By John A. Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Everyone needs a tribe. My tribe, for many years, was based in Massachusetts. And so, remembering how Eddie King trounced Gov. Michael Dukakis in the awful economic times of 1978, and Dukakis came back to beat Governor King in The Rematch of 1982 and rode the Massachusetts Miracle to the 1988 presidential nomination, I am less inclined than some to see the End of Liberalism in Scott Brown's victory.
In fact, I feel for Brown. The moment he puts his hand on the Bible and becomes a U.S. senator, he also becomes an incumbent--an incumbent in a minority party dominated by a hostile region, with no ideas about how to fix the things that ail America, other than to give big tax breaks to the same wealthy SOBs on Wall Street who got us into this fix and continue to reward themselves with obscene pay.
Anger is great for winning that first election, but then the voters demand that you do stuff. I have little doubt that, when Brown runs for re-election in two years, he will be fighting for his life amid a) Democratic prosperity or b) a continuing wave of anti-incumbent anger, ridden by a merciless challenger who will paint Brown as a pretty-boy airhead and a right-wing do-nothing.
Now, Brown could surprise us and accomplish some statesmanlike things, like Olympia Snowe or John McCain, or former Sens. John Chafee, Lowell Weicker, Warren Rudman, and Bill Cohen. The senator-elect is pro-abortion rights, and supports the Massachusetts healthcare law, which is, with its mandatory provisions, the very model of Obamacare. New Englanders have always been suckers for liberal Republicans, and Brown could carve a nice place for himself in history as the guy who revived the breed.
But then he might face a right-wing challenge in the Republican primaries, and who needs that?
Ultimately, Brown will face the same difficulties confronting Barack Obama. The reality is that the United States has three political parties, and only two of them have accountable leaders. There are Democrats who worship the wise technocrats of government, and there are Republicans who venerate the saintly entrepreneurs. And in the big fat middle are the independents, who move back and forth in tough times, looking for instant cures.
To their credit, the independents recognize when it is time for a change, and are more than ready to clean house. And they do moderate the impulses of those on the extremes. Unfortunately, the independents lack a polar star, and can be swayed by the silliest political spam. So once you get into office, and have to actually do stuff, every vote or executive order--even your birth certificate--can be twisted by your ideological foes into proof that you are one sorry, evil individual. Welcome to Washington, Scott.
Needless to say, The Republic will stagger on. That same "liberal" and "socialistic" gang of Democrats (who are bringing us the Afghan war, and just passed one of the largest tax cuts in history, and are about to follow that with another huge tax cut this year) will continue to accept the burden of governing. The healthcare system is broken, and has to be fixed, and sooner or later it will be. And, oblivious to the saga of Scott Brown, the U.S. economy will roar forward, or slide back, and create the political climate in which independents will make their choice, in 2010 and 2012.
The basic fact of politics, in Massachusetts and America, then, now, and forever, is that--barring war--there is no more potent political indicator than the status of our paychecks. It was proven in the national election of 2008, in Virginia and New Jersey last fall, and again last night.