Why Scott Brown Failed To Get Re-Elected

Although a final count has yet to be made, Democrat Elizabeth Warren last night ousted Massachusetts Republican US Senator Scott Brown. Scott’s re-election was his to lose & he proceeded to do just that.

Was it inevitable? It didn’t have to be. But the reasons for Brown’s failure to hold onto “the people’s seat” aren’t complex & sadly reflect a lack of vision that tragically afflicts both the man himself & his political party.

When Brown won his seat in a special election following the death of legendary Democrat Ted Kennedy, he had a golden opportunity to create a new image for the Massachusetts Republican Party that reflected an alternative strain of the Bay State’s culture. It could be a party that represented the culture of New England – not the culture of the American South, or the Midwest, or even the West Coast. His initial success was due, in part, to his ability to win over independent & Old Left voters. All he had to do was boldly articulate a practical ideology consistent with the values/culture of Massachusetts that would transform the Bay State & (if successful) a blueprint for reuniting the American nation. Such an approach would revitalize the state GOP & make him a rising star on the national scene.

Instead Brown squandered the opportunity. He cultivated an image as a moderate that made no ideological sense once you studied his voting patterns on certain social or economic issues. The lack of continuity generated an impression of opportunism. After awhile he came across as somebody who tacitly accepted the Democrat paradigm since he refused to question its foundational assumptions. Indeed, his “bipartisan” or “moderate” approach more often than not validated the worldview of the Democrat Party. Is it no wonder that when presented with the “real” thing in the person of Warren that voters chose the “authentic” voice of the Democrat paradigm over the pretender Brown?

Brown campaigned that he “was one of us” without bothering to articulate how he would leverage his membership in this “us” group into being a successful national/international leader. He thus came across as too small for the office once held by the great men of Massachusetts’ past political history. He was too small to even bother having a prominent role at his party’s national convention (in sharp contrast to Warren who used her appearance at her party’s convention to bolster her brand as a rising progressive star). Massachusetts voters are proud to be at the vanguard of changing the country (& the world). They expect their leaders to carry out their role as thought leaders & change agents. Brown never aspired to anything beyond being a nice guy who is willing to compromise for the good of all.

Did that attitude get him re-elected? The question answers itself. And the emphasis of Brown’s campaign to hammer away at Warrens inconsistencies at the expense of the good guy image he cultivated – to go “negative” – reflected a desperation stemming from the realization that Brown had nothing to offer the public beyond his personal charisma. To paraphrase Osama Bin Laden, he wasn’t a strong enough horse in the eyes of the voters. There was no “there” there.

And in that regard, Brown perfectly reflected – if not personified – the consistent shortcomings of his party. The Massachusetts Republican Party remains visionless, bitterly disorganized, & not up to the task of governing millions of people who will support anyone & any party – no matter how corrupt – as long as said individuals & the party to which they belong continue to deliver a practical ideology that offers most of them some tangible benefit to their lives.

About ConcernedVoterInMass

  • edfactor

    Being bipartisan is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. Senator Brown failed to explain what his positioning could accomplish that a partisan could not. He thought that being moderate was an end in itself, where the great compromises that would save America would magically appear, and he would vote for them, whatever they were.  

  • gboag

    I agree generally with your comments. But when the top of the ticket performs so poorly it is hard to overcome. Had Brown only needed 5-7% to split their ticket he may have been able to pull it off. This race was similar to Weld’s in 1996. That said Republicans have to stop fearing being called Republican and conservative. They will be called that anyway, they need to explain why their positions are preferable.

  • Vote3rdpartynow

    I was looking at the numbers this morning and it seems that the ‘large’ cities that overwhelmingly voted for Brown made all the difference.  Brown lost Boston by 119k votes, Cambridge by 33k votes, Springfield by 25k votes and on it goes.  Either Brown neglected to campaign in the major metro areas or the democrat machine is so well entrenched that it can’t be beaten at this point.

