And now, a cautionary note

posted at 9:30 am on January 20, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

In the wake of an unimaginable political victory in Massachusetts for Republicans, the celebratory mood is understandable.  Scott Brown came out of nowhere in a period of three weeks to wrest the crown jewel of Democratic Senate seats from Harry Reid, to deny Barack Obama his supermajority, and to give new energy to a movement that had already managed to stall Obama’s signature legislation for months longer than anyone really expected.  Those circumstances have not just launched new energy but also prompted some fantasies that will inevitably come crashing back to Earth.

The wildest of these fantasies, and surely not one meant terribly seriously, promotes Scott Brown as a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2012.  Brown is a formidable presence, as Martha Coakley and the Democrats discovered too late, but do we really need another former state Senator with next to no experience in national politics on a major-party ticket?  Brown has a good sense of fiscal conservatism, but falls closer to Rudy Giuliani than to Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin on social issues, which is one of the reasons Rudy got an invite to Massachusetts and prominent social conservatives did not.

Besides, Brown has to worry about his own re-election in 2012.  He got elected to serve the remainder of Ted Kennedy’s term in office; Kennedy died three years after winning his final term in 2006.  The elimination of Martha Coakley means that Democrats will throw a stronger candidate against him in two years, although Coakley was the one candidate who had won statewide office and had the largest constituency.  The circumstances that allowed Brown to win a decisive victory yesterday may well change significantly by 2012, although so far the White House and Congressional leadership seem to indicate it won’t.

Either way, Brown has to demonstrate independence and policy stands that put him in the best position to keep independents on his side if he has any chance of beating the Democrats while they’re awake.  It’s worth pointing out that 2012 is also a presidential election, and the turnout models are going to turn in a tough direction for Brown because of it.  He’s going to have to campaign for the next two years to prepare for a very tough election, one he’s at best 50-50 to win.

This brings us to the second fantasy, which some are taking a little too seriously.  People have suggested and even demanded that Scott Brown give the State of the Union response next week on behalf of the Republican Party.  He would no doubt make a compelling speech, but he would undermine the sense of independence that he carefully cultivated during his short campaign.  Brown made it clear in his victory speech that he would not forget that:

Thank you very much. I’ll bet they can hear all this cheering down in Washington, D.C.   And I hope they’re paying close attention, because tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken. …

Fellow citizens, what happened in this election can happen all over America. We are witnesses, you and I, to the truth that ideals, hard work, and strength of heart can overcome any political machine. We ran a campaign never to be forgotten, and led a cause that deserved and received all that we could give it.

And now, because of your independence, and your trust, I will hold for a time the seat once filled by patriots from John Quincy Adams to John F. Kennedy and his brother Ted. As I proudly take up the duty you have given me, I promise to do my best for Massachusetts and America every time the roll is called.

He only mentioned the word “Republican” once, in a pledge to work with both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.  Brown’s smart; he knows his audience and his state, and he isn’t likely to make himself the national face of the GOP in his first week on the job.

Finally, Brown’s victory means an end to Harry Reid’s supermajority, which makes the radical agenda he and Obama have pursued unlikely to succeed.  This is a much-needed brake on runaway government expansion, but it isn’t Nirvana by any stretch.  Brown will be likely to vote for a scaled-down version of health-care reform (as would be Snowe, Collins, and perhaps a couple of other Republicans) that still would be the wrong direction, just not as bad as what’s on the table now.  Democrats still have an 18-vote majority in the Senate and a House majority of over 70 seats.  They can do a lot of damage in the remainder of the 111th Session, so we have to maintain vigilance and keep up the energy.

We didn’t cross a finish line last night — we crossed the starting line.

Update: Glenn Reynolds writes a long-form essay to sound a cautionary note as well:

But while Scott Brown could get elected as the anti-Obama figure — and while others will be able to pull that off in the fall — the GOP needs to be sure that it doesn’t just look like it’s lining up for its turn at the trough. Polls show that most Americans want smaller government, even with fewer “services.” Running on a platform that money’s better kept in voters’ own pockets, rather than handed over to special interest logrolling and vote-buying, will work: If it’ll work in Massachusetts, it should work pretty much anywhere. It is a fashionably-gloomy line among some on the right to say that the country’s too far gone in statism and the government-handout parasite culture to support such an approach — but again, if you can make it with this in Massachusetts, you can make it pretty much anywhere.

Of course, what the GOP apparat does is less important nowadays than it was. As I noted before, there’s a whole lot of disintermediation going on here — Scott Brown got money and volunteers via the Internet and the Tea Party movement, to a much greater degree than he got them from the RNC. Smart candidates will realize that, too.

