use fear as a political tactic – both parties do that all the time. But rarely has there been a major-party leadership more terrified of the electorate than the current Massachusetts GOP.

Lyons doesn’t just resemble Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” He embodies the character’s paralyzing self-doubt, forfeiting the bully pulpit by chronically ducking TV interviews. Protege Geoff Diehl, media-friendly in an earlier incarnation, also seems uninterested in serious public engagement, laughably trying to limit his debates with Chris Doughty to Diehl-friendly radio talk shows.

And for sheer political cowardice, it’s hard to top the June 21 GOP “rally” in Lowell purporting to showcase the party’s diversity. Somehow Doughty’s invitation blew off the porch, because he isn’t the “fiscally conservative and socially conservative” type that Republicans need, co-organizer John MacDonald told the Lowell Sun. A vote for Doughty, he ludicrously claimed, is “the same thing as voting for Maura Healey.”

Instead, rally headliners included Ayanna Pressley “challenger” Donnie Palmer, known for anti-Asian posts on social media and the obligatory claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and presumptive GOP nominee for Secretary of State Rayla Campbell, fresh off her pornographic remarks at the state party convention.

Fear, loathing and ignorance – a toxic flop-sweat brew that seems extraordinarily unlikely to survive the voters’ smell test this fall.

Then again, some COVID sufferers lose their sense of smell.

Maybe the Lyons strategy is to hope for an October Omicron surge.

Join me every Tuesday for more analysis of local policy and politics right here on MASSterList.

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Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.