Political Hay

Six Months of Scott Brown

The honeymoon is over -- but let us recall this is also a moderate Republican.

By 7.20.10

Six months have passed since Scott Brown shook the world with his upset victory over Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts special election to fill the people's seat once held by Ted Kennedy.

Brown was elected to the United States Senate in no small part due to the energy and enthusiasm of Tea Party activists. In the intervening 180 days, the euphoria of sending a Republican Senator from Massachusetts to Capitol Hill has waned amongst Tea Party enthusiasts.

Some thought the election of Brown would spell the death knell of Obamacare. As the 41st Republican senator, he put Republicans in a position to filibuster. But along came reconciliation and Brown's presence ultimately proved to be a non-factor.

In February, Brown would raise eyebrows when he voted in favor of and helped ensure passage of a $15 billion jobs bill (read: The Stimulus Bill Mach II) initiated by the Obama Administration. His support of the bill led to charges on Twitter that Brown was little more than a RINO.

These criticisms have now intensified in light of Brown's support of the inaptly named Restoring American Financial Stability Act which passed by a vote of 60-39. Brown's vote bewildered the Greater Boston Tea Party:

After weeks of debate and a thorough investigation of the bill and its possible effects on the economy, small businesses, community banks and consumers, we are at loss as to what redeeming qualities Senator Brown found in the bill worthy of support.

Tea party activists will continue to independently support candidates and current representatives that adhere to our constitutional principles of limited government, free markets and individual Liberty. If Senator Brown wants our continued support, he must consider how legislation he supports upholds these principles.

The dismay of Tea Party activists is understandable. They didn't put Brown in office so that he could vote in lockstep with the likes of Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd. It is not unreasonable for them to ask why they should put their commitment and effort behind a candidate who acts precisely against their wishes once in office.

Peter Flaherty, president of the National Policy and Legal Center and one time Chairman of Citizens for Reagan, puts it very bluntly:

Who would have thought that less than six months later Brown would cast the decisive vote in favor of legislation that institutionalizes Wall Street bailouts, and whose sponsors -- Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank -- played key roles in bringing on the meltdown, not to mention representing everything that is sleazy and corrupt about Washington. If Brown wasn't running against Barney Frank when he railed against the "machine," then what was he talking about?

Flaherty continued his candor when he stated, "Brown has allied himself with these corrupt elites."

But let us look at it another way. Scott Brown is and always has been a moderate Republican, especially when you consider his positions on abortion and gay marriage. Brown should not be confused with the likes of Jim DeMint or Tom Coburn.

Conservatives might not be happy with Scott Brown after six months in office. But they should ask themselves if they would rather have six months of Scott Brown or six years of Deval Patrick?

For all of Brown's charms, we must not forget that he ran against the worst Democratic senatorial candidate for office outside of Alvin Greene. As I have written previously, "Martha Coakley could write a book titled, 'How Not to Win an Election Campaign.'"

Massachusetts Democrats will not make the same mistake twice. They will nominate a formidable candidate against Brown in 2012. Should Deval Patrick be re-elected as Massachusetts Governor this November, I believe he will be heavily lobbied to run against Brown.

Now, of course, Brown would have to win the 2012 Massachusetts Republican Primary. It is certainly possible that Tea Party activists could find a viable candidate to challenge Brown in the primary. Yet it could prove to be a poison pill. Unless Brown wins the primary in a landslide (as he did last year), a strong challenge to him could cause the kind of division amongst Republican ranks that might very well lead the people's seat to fall back into Democratic hands. In this part of the country, those hands have a very tight grip.

Still, given the anti-incumbent sentiment that exists amongst the electorate, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Brown could lose the primary. But unless the person carrying the GOP banner is physically attractive, has beautiful adult daughters and drives a truck, don't expect another Massachusetts miracle. Bay State Republicans could find a candidate more conservative than Brown, but if that candidate says or does anything that scares the daylights out of voters then it could become Deval Patrick's seat.

But let me take a leap of faith here. Suppose the GOP primary challenger not only dislodges Brown but somehow beats Patrick (or whoever the Democratic nominee happens to be) in the 2012 senatorial race. Who is to say that new Massachusetts Republican senator won't be susceptible to the same fallibility and folly?

One could make the case that Brown is a career politician and has spent nearly two decades in one elected office or another. Yet why is a political neophyte any less susceptible to being seduced by the trappings of power than one who has long enjoyed its fruits? All elected officials have to start somewhere, and somewhere along the road good intentions can easily give way to other considerations.

Scott Brown should not take his support for granted. If Brown is not doing the job he was sent to Washington to do, then Tea Party activists are certainly within their rights to put a little scare into him. But they should also weigh their options very carefully because, to everlasting regret, they might get their wish.

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.