The Scott Brown Phenomenon

18 01 2010

I wrote this for the upcoming issue of the Michigan Review, to be published Tuesday and distributed this week…so the timeframe references are a bit off.  But I wanted to post it while it was still relevant, the special election in question taking place Tuesday.

By the time you read this column, Massachusetts residents will have cast their votes for a new Senator.  While the inevitable recounts, electoral wrangling, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the usual interest groups may keep the results of this special election cloudy for God knows how long, there’s one thing we can say for sure: a Republican candidate has a decent shot at claiming a Massachusetts Senate seat for the first time in three decades—and the seat in play is the one last held by the dearly departed, ultra-liberal Ted Kennedy.

Every day, the chance for Scott Brown, the Republican candidate in question, to pull off the unthinkable seems to get a little bit better.  Polls showed Brown down thirty or forty points when he entered the race last fall.  Today, a variety of polls—including that of his Democrat opponent Martha Coakley’s campaign—show him with a marked lead.  Conservative pundits, once guarded when talking about this race, are now…less guarded.  It is, after all, Massachusetts, and a Brown victory would be nothing short of a post-Christmas miracle.

True, Coakley, the Democrat candidate, seems hell-bent on losing.  First she suggests that anti-abortion Catholics shouldn’t be working in the medical profession in a state where 44% of the population is Roman Catholic; then, she repeatedly insults the Boston Red Sox.  Is this a secret Democrat plan to deep-six Coakley so they can claim she was a terrible candidate when she loses?  Probably not, but it certainly seems like it.

It’s important to note that Brown is no male Michelle Bachmann.  His strengths lie with his (more or less) free market approach to governance, not his socially conservative stances on hot-button issues like abortion (he’s pro-choice).  And while he believes in “traditional marriage,” he states that the issue should be left up to states.  In short, he’s exactly the type of candidate needed to woo blue-state moderates and independents whose primary focus is on the economy, not social issues.

The GOP would do well to learn from this model in the future by supporting staunchly pro-market, socially moderate candidates in the future.  The rudderless, confused Republican National Committee must be looking enviously at Brown’s fundraising prowess; in one day, he managed to pull in $1.3 million from eager donors all over the country.  The average donation size?  $75.  If conservatives and independents are given a candidate to get excited about, we will get behind him or her.  If not…we’ll get a repeat of the 2008 Presidential election.

Unfortunately, whichever way this election goes, it will be touted as some type of referendum on the Obama agenda.  If Brown wins, it will be because a bunch of racist Teabaggers want to deny poor minorities health care, and if he loses, then Obama truly does have a divine mandate to pursue his leftist goals.  This misses the point.  Though touted as a last-ditch effort to halt the advance of ObamaCare, this special election ultimately comes down to the voters of Massachusetts deciding what type of Senator they want to take “Ted Kennedy’s seat.”

So while you, the reader, have the benefit of knowing which way this election will play out (or at least have some better idea than I do), it is important that you don’t get too caught up in the results.  If Brown has won, swell; savor the victory, laugh at your liberal friends, and reflect upon the beginning of the end of the most recent Permanent Majority.  If he ends up conceding, don’t sweat it.  He was running in one of the bluest states in the country, and he did far better than any Republican candidate could have expected to.

Either way, work to capture the tremendous energy surrounding this campaign.  If conservatives across the country can get this excited about one special election in far-off Massachusetts, just imagine how worked up we’ll all get for the upcoming midterms this November—to say nothing about the Presidential election in 2012.

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