Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Three Men of Massachusetts: The Meaning of Scott Brown's Election Win

Scott Brown's upset victory in the Massachusetts US Senate race is the current political story of 2010, but it also challenged some cherished long-time beliefs in the Bay State. Brown, a socially liberal Republican, opposed Obamacare because it was not good for his state economically. Massachusetts's current state heathcare system would gain little from nationalized medicine and pay dearly. By proposing what was best for his state, Brown dashed liberal dreams and halted the career work of his predecessor, Ted Kennedy.

Democrats in Washington and Boston reverently mentioned Ted Kennedy's name as though it were a holy mantra capable of staving off a public that had learned far too much about a healthcare plan crafted in cabal-like secrecy. Kennedy's widow, Vicki, and the remainder of the Kennedy clan were trotted out and displayed like the catch of the day to remind the public of its obligatory loyalty to the left. Yet the Kennedy name, even when combined with its far-left liberal tradition could not keep the Massachusetts people from rejecting further nationalization of medical care.

It is worth noting that those voters whose primary issue was healthcare did favor Democrat Martha Coakley by a thin margin over Brown. Brown made up that ground and much more on economic issues. Jobs and the Massachusetts economy trumped national healthcare.

Scott Brown may have put an end to Ted Kennedy's work on national healthcare, but he reinforced former US House Speaker Tip O'Neal's (D-MA) famous political maxim, "All politics is local."

O'Neal recognized that while people may occasionally rise above self-interest, that's not the way to bet. In the end, people voted for their own interests.

We won't understand what Brown's victory means until we know how the two parties react. Either party is capable of taking this outcome and making its own future – and our country's future – worse.

On the Republican side, Republicans must remember that though they have won all three statewide offices during the Obama year, they must earn the respect of voters. Constitutionalists are already reminding GOP officials that if they begin imitating Democrats, they will lose the support of the grassroots. If Republicans forget this simple lesson, then we may see the rise of third party candidates who will claim voters the GOP abandoned in favor of larger government.

The potential Republican disaster is less likely than the tsunami of rejection curling over the heads of the far left. Democrats have more power than the GOP, but this is about leverage and they will inherit far more of the blame for failure to respond to the desires of the American public. When Nancy Pelosi called Tea Party goers, “astroturf . . . un-American . . . fake” and made accusations of swastikas at Tea Party rallies, she shoved a pair of her Pradas past her tonsils and has yet to remove them.

Many liberals are blaming Democrat Martha Coakley for this loss, but factors beyond Coakley's ill-timed vacation were far more important to the outcome. Coakley was elected Massachusetts Attorney General in 2006 so she is not a stranger to a statewide election. But she was a stranger to the “help” she received from Washington.

Famed communications expert Marshall McLuhan's quote, “The medium is the message,” applies here. The medium delivering the Democrats healthcare package was not open, transparent government. Instead, people were treated to sneaky, preferential backroom deals cut with US Senators and unions while even some of our elected representatives were locked out of discussions. The message from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi: “We will not tell you what we will do, but we will do as we please.“

In addition, the lack of leadership from President Barack Obama was stunning. A few gestures early in this process that would have brought Republicans to the table – such as, oh say, inviting them to a seat at the table as equals - in the beginning could have made a difference. Instead Obama deferred to Reid and Pelosi who are both notorious for their tone-deaf partisanship and blind party allegiance. Partisanship was the basis of the entire process and by the time Obama blamed Republicans for lack of cooperation, the American people had been treated to enough partisan Pelosi sound bites to know better.

As the special “deals” such as “the Louisiana Purchase”, and the “Cornhusker Kickback” came to light one at a time, Coakley's poll numbers slumped. She wasn't directly involved in any of this, but as a Democrat she embraced it and the people of Massachusetts recognized that.

If the lesson Democrats learn from this is to blame Coakley then they will only hurt themsleves. There are two issues here: the healthcare plan itself and the Democrat method of governance (which might be described as incompetent elite fascism with a quaalude-addled, facelift smile). There are serious problems with both and beneath both of those is a problem of an even more significant factor: the inability of Democrats to accurately assess themselves and their actions. There is an arrogant air of privilege and a disconnect from the common people; interestingly enough the very charges Democrats have levelled effectively against the GOP in the past.

If the Democrats are smart, they will drop this health care bill and begin again in a bipartisan manner. If they do so, they could have some success. If Republicans are smart, they will string this out until November – making the case for common sense healthcare reform, not national socialized medicine - and use healthcare like a billy club on Democrat incumbents nationwide.

Tip O'Neal and Ted Kennedy are legendary in the Bay State, partly due to the longevity and partly due to political savvy. Scott Brown has shown notable political insight and time will tell if he has longevity, but his US Senate victory has assured him a place of regard in his home state.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Directory