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.