    I tend to think it is the latter – the powerful democrat machine.  I say that because John Tierney, who never led in the polls, pulled out a win.  I think it happened because he had a machine that can generate votes with a phone call….

    This is what the Republicans need to create – a ground game and a machine….

    Democrats are good at building the machinery of elections.  We need to get better at it…

  • talking about being independent, rather than focusing on issues that matter to people.  It came across like his bipartisan voting record was just based on political calculation.  You don’t get that sense with Republican moderates who get reelected.

  • you get right down to it….this is still Massachusetts and that was no special election.

  • I was the only Brown volunteer in two towns totalling over 60,000 people, and I was splitting my time with the Tisei campaign.

    When I e-mailed 60+ members of the two RTC’s including the one I belong to (and I know all of these people) asking them to stand out at the polls. I got 5 replies.

    Maybe the Brown campaign, instead of putting up thousands of commercials (of limited effect in my opinion) could have used some of that money to hire a ground organization, seeing as how most Republicans aren’t all that interested in doing any volunteering.

    Just want to report that I did my bit and both Brown and Tisei won handily. A little help though and maybe Tisei could have gotten another 500 votes, and with more effort elsewhere he’d be over the top.

  • The Shawmut Group certainly was not very imaginative for either Scott or Mitt. Peter Flaherty, Beth Myers and Eric Fehrnstrom were in way over their heads, but they were very proactive in augmenting their group’s bottom line. Epic Fail!

  • Unfortunately I saw Joe Malone on ch. 25 this morning. This bankrupt was lashing out at talk radio, conservatives and attributing Romney and Brown losses to everything conservative. This guy epitomizes everything that is wrong with the MA GOP.  

  • V

    Mark Levin passionately defends conservatism and analyzes last night’s election in the opening monologue of the Wednesday broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program. Here’s a partial transcript of Levin’s opening remarks:

    MARK LEVIN: We conservatives, we do not accept bipartisanship in the pursuit of tyranny. Period. We will not negotiate the terms of our economic and political servitude. Period. We will not abandon our child to a dark and bleak future. We will not accept a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited from every single future generation in this country. We will not accept social engineering by politicians and bureaucrats who treat us like lab rats, rather than self-sufficient human beings. There are those in this country who choose tyranny over liberty. They do not speak for us, 57 million of us who voted against this yesterday, and they do not get to dictate to us under our Constitution.

    We are the alternative. We will resist. We’re not going to surrender to this. We will not be passive, we will not be compliant in our demise. We’re not good losers, you better believe we’re sore losers! A good loser is a loser forever. Now I hear we’re called ‘purists.’ Conservatives are called purists. The very people who keep nominating moderates, now call us purists the way the left calls us purists. Yeah, things like liberty, and property rights, individual sovereignty, and the Constitution, and capitalism. We’re purists now. And we have to hear this crap from conservatives, or pseudo-conservatives, Republicans.


  • gary

    That’s wrong.  The race was Warren’t lose, and she didn’t.  Brown’s was an uphill battle the whole way.  Here’s why:

    The Globe describes Menino’s machine, which “hummed for Warren.”

    Consider this, about one-half of Warren’s vote pickup over Brown’s compared to the 2010 senate race was in these 6 cities:






    New Bedford-9,356

    That is, of the victory difference, half the difference came from those 6 cities.  Now look at the machinery driving the vote.

    From the Globe article, it says, Ryan FitzGerald was working to take people to the polls.  No coincidence, Ryan FitzGerald was a city employee who took a “vacation day” to get out the Warren vote. Pictured in the article, is Anthony  Albano, a school employee. Further into the article, Leslie Stafford, of SEIU. And on and on….the obvious conclusion: the machine is made of payroll patriots or union members.

    Same in Springfield: Richard Neil pulled together his payroll patriots for the “volunteer” army.  I don’t know for sure, but probably the same is true throughout the state.