And lies don’t work as well as they used to. Obama promised transparency and pragmatic good government, but delivered closed-door meetings and outrageous special-interest payoffs. This made people angry. If Republicans promise honesty and less-intrusive government, but go back to their old ways, the likelihood that the Tea Party will become a full-fledged third party is much greater. Are the Republicans smart enough to realize this? I don’t know. The Democrats weren’t smart enough to look at Virginia and New Jersey and realize that what they were doing was a mistake that would backfire.

Good advice; hopefully the right people take it.

Update II: Jazz Shaw says that Republicans should remember that Brown is a lot like the Republicans that used to get elected in the Northeast:

But as you mull these things over, I ask you to ponder one other question. Is Scott some sort of mystical creature, never before seen in the GOP, sent down from on high to confound you? No, he is not. Scott is actually quite typical of the kind of Republicans we elect to various offices in the Northeast all the time and have been doing so since the days of Eisenhower. Call him a moderate. Call him a RINO. Call him whatever you like. But he came to the race knowing exactly what he had to do in order to win as a Republican in this part of the country. Plenty of Republicans do the same thing every season. And they are consistently pilloried for it across the conservative blogosphere.

When Scott Brown turns out to be pretty much at the same lunch table with Olympia Snow, don’t act surprised. And if you can manage to hold your temper in check, don’t browbeat him for it. That’s how we roll in the Northeast. You were never going to elect a firebreathing, bible belt conservative in that seat. But you did get a win… an important win.

I’d put Brown more in the mode of a Judd Gregg, but Jazz is right about learning to elect Republicans who share core values on fiscal policy that can actually win elections.


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Comments

lied i lied at every townhall in sight!

ted c on January 20, 2010 at 12:27 PM

There is a difference between laws that address contending rights and laws that deal with private choices. People differ on which category abortion Obamacare/Cap&Tax/Amnesty/bailouts falls.

dedalus on January 20, 2010 at 11:41 AM

Doesn’t make ’em right.

Christian Conservative on January 20, 2010 at 12:28 PM

Which is why Stalingrad is the better term to describe what happened last night….

chemman on January 20, 2010 at 12:19 PM

This is a propos as well:

Hitler Finds Out Scott Brown Won Massachusetts Senate Seat:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4aQCiRjvZY

Greek Fire on January 20, 2010 at 12:30 PM

ted c on January 20, 2010 at 12:27 PM

The EIB party zone is in full swing!

cmsinaz on January 20, 2010 at 12:31 PM

franks63 and ajacksonian, I agree with you both.

I think the main thing the Scott Brown victory was about was corruption. If we can get some semblance of what the Constitution says that government is supposed to be we can stop the backroom deals, lies, changing rules at will, politicization of law enforcement, and government invasion into every facet of our lives.

That has to be the focus right now. When those things are set right we can have legitimate conversation on the finer nuances of law. Right now we’re fighting for the survival of this form of government in our country. The other debates can wait until the process itself is honest enough to handle the debate.

justincase on January 20, 2010 at 12:31 PM

LOL, dedalus and the 3/5’s Compromise.

You belong with the party of Jim Crow, not the GOP.

atheling on January 20, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Take it up with James Madison. I wasn’t there. However, without the compromise the 13 states break into at least 2 countries, there is no Lousiana Purchase, and probably the war of 1812 turns out differently.

dedalus on January 20, 2010 at 12:36 PM

Thank you Ed. Some even suggest he should run with Palin. Come on, get real. We are euphoric understandably. But let’s take note why. He just took the seat previously controlled by Kennedys and hardcore Liberals. It was unimaginable but he’s acceptable to those folks in MA only because he’s not about being all GOP and stuff. A little perspective and moderation people. I’m glad he won. Hope he doesn’t turn into a Grahannesty, McCain, Specter, Collins, Snowe type Senator. Past that, I’m not actually voting for him in any primary soon.

Sultry Beauty on January 20, 2010 at 12:39 PM

Mitt Romney Continues His Golden Streak: http://mittromneycentral.com/2010/01/20/mitt-romney-continues-his-golden-streak/

dnlchisholm on January 20, 2010 at 12:42 PM

dnlchisholm on January 20, 2010 at 12:42 PM

He knows how to campaign, he knows how to build coalitions. He also appears to be a good judge of a politician’s character and electability.

