Time will tell

Massachusetts has itself a shiny, new Republican Senator. As I watch the Democrats running for the hills and the prospects for meaningful health reform dwindle, perhaps I can console myself that at least Scott Brown will do his part to make the Senate GOP caucus a little easier on the eyes. Not much, but I'll take whatever silver lining I can get.

And now, of course, we have to wonder what kind of Senator he will be. Jonathan Bernstein (of whom I had never until Sully linked to him) explores the question:
Brown could serve out his two-plus years and then lose; he could win reelection and have a longer Senate career (Schaller suggests Dorgan as a model, but I think a better comp for that would be Al D'Amato); or he could emerge as a national contender. In addition, this very useful post by Boris Shor places Brown just to the left of Olympia Snowe, based mainly on his votes in the Massachusetts legislature.

For my purposes, I'm going to dispense with option #3. While a rapid rise from the state to the national Senate to a national candidacy has recent precedent, there's already a supposedly moderate Republican from Massachusetts gunning for that spot, and his name rhymes with Nitt Pomney. He's already done the work of shredding his moderate record and already has the campaign infrastructure in place for another run. America doesn't need two blandly handsome Massachusetts Republicans, thanks.

So, that leaves choices 1 and 2.

If it's possibility #2 (try to have a Senate career), then Brown has the almost impossible task of keeping his voting record moderate enough to appear acceptable to the people who just voted for him yesterday, but conservative enough that his core supporters stick with him. Conservatives, eager to give Obama a black eye and get a 41st Republican in the Senate, were willing to overlook any signs of moderation, and Brown was able to oblige them by offering vague conservative rhetoric (it helped that he didn't have an opponent able to pin him down on anything). Now, he'll have a voting record. For a while, his giant-killer status will shield him from normal conservative wrath, but it's anyone' s guess if it's possible to walk that tightrope for long.

That leaves possibility #1, one-and-out. My guess is that this is where he ends up. He winds up around where Judd Gregg is: on the left edge of the mainstream conservatives. He won't be caucusing with Nelson, Lieberman, Snowe and Collins to form a five-Senator bloc to negotiate for "moderate" things; instead, he'll vote with the Republicans against 60 or 61 vote coalitions, but he'll sometimes join Democrats as the 63rd, 64th, or 65th vote. And then barring another fluke he'll go down to defeat in 2012, and if he's lucky and the Republicans win the White House, he'll get to be Secretary of One of the Many Departments Republicans Don't Care About. Or maybe he gets a show on MSNBC (he'd be too unreliable for Fox). In my reading of his campaign platform plus his voting record, that (Judd Gregg's voting record, not MSNBC) is probably where he's most comfortable.

Over at the Gents', E.D. Kain is sanguine:
I may be wrong about Brown – he may not be the reformer many of us dissidents would like, but he’s such a change in tone and style it’s been a relief seeing him actually succeed, defying not only all the odds, but also the current Republican strategy. Whether he is a mindless Bush Republican as Sullivan has labeled him, or whether he is actually going to change things for the better in the GOP is hard to say – but the stylistic shift he represents is substantial and may be in and of itself a significant step forward for conservatives.

And yes, even though it may cause healthcare reform to die in its tracks, I still think that the right person won in Massachusetts. I also think that there are ways the Democrats could scale back reform and get some conservatives on board with a much more modest, more market-friendly reform that still helps a lot of people who need help.

For my part, I don't really know Scott Brown from a hole in the wall. (And, unless you live in Massachusetts and happen to follow politics very closely, neither do you.) Clearly his opponent was too complacent and inept to win a spot in the Senate with every possible advantage, so it's probably for the best that she's not going. Lord knows, we have plenty of complacent and inept people there as it is. And I've said in the past that I would be thrilled if there could be a return to sanity in the GOP, as there is a genuine value to conservatism as part of the political discourse.

So, if Brown actually tries to hew to a moderate model, and actually brings about some real reform to his party, then more power to him. I am a deep shade of skeptical, and I don't think the GOP is particularly interested in making any changes at this point. I fully expect Brown to add his voice to the chorus singing "Obstruct!!" at the top of its lungs. But I would love to be wrong.


