First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
What Scott Brown's Election Means
Suddenly a charismatic 50-year-old legislator from Massachusetts is propelled to national prominence because he wins, as a Republican, the seat long held by Ted Kennedy.
After Kennedy died, this outcome seemed about as likely as the moon suddenly turning spongy and bouncy. There are some things that don't happen, and since the death of the liberal wing of the Republican Party, it seemed that Republican victories in statewide elections were going to be flukes -- like Mitt Romney's election as governor.
And Brown's election may well turn out to be a fluke.
This is a year of anger and resentment. After Bill Clinton's presidency, the Democrats thought that his formula of constant lying to the American people was one they could follow with impunity.
Since the media, committed to affirmative action and determined to support the election of the first black President, never held Obama to the same standard of investigation that they applied to every other candidate hitherto -- let alone the savage borking that they gave to Sarah Palin -- Democrats thought they were getting away with it.
But for the past year, the American people have seen a president of unbelievable arrogance and run-of-the-mill incompetence make attempt after attempt to govern from the extreme Left -- after pretending to be a centrist who wanted to unite people.
Obama grabbed for control of the census -- for whoever controls the census can fudge the results by "estimating" much larger numbers in states that support his party and make one-party rule permanent.
Even as human-caused global warming was being steadily revealed as a fraud perpetrated by politically-motivated pseudo-scientists and out-and-out politicians with an anti-American, anti-Western agenda, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is grabbing for the power to bypass Congress and destroy the American economy in the name of a phenomenon that simply is not happening, and not terribly dangerous even if it were.
More importantly, Obama obviously wanted to break his ironclad promise to win in Afghanistan -- only when it became clear that even some in his own party would rebel at a premature withdrawal did he commit, halfheartedly and with his fingers crossed, to give the military the troops they needed.
And his ignorance and foolishness and arrogance in foreign relations make George W. Bush look like the clever, strong President that he actually was, once you penetrated the slanders of the Leftist media.
It comes down to the fact that every promise Obama made has been broken. His anti-recession measures have failed, as any sensible person knew they would. He is not even remotely what he pretended to be.
That matters to the voters.
Oh, not to the diehard Left. In fact, they were absolutely counting on Obama to be as big a liar as Clinton -- even bigger, in fact, because after Clinton was repudiated by the election of a solidly Republican Congress in 1994 he really did move to the center.
But Obama was not elected by the extreme Left. However much the elitists of the Left (who always govern in the name of people they would be disgusted to dine with) might feel themselves entitled to rule America, they only win elections nationwide and take control of the federal government when they can fool people into thinking they are not what they are.
Enough people are no longer fooled, and Obama's arrogance and incompetence and dishonesty have used up enough of his personal popularity, that there is zero chance that he could win the Presidency if a new election were held right now -- if the Republican Party could bring forth a candidate to oppose him.
Scott Brown, Republican Hope
Scott Brown's election to the Senate on Tuesday was decisive -- no silliness with recounts in this one, though you can be sure that plenty of Democrats were ready to plunge in and get to work tying up the election in the courts if it had been close.
And Brown's behavior in his victory speech was exactly right.
He was firm on the key (and most popular) aspects of the Republican agenda -- strong defense, anti-terrorism foreign policy, lower taxes, rejection of absurd political correctness, and the elimination of this thrown-together healthcare reform bill that Obama has staked his presidency on.
But he also made clear overtures to independent voters, in essence promising not to be an extremist, but rather to listen to his constituents and represent Massachusetts as it is.
Brown must have put a thrill in the hearts of every Republican except for those already committed to Palin or Huckabee. He's good-looking but not too good-looking. He has an outstanding family and a wife with a real career in the public eye. With twenty-five years of service in the National Guard, he has prepared himself to be a credible leader of the military.
In many ways, he's Mitt Romney -- without the crippling burden of being Mormon. Handsome, elected as a Republican in Massachusetts, obviously smart and politically savvy. But Huckabee can't mount another whispering hate campaign against him the way he did with Romney. And if his credentials on the economic side aren't as good as Romney's (no one's are), he brings extra credibility by his military connections.
So if you think Republican movers-and-shakers weren't trembling with glee on Tuesday night, think again.
The drawback? During election season 2012, Brown will have served only two years in the Senate. After what we're getting from one inexperienced President, who wants another?
If the Republicans can take control of the Congress, or at least humiliate the Democrats enough that they throw out their radical Leftist leadership (cf., Pelosi; the voters of Nevada are probably going to take care of Reid), it is possible that Obama will move strongly to the center and abandon his plans to remake America by end-runs around the Constitution.
A humbled Obama might well be reelectable in 2012. Especially if the Republicans pull a 1964 and pick a nominee who is a "true conservative" instead of one who can be elected nationally.
So if Brown really is what he seems to be -- if we don't find out that he has a mistress or cheated on his taxes or took bribes (why anyone in Massachusetts would bother to bribe a Republican is beyond imagining) -- and if he can actually prove himself capable, not just of putting up a solid center-right voting record in the Senate, but of working with other senators of both parties -- he may very well be a shoo-in in 2016.
