Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tracking the Brown Meteor


Current conventional punditry here is delighted with its newest consensus. That would be that regardless of the outcome of next week's special election for U.S. Senate, MA Republicans and candidate Scott Brown win. The idea is a good, better or great showing by PlayBrown would vivify the trivial GOP here and likely lead to high statewide office for him, like governor.

This is a state where 51% of voters are unenrolled in any party. This seems akin to their disdain for signaling turns when driving. Never give the enemy information on where you're heading. In reality, of course, the vast majority of voters here go Dem in an election. They are made of the same wishy-washy stuff as their moderate Dem elected officials. On the GOP side, 12.5% of voters are Republicans and in the most generous polls of active and likely voters, that climbs only to 16%

Brown's brilliant and assured future is a very appealing construct, but both facile and very short-sighted. I think we like the idea of Brown and the elephants getting strong. That would liven up the facade of politics here, if not the interior. In reality, the General Court has many Republicans disguised as DINOs. Senators and representatives, particularly from the less urban, nearly all white, areas are Republicans by New England standards. They form a kind of fifth column that helps the lethargic non-progressive Dems in the legislature stay stagnant and stifle needed systemic improvements.

So let's assume Brown does very well next Tuesday, like within 10 points of Dem Martha Coakley. The pundits have it that inside and outside conservative donors will pour cash into the MA GOP. That will lead to more state legislators, a good chance at the freed-up statewide offices, and likely a governorship for the winning-losing candidate Brown.

I call fantasy on that. Mid- and long-term Brown can only be destructive to the GOP here (call me on this in a year and two years if I'm wrong).

The elegant possibility of a resurgent GOP here understandably intrigues us all. Both for our Gov. Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama, we see parallel dynamics. Both came into office with hippie-dippy promises of getting everyone to work together for the common good — after all, both pols claimed, they had done that elsewhere. Then once in office, both struggled mightily to get those necessary compromises, and in the case of Patrick, were thwarted in every single effort to get the funding and other resources to correct decades of problems. So far, with two years for Patrick and one for Obama, citizens have been unforgiving in demanding that they fix long-term trouble in a relative flash.

So, sure, we hold our the typical national fantasy of grand times just over the hill. As a group, we voters do like to delude ourselves. It was a lot of years ago (1928) when Al Smith was the Democratic Presidential candidate. He said, "The American people never carry an umbrella. They prepare to walk in the eternal sunshine."

For our local GOP though, their Cosmo flasher does not presage great things. Let's all face the too clear fact that he is terrifically out of place and out of touch. For this state and this century he has virtually all the wrong positions — pro-war, pro-gun, pro-torture, pro-rich tax cuts, anti-choice, anti-marriage equality, anti-health reform...it goes on and on and on.

If the GOP hooks its wagon to this star, it will find the fragile vehicle incinerated all too quickly. In this foreshortened Senate race, Brown has benefited immensely from two factors. First, people have not really gotten to know him and examine both his positions and miserable record as a state senator. Moreover, the cautious and timid Coakley has not brought the game to him.

This was his freebie. He got to commit one foul after another without penalty. No matter what the next go will be for him, he is certainly to be shocked by being held responsible for what he has said and done as a pol.

For certain, the GOP needs champions here. Yet, as they do nationally, they need to stop imaging that the delusional clich├ęs of Reagan and Bush the Lesser will work again. Americans were fooled too often and too long. They need a less extreme hero than the winger Scott Brown.

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