  1. I think the GOP is undergoing quite the change. The lesson is out there; fiscal conservatism, social libertarian. Cindy McCain and Darth Chaney have each done more for gay rights than President Thomas-Jefferson-with-super-powers. The Dems take your vote for granted, and know that you aren't considering voting Rep. So you don't vote, that costs a D candidate 1 vote. But if you were inclined to punish the Ds, you should vote R, and it would in effect cost 2 votes for the D candidate (your lost vote, plus your vote for the opponent). This position of refusing to consider Rs because of the stereotype that Rs are hostile to gays isn't doing your community any political favors.

  2. Gay rights and Brown...... Dan hate to tell you this but Brown signed onto legislation in MA that would, among other things force teachers to receive permission from parents before they could use words like Lesbian and Homosexual in their classroom. This came from my better half after speaking with his sister, who by the way sits on the bench. I really look forward to seeing how this guy votes when he gets together with the likes of Mitch McConnell. GJ If you believe the R's have anything but disdain for Gay persons get your medication changed. My entire life I have seen nothing but hatred from that party. Nuf' said. By the way, Gay communities in MA had an over 85% Coakley vote. When Cheney had a chance to do something he was no better that Bush. And Cindy, well just because she is now against Prop 8 I ask where was she when it mattered? Stop spinning R crap! While I am on a rant about the R's how about yesterdays ruling from the Supreme Court that will allow unlimited contributions to elections. Talk about buying our government, which is exactly what is going to happen. We have turned a corner on corruption as both a people and a government. Government elections now will be bought and paid from by big business for the first time in 100 years. They overturned over 100 years of statute and precedent, and declared that corporations can spend all the money that they want to buy elections. In fact, these five men in robes declared that they have a constitutional right to do so.

  3. Two responses, John:

    1) There is no question that there are Republicans who are coming around on gay rights issues generally, and marriage equality more specifically. For that, I am genuinely pleased and grateful. But there is no question of there being parity between the two parties on gay rights. No honest observation of how the issue is handled can yield a different conclusion.

    2) There are many, many other issues where my position and that of the GOP diverge. The current iteration of Republican principles is anathema to me. Call me when they get sane.

    And UJ, I'm not what you'd call "hopeful" about Brown. But, if he votes like a hard Right Republican, then he'll only be in the job for a couple of years.

  4. Gay communities in MA had over 85% Coakley vote.

    And that's why the Ds take you for granted. If that was more like 35-45%, then you might see a few promises kept. Assuming the Rs didn't beat them to it.

    Unlimited contributions? Of course that's wrong, everyone knows that political speech must be highly regulated -- well, except for newspapers, TV, magazines, and candidates who break their word to take public financing. But radio, yes, I'd include radio in the must-be-regulated list.

    Dan, I predict Mr. Brown will not vote hard-right, unless you define hard-right to mean "fiscally sane." Let's see what he actually does before writing him off.

  5. GJ, Ever heard of the saying if you piss in my face don't expect me to smile? Well that sums up the R's and Gays.

  6. Let's see here, what have the DEMS done to help the gay community:

    1) Defense of Marriage Act - DEMS (Bill C.)
    2) Don't Ask Don't Tell - DEMS (Bill C.)
    3) Ensure that a gay man employed by the federal government can't share his benefits with his parter (BO et all)

    Wow - you are right, those DEMS really do stick up for you (just like the inner city black community - you vote for them and they don't do a THING for you). Give the GOP a try, we might surprise you. We are the party of the future, so join our big tent. Don't listen to Rush, Beck, A. Coulter and the rest - listen
    to a local rep now and then.


  7. Dart, All the aforementioned things are done on a national level. The local rep can's do squat. DADT....National, DOMA.... National. Federal benefits come under DOMA a highlight of the Republicans, who twisted many arms to have it passed.... NOT the Democrats. On our local level, when YES on 1 campaign was on here in Maine, the entire Republical Senate voted against it. So much for your local level.

  8. I meant have a conversation with a member of the GOP (instead of assuming or reading the papers). I understand DADT and DOMA are national, just don't assume that every member of the GOP is against gay people - it's like saying every DEM likes abortions and wants to pay higher taxes, it's a very silly thing to base an opinion on I have found.


  9. Dart.... We did have conversations with them. Take for example Mr. McCormack our local senator. I would have better luck explaining Shakespeare to a cat. It was met with the age old R reply about his constituents and his inability to justify special rights. Give me a break. Do you think Gay persons did not do everything to try and convince our fellow citizens (R's and D's) it was the right thing to do? Dart it is not a perfect world but in this world the R's in power do not see equal rights and loving and committed gay families; they see special rights! Horseshit!