GLOUCESTER—With the 2016 election cycle churning into gear, Cape Ann GOP—the local wing of the Massachusetts Republican Party—has chosen Roger Babson to be its official patron saint.
According to Cape Ann GOP chairman Ellis Pinkerton, the decision was made after the group reflected on the importance of Saint Peter to the City of Gloucester.
“For over 100 years, Gloucester’s fishing fleet has enjoyed the divine patronage of Saint Peter,” Pinkerton said on Friday from Cape Ann GOP headquarters. “If the engine of the city’s economy and touchstone of its cultural identity is good enough for a tutelary spirit, then why not us?”
“Let’s just hope that Roger Babson will be a little more on top of things than ol’ Pete,” added Christine Eastman, the group’s treasurer. “With only 12% of Essex County registering as Republican, we need all the help we can get.”
Born in Gloucester in 1875, Babson was an eminent figure in early 20th century American finance, and he went on to establish Babson College, which trains students for careers in business.
“Although Babson never affiliated with the GOP, there are tons of reasons why he’s a perfect fit for the modern Republican movement,” said Pinkerton. “Being a Wall Street tycoon is just one of them.”
Eastman pointed to Babson’s fondness for bow ties and his Colonel Sanders mustache. “He looked like a plantation master,” she said, “right here in the heart of New England!”
Pinkerton also cited a local curiosity, the Babson Boulders, as another key factor in the group’s choice. In 1934, Babson commissioned out-of-work stonemasons to inscribe inspirational mottoes in naturally occurring granite throughout Dogtown Common, the densely wooded area in the center of Cape Ann.
Babson’s 36 mottoes include “Get a Job,” “Be Clean,” and “Keep Out of Debt.”
Pinkerton elaborated: “Being a hard-nosed businessman and advocate of the free market, Babson knew what people really needed during the Great Depression: not government handouts, but instead an assortment of condescending truisms carved into nearly inaccessible boulders.”
“Plus, he treated Dogtown’s public land as his personal fiefdom,” Eastman said. “If there had been any environmentalists around in the 1930s, they would have been super pissed.”
According to Eastman, the only strike against Babson was his “regrettable” decision to use immigrant labor.
“But they were Finnish,” Pinkerton hastened to add. “So, you know. Not so bad.”
Any ambivalence was more than offset by other conservative bona fides, including Babson’s founding of the Gravity Research Foundation in 1948. Using his fortune, Babson hoped to give legitimacy to ‘gravitational shielding,’ an idea that was popular in science fiction but runs counter to both Newtonian theory and general relativity.
Eastman explained: “Babson really paved the way for millionaires to exercise their right to squander vast sums in support of quack science.”
Shaking his head, Pinkerton added: “Intelligent design? Climate change denial? Where would these movements be without Babson’s precedent?”
Before settling on Babson, Cape Ann GOP considered a number of other local historical figures as potential saints.
“For a while, we were really fired up about Howard Blackburn,” Pinkerton said. “Nothing epitomizes the Republican ideal of self-reliance than a guy who, after being separated from the Socialist teat of his fishing schooner, rowed himself to Newfoundland.”
“But then we found out Blackburn did all that rowing while his dory mate just sat there, like some welfare queen,” Eastman said, throwing her hands up in disgust. “So what if the guy happened to be frozen to death?”
“Dealbreaker,” Pinkerton said.
So, how will Cape Ann GOP honor its new patron saint?
“St. Peter’s Fiesta seems pretty popular,” Eastman said. “So we’re thinking of something along those lines in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.”
“Of course, Babson was a prohibitionist,” Pinkerton added, looking off into the middle distance, where the traffic passed by on Washington Street. “We’re still working out the details.”