    How could Brown have possibly beaten that?!  Democrats had 52 field offices; Republicans had something like 10. With the number of registered Democrat (1,559,000) and reasonable turnout, Brown had to grab 15% of them, simply to be competitive while at the same time taking all the Republican vote and 75% of the independents.  How to do this when the paid Democrat army is vacuuming the city for votes?

    For god’s sake, the state elected a guy who turned a blind eye to a gambling operation in his living room.

    High minded talk about Brown’s message or manager or whatever is just bull shit.  Bottom line is, in today’s Massachusetts, a Republican can’t win in a Presidential election year against a party staffed with workers paid for by your tax dollars.  2010 was a lightning strike-a combination of Coakley ineptness combined with an off year election plus a slow reaction by the machine.

  • Great points Gary and Roarkarchitect.  

    We haven’t adapted to the new methods yet.  I think it’s probably a little hand-in-hand being a conservative, those new-fangled methods like the innernets are scary…

    Here’s a great article which talks about this:


    Adapt or perish!

    (One problem however, the young people we need who understand this transition are turned off by a party that seems to feature grouchy old white men who don’t like gays and think that women can spontaneously abort fetuses resultant from legitimate rape….)  

  • A O’s criticisms are not unreasonable but they tend to boil down to that the reason Brown lost was because he was not statesman of rare vision, depth of thought and communication skills. Well, no, he wasn’t because guys like that are, well RARE. Brown is just politician of average mind and above average decency and work ethic. And unfortunately he also didn’t have an army of Tom Paines to flack for him.

    The vision thing is  nice to have but you can’t just jot it down on the back of an envelope over a beer at a Republican meetup. In fact you couldn’t do it even if you were a cross between the aformentioned Tom Paine and Edmund Burke. It has to grow organically out of the people participating in the political process and talking about it. I think the Tea Party and GOP activism is starting to grow this and frankly is is easier to do when you are in the political wilderness. The 15-year stretch of Republican Governors is one of the causes that hollowed out the party ideologically.

    Conservatives (working through the GOP) essentially have tocreate two machines. One is the traditional vote machine. It will never be as well-oiled and “humming” as the Democratic one but then it doesn’t have to be; it just has to produce a higher percentage out of the Democratic redoubts  (namely the cities) than it is getting now.

    The other machine is the information machine to counter the media. Not too many years ago this would have been impossible. Now everyone who licked an envelope, wrote a check or slapped on a bumper sticker must learn the lesson Brietbart and the Tea Party: YOU must become the media. We have to turn ourselves into an army of Tom Paines. Yes this IS asking for much but in a more distributed fashion.

  • Aside from that ridiculous refusal to call the Democratic Party by its actual name, this was really interesting. I think you’re right about a blown opportunity here. Certainly, in more liberal-leaning circles, there was a lot of concern that Brown had the opportunity to crack open the left-grip in this state, and as you explain very well, it was a substantive shortcoming on his part that ensured that wouldn’t happen.

    I honestly hope people on the right hear commentary like this. Certainly, the left needs to be reeled in sometimes, but a ship without a rudder is going to have trouble even fishing for us.

  • The Angelic One

    Feast your eyes on this Mass. Numbers article that looks at the working class votes won by Elizabeth Warren:

    It is striking that these large gains were realized throughout the Commonwealth, from Springfield and Holyoke in Western Massachusetts, to Fitchburg and Worcester in Central Massachusetts, Lowell and Lawrence in the Merrimack Valley, Lynn and Revere on the North Shore, to Brockton, Fall River, and New Bedford in the Southeast.

    The key similarity between all these communities is their working-class demographics and the much larger voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election. The Warren campaign and the Massachusetts Democratic Party were obviously successful in communicating Warren’s message and also getting their voters to the polls on November 6th. The ability of Elizabeth Warren to realize large gains in working-class cities was a large reason for her comfortable margin of victory.