Holger on January 20, 2010 at 12:48 PM

dedalus would have sided with the Court on its decision that blacks are not “people”. He would have sided with the Nazis that Jews are not “people”.

dedalus, you are on the wrong side of history, and shame on you.

atheling on January 20, 2010 at 12:14 PM

If you want to overturn Roe, I’m fine with that. Leave abortion law up to the states. You’ll get 50 different answers, likely none of which move illegality to the point of conception.

It would have been better for SCOTUS to leave the abortion question as part of the political process and force legislators to take positions in each election. The country would be better off.

dedalus on January 20, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Roe v. Wade is not going away anytime soon and Pro-Life Conservatives need to adopt their Pro-Life stance to the reality.

Holger on January 20, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Oh? Supreme Court justices live forever? That’s all it comes down to, a different set of judges.

Chris_Balsz on January 20, 2010 at 12:52 PM

The aftermath of this kind of victory is concerning because conservatives may retreat back into apathy. Keep your foot on the gas, friends.

ted c on January 20, 2010 at 12:55 PM

We didn’t cross a finish line last night — we crossed the starting line.

You are so right, Ed. I hope the Tea Party has more partys this year and get more people to see and understand what is wrong with what is going on.

Mirimichi on January 20, 2010 at 1:01 PM

Stalingrad was the end of Blitzkrieg for the Germans: in attacking the city so hard and concentrating on taking it, instead of isolating it, they so destroyed the city infrastructure as to make it difficult to pass through. What happened after that was amazing. Stalingrad became the killing ground of the snipers, where sniping out enemies on the onsies-twosies basis became the norm as heavy vehicles could not pass and ground troops made great targets for snipers.

The rollback after Stalingrad was Kursk. The tank battle at Kursk played defense-in-depth to its greatest extent, overextended the German Panzers and then allowed the armored counter-attack by the Soviets. Stalingrad held things up, Kursk turned the tide.

The lesson: never try to take the big objective, but encircle it and starve it out while taking out its support system. That is warfare of logistics, not main battle, and it works very well. If you want to isolate DC do you send in snipers? Wait for the push around it to come and counter-attack? Or encircle it, deprive it of its supplies and starve it down and out?

Snipers are necessary. In detail fighting…

Kursk turned the tide. En mass fighting…

If the tide swept around it and the Germans got the southern oilfields permanently, we would have a very different world today. Logistical fighting to deprive the enemy of the means to fight.

Each wins in its own way.

Choose very carefully which way you wish to go as that determines the likelihood of outcome. Do you have better snipers? Can you build up a counter-attacking force and sucker your opponent into an unwinnable battle? Or can you pass by a political objective to get an economic one that wins?

I prefer to stop up DC, move around it and remove its support from the States. It is a harder, longer fight, but done well it is as good a path to victory and depends less on individual fights than getting to the larger objective.

ajacksonian on January 20, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Obama/Reid/Pelosi/Dems:

Hey, what’s that “Brown” thingy in the punch bowl?!

ReagansRight on January 20, 2010 at 1:18 PM

What do you mean by “remove its support from the states”, ajacksonian? The Tenth Amendment route at the state level? Or something else?

justincase on January 20, 2010 at 1:35 PM

Remember all the nasty names you had for Dede Scozzafava during the NY-23 debacle? If you put a dress on Scott Brown […] he IS Dede.

Listen, no offense Jazz, but bulls#it.

Scott Brown was affiliated with ACORN? He was endorsed by Kos? He vote 95% Democrat?

No Jazz. No. When a Republican is called out as being to the LEFT of the Democrat by none other than Markos Moulitsas, you have a Republican In Name Only.

I don’t get how this is so FRIGGING hard to figure out.

Scott Brown is not a RINO, as RINOs and moderate Republicans are NOT the same thing.

Conservatives understand the need for moderate Republicans in the Northeast. We really do. I swear.

And thus we find the problem with people like Jazz Shaw. Jazz and moderates like him do themselves a grave disservice when they declare that people like Scott Brown, and other moderate Republicans, are identical to people like Dede Scozzafava. Because to Conservatives, that makes them MORE likely to reject the concept of moderation, not less.

Instead, you should be focusing on the things that differentiates people like Scott Brown from Democrats. Things like lower taxes, smaller government, some social issues if he’s got them, if not, hey, at least you can focus on SOMETHING that differentiates him from the Democratic candidate.

Also, the Conservative candidate may have lost, but he would’ve won if Scozzafava had withdrawn, like you expect all true conservatives to do.

