The election of Scott Brown to the US Senate by the people of Massachusetts is the big political news of the week, and why wouldn’t it be? Massachusetts hasn’t had a Republican Senator since the 1970s.
So who is Scott Brown? What did his campaign look like? How was he able to pull it off? And most of all, what does his win mean?
After a stint in local politics that began in 1992, Brown was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1998 and then to the Massachusetts Senate in 2004.
According to his Wikipedia entry he was a supporter of the 2006 Massachusetts healthcare reform agenda, which mandated that all residents of that state be required to purchase health insurance. On foreign policy he is in support of further intervention in Afghanistan. Moreover, he has supported regional cap-and-trade.
This is not the kind of Republican that makes a free-marketer proud. Rather Brown’s stances epitomize the neo-conservative worldview – big government at home, intervention abroad, wrapped in a do nothing cloak of social conservatism. Nonetheless, considering the circumstances, I’m elated to have him.
And of course we all understand what the circumstances are. The Democrats have the House of Representatives, a super-majority in the Senate, and the White House. That’s a lot of power, and the Democrats have been using it to legislate all manner of nonsense, but most importantly they have been trying to ram “healthcare reform” down the throats of a strongly opposed American public.
So seeing the way the winds were blowing Scott Brown opportunistically seized upon these circumstances and framed the entire election in terms of them. It was a masterful strategy.
By framing his campaign as a referendum on the Obama administration, and in particular healthcare reform, Brown was able to woo disaffected Massachusetts residents to his side. In addition, by playing up his soon to be pivotal role in the healthcare debate he was able to spread his fund raising efforts out to disaffected Americans nationwide.
The simplest explanation for his election is that a majority of Bay Staters were against the current healthcare reform efforts and saw the election of Brown as a way to stop the whole thing dead in its tracks. Of course, there are probably a good number of people who would have voted for him anyway, but what I am referring to is the up swell that put him over the top. This was almost certainly due to the healthcare issue. And that’s it.
If you read this election tightly then you will concur that in a “normal election” under “normal circumstances” a Democrat would have won, just like they did for the last 30+ years. Basically extraordinary circumstances resulted in an extraordinary result. That’s it. Just move along, There’s nothing else to see here.
A more sophisticated explanation is that this election was about the balance of power in American politics. Now, I’d like to think that was the case, as it would mean that Americans were really thinking about the way things work in Washington. That they were in fact not voting against healthcare reform so much as voting for general gridlock. If this really entered the minds of most people as they pulled the lever yesterday, then we have turned a corner. It would mean that people are starting to think a couple of levels deeper than what is on the surface. Unfortunately, as much as I hope for it, I doubt this is actually the case.
Another explanation proffered is that conservatism generally and Republicans specifically are on the rise again, well because Republicans are good and Democrats are bad. Yeah sure, the pundits wrap it in all kinds of other words, and a mess of hyperbole, but “Republicans good – Democrats bad” is what this argument is at its core.
But Brown is hardly conservative. Rather he’s a liberal who calls himself a Republican, a Republican in Name Only, a RINO. Therefore, while this may be a win for Republicans, this is not a win for conservatives except insofar as it puts the brakes on the Obama-Pelosi-Reid express train to hell.
In fact if this is the kind of Republicans that are going to be elected in November I’d much rather have the Democrats, as conservatives are more likely to relax their guard if anyone sporting the Republican brand is elected.
The explanation that the sour grapes losers throw around is that Coakley was a bad candidate, ran a bad campaign, and it was all her fault that she lost. Of course you only think this if you don’t want to face reality, and the simple fact that the wheels are coming off the Obama bus. Actually if you believe this then I prefer that you continue to believe it.
One final explanation I would like to explore is that there is populist revolution underway. That the people are finally seeing Washington for what it is, a disastrous waste of resources and a net value drain on our country. If this is the case then it will be proved out by the election of small government Republicans in November. People who seek to undo rather than do, who seek to return most domestic power to the states and the people themselves. Time will tell. I am cautiously optimistic.
So at the end of the day, at least for now, the simple explanation is probably correct. The election of Scott Brown was a strong rebuke of Obama’s first year in office and especially the Democratic efforts to “reform” healthcare. He won on his stated platform. That’s it.
As to whether Brown’s win is a harbinger for the November elections, we’ll have to wait and see. The Democrats could learn their lesson, lighten up on the radical agenda a bit, the economy could improve, and unemployment could draw down.
This all could happen, but I suspect that it will not. Rather the Democrats will probably learn all of the wrong lessons, attempt to repackage themselves on the outside and become ever sneakier when it comes to pushing their agenda. This is what happens when the tools in the marketing department come to run your country.
And of course if you’ve been reading my weekly then you know exactly what I think about the economy and unemployment, that the whole “recovery” is a farce waiting to reveal itself.
So the stars are probably aligning in such a way that 2010 will see the Republicans making gains, but if we just elect a bunch of Scott Browns then the joke is on us.