So screw that I say. Scott Brown is a conservative that just got elected to Massachusetts. Don’t even TRY to claim him as your own, RINOs.

apollyonbob on January 20, 2010 at 1:37 PM

MainelyRight on January 20, 2010 at 9:54 AM

In the words of Bill Bilicheck, “we’ll take a day to celebrate this one and then it’s on to the next one.”

This is the day to celebrate and enjoy what just happened. Picking at scabs is for tomorrow.

TheBigOldDog on January 20, 2010 at 1:53 PM

Doh! Bill Belichick

TheBigOldDog on January 20, 2010 at 1:54 PM

…do we really need another former state Senator with next to no experience in national politics on a major-party ticket?

Probably not. But this entire thing has so many degrees of irony in it, I won’t be surprised if he is encouraged to try for a run. From my view here at the starting line (good one, Ed), I would rather he just stay put and keep some balance.

redwhiteblue on January 20, 2010 at 2:35 PM

You are so right, Ed. I hope the Tea Party has more partys this year and get more people to see and understand what is wrong with what is going on.

Mirimichi on January 20, 2010 at 1:01 PM

As long as the Tea Party Movement is a racist, anti-Obama movement it will continue to be irrelevant. It they start to focus on Liberal vs. Conservative issues then they may be able to be effective.

Currently the Tea Baggers main goal is to see Obama birth certificate. That simply is not a winning political position. Articulate, intelligent conservatives will not come from that movement.

Decider on January 20, 2010 at 3:00 PM

Decider on January 20, 2010 at 3:00 PM

What planet are you from, exactly?

Only in your deluded fantasy is the Tea Party Movement “irrelevant.” Last night’s election results established its relevance beyond question. Go ahead and do your best to trivialize and marginalize it. You and others like you who have underestimated it seal their own fate.

Someone, give this person more Kleenex. Eyes must be red from crying by now.

OneVision on January 20, 2010 at 3:15 PM

What planet are you from, exactly?
Only in your deluded fantasy is the Tea Party Movement “irrelevant.” Last night’s election results established its relevance beyond question. Go ahead and do your best to trivialize and marginalize it. You and others like you who have underestimated it seal their own fate.

Someone, give this person more Kleenex. Eyes must be red from crying by now.

OneVision on January 20, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Brown did not win by calling Obama the N-word or holding signs of Obama as a witch doctor. Brown has little in common with the Tea party movement other than he is a Republican.

Decider on January 20, 2010 at 3:27 PM

What doesn’t kill the Marxists makes them stronger.

Let’s hope this is a stake in the donkey’s heart…but I want to see it laid out in the rising sun, lying on a bed of garlic and being hit repeatedly with a lawn sprinkler spraying holy water before I get my hopes up.

Dr. ZhivBlago on January 20, 2010 at 4:28 PM

Brown did not win by calling Obama the N-word or holding signs of Obama as a witch doctor. Brown has little in common with the Tea party movement other than he is a Republican.

Decider on January 20, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Keep f***ing that chicken, Champ.

holygoat on January 20, 2010 at 4:29 PM

Brown did not win by calling Obama the N-word or holding signs of Obama as a witch doctor. Brown has little in common with the Tea party movement other than he is a Republican.

Decider on January 20, 2010 at 3:27 PM

And when Adm. Onoshi realized Japan had lost, he got in a plane and tried to hit the Missouri before it could reach Tokyo for the ceremony.

But instead of a blaze of glory he just splashed down into pointless oblivion.

But I digress–you were saying?

Chris_Balsz on January 20, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Decider, your tired talking points are so yesterday…You used to make me laff–now you just make me tired. Go away untill you can prove you have more use for that half-a-brain than figuring out how to use the velcro closures on your shoes…

lovingmyUSA on January 20, 2010 at 4:55 PM

ajacksonian on January 20, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Good analogy.
And the logistics is exactly right. It wins every time. A year ago, all was well and exuberance in the D’rat camp. The logistics happened. Tea parties, and secret 1000 page bills and “He lies!” Not one a direct blow but each taking its toll. It was the political equivalent of logistics. Equipment and skills that kept others on the front lines. Like NO Reps voting for Cap’n Tax or Death Care.

Now it’s VA and NJ and MA. One state at a time until Nov. The logistics for this is not just money, it is e-mails, calls, letters and more “constituent meetings”. It is keeping the pressure on even folks like Boxer and Pelosi and Reid.

Now let’s wear the ba$tards down.

Caststeel on January 20, 2010 at 5:27 PM

Ed, you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Along with Obamacare he has clearly stated his position on all major issues affecting Congress this year. He promised to work with the other side for the good of the PEOPLE. That does not mean he is a RINO. The PEOPLE are not abandoning health care reform. Take care of the uninsured, no insurance for illegals, intra state competition, no abortion coverage, no bribes, no benefits for illegals, etc. The Republican Party is viewed as the party of no. If Obama and the Democrats wise up (and I seriously doubt it) and take the middle road and the credit, as Clinton did, you can forget about a Republican sweep. If you work with the Democrats you will show that the Republicans also are working for the good of the PEOPLE. That is the mantra for winning elections. Make the Democrats the party of no.

Big Nicholas on January 20, 2010 at 5:45 PM

I for one will be emailing Scott Brown’s Senate office regularly telling him not to let his social moderatism/liberalism get the better of his fiscal conservatism.

What most people hated about the RINOs is that they were neither socially nor fiscally conservative. It’s lacking a strong sense of the latter quality that pisses most conservatives off.

That social liberalism is tied to fiscal liberalism is no surprise. Social liberalism is an extremely expensive proposition because it demands subsidies to continue its prevalence.

BKennedy on January 20, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Whoa! Settle down, Ed!

You are jumping the gun!

Hold yer horses and where`s the fire?

But the message is clear:

It is good that Brown prevailed, but the Republic is still in danger and we must be ever vigilant . . . .

Wherever possible, states need to assert their rights.

We are a great country because we are (mostly) free. NOT because of the Government.

I just don`t know if we can reverse the trend of big government going super nova. It already has if you read the Constitution. It went super nova decades ago.

I hope we can keep our liberty.

Liberty!

Sherman1864 on January 20, 2010 at 7:27 PM

Posted this at Michelle’s site, reposting it here:

First, I live in MA and I’ll put up my conservative creds against anyone on this site, including it’s lovely hostess.

I voted for Scott Brown. I know he is not nearly as socially conservative as I am. He may also be less fiscally conservative, but not to any degree I find immediately troubling.

This is not a GOP victory. It is, however, a conservative victory. Massachusetts may have a massive Democrat party affiliation advantage, but most its people are still, by and large, right of center. We have conservative Democrats that would make some Southern Republicans blush.

Scott Brown’s message was a very simple, conservative, arguably even federalist message. Oppose ridiculous spending, oppose abuses of process, and leave each state to run their affairs how they like. Provided he lives up to his promises, he will be a more powerful conservative voice than many in the Senate, including long-timers with more “official” conservatism like say John Kyl.

So he has a lot of potential, as well as many chances to come up short. But he deserves a chance to live up to those promises and not be called a RINO based on Massachusetts electing him.

BKennedy on January 20, 2010 at 7:45 PM

His GOP senate colleagues need to get Brown established as a star as soon as possible. like Hillary was put up front right away by the Dems when she was elected as junior senator from New York. There is only a short time when his term is up for re-election and you can bet the Dems in MA will be gunning for him.

bayview on January 20, 2010 at 7:59 PM

What most people hated about the RINOs is that they were neither socially nor fiscally conservative. It’s lacking a strong sense of the latter quality that pisses most conservatives off.

That social liberalism is tied to fiscal liberalism is no surprise. Social liberalism is an extremely expensive proposition because it demands subsidies to continue its prevalence.

BKennedy on January 20, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Exactly right. Take amnesty. The cost of social liberal showboating by insulated arrogant elites like McCain and Graham falls solely on their constituents. As entrenched wealthy elites, McCain and Graham will never feel the destructive results of their ego maniacal grandstanding on the issue. They just want to bask in the politically correct street cred of the whole sham.

Their existing constituents? Ah screw ’em, they’re just a bunch of heavy brow ridge lowlifes in their minds.

Django on January 20, 2010 at 9:21 PM

The aftermath of this kind of victory is concerning because conservatives may retreat back into apathy. Keep your foot on the gas, friends.

ted c on January 20, 2010 at 12:55 PM

Will you retreat to apathy, ted? No? They why do you think we would that we need your admonition? Please don’t think us less able to see as clearly or as far as you or Ed. I enjoy your posts and value your opinion, as I do Ed’s, but I tend to recoil when the “smartest guy in the room” starts lecturing me on the obvious.

SKYFOX on January 21, 2010 at 8:38 AM

I just wanted to thank Ed for this dose of reality. I fear that many people are trying to paint Brown as something he’s not and will be disappointed. Personally, as I have said repeatedly, I just hope he doesn’t turn into Snowe or worse…Specter. Still, he is better than a far Left Dem.

Deanna on January 21, 2010 at 8:59 AM