But don't for a moment discount the possibility that the Republican Party might turn to him in 2012. Huckabee is unelectable -- he would be a joke as a candidate; the attacks of the media on Palin have been savage, hypocritical, sexist, and unfair, but the fact remains that she is now widely perceived as an extremist.
Romney is still conceivable, but has those vulnerabilities (anti-immigrant, Mormon), but if you consider that he would almost certainly be tapped for a cabinet position, so his economic expertise would still be part of a Brown administration, it would make more sense to nominate Brown and have Romney campaign for him. (A Brown/Romney or Romney/Brown ticket would be unconstitutional -- they come from the same state.)
Whatever happens, barring some disastrous revelation, Brown's election to the U.S. Senate has changed everything in presidential politics.
What About Right Now?
There was a lot of speculation that the Democrats in Massachusetts or in the Senate might go to extreme measures to delay Brown's taking office so that they can ram the health-care bill through while they still have a sixty-vote majority that can block a Republican filibuster.
Here's why that won't happen -- unless the Democrats are politically stupid, which is not likely.
While Obama has staked everything on passing some kind of health care bill, this Massachusetts by-election has changed the equation for everyone else.
Here are the thoughts that have passed through the mind of every intelligent Democrat in the Senate, the House, and the government of Massachusetts.
"The people are angrier than we thought. If a Republican can win the Kennedy seat so decisively, this is not a good time to be perceived as trying to block the people's will.
"If we delay the seating of Brown in any way, even if we are holding to the letter of the law, it will be perceived by the people as cynical political maneuvering and we will guarantee the election of a Republican House and a sharp decrease in the Democratic majority in the Senate.
"Brown's immediate seating will make it unlikely we can pass the healthcare reform bill without obvious cynical anti-democratic maneuvers that will further outrage the voters and make things worse for us in November.
"Obama thinks he needs this healthcare bill -- any healthcare bill -- but do we? What good will it do us, with people this angry, to come into the fall election as the party that forced an unpopular bill on the American people?
"Much better to campaign in the fall saying, 'The Republicans blocked the healthcare bill -- but at least we tried to make the system more fair. Maybe our bill wasn't perfect, but it was something. Elect Republicans and you erase the chance for any kind of real reform of health care.'
In fact, Harry Reid and the sane Democrats in the House (Pelosi is obviously not on that list) may be rejoicing (privately) about Brown's victory on Tuesday.
Brown Has Let Them Off the Hook
Think about it. Now, when the healthcare bill fails, the Democrats in Congress can blame Brown and the voters in Massachusetts. "We didn't fail, President Obama; we would have done it, but the voters took it out of our hands."
In fact, Reid now has an incentive to allow the more extremist House bill to predominate in the conference committee and bring to the Senate a bill that they could not pass even without Brown.
In short, Reid can allow the abortion provisions back into the healthcare bill even though he himself does not vote for pro-abortion bills, because Brown's presence in the Senate means that healthcare couldn't get past a Republican filibuster.
Reid can even let the Republicans have the great show of a real live filibuster, because that filibuster will provide every Democratic candidate with footage of Republicans "blocking our effort to make health care accessible to all Americans."
Right now Republicans think that this will be all to their good, but they're wrong. Remember that the healthcare reform bill was popular at first, before anybody knew what was in it, because the American people really detest the unfairness of the present system in which money is the prime method of triage.
As soon as this bill goes away -- and you can be sure that the Democrats in Congress will start calling it "the Obama healthcare bill" -- then the people can go back to hating the present system.
This is a dream outcome for Democrats in Congress. Democrats who seek reelection in mixed districts and states can prove they tried to enact a popular idea, but blame Obama for the fact that the bill failed. (Democrats in safe districts will, of course, claim the bill for themselves.)
If you think Democrats in Congress will be loyal to Obama, think again. They used him as their tool to coattail their way into solid control of both houses of Congress; they will happily use him as their foil to try to retain as much of that control as possible.
Besides, Congress likes a weak, politically crippled President, regardless of which party he's from. The Congress of the late '70s was as happy to have Carter become so weak as the more recent Congress was when Bush's poll numbers fell so low.
Congress hates being in the shadow of a strong President; having a weak one is like having a substitute teacher. You can get away with so much.
So I will be surprised if the Democrats in Congress delay Brown's seating for even a day longer than necessary. If they have any brains at all, if they can read the handwriting on the wall, then they will salvage what they can in preparing for the fall election by letting healthcare reform die, after a big show of heroic effort.
And if that leaves Obama politically humiliated and damaged, well, so much the better, in the (private) view of Democrats in Congress. He has served his purpose for them. His incompetence at foreign policy bothers them as much as it bothers everyone else who understands American interests abroad. They will be just as happy if his popularity falls so low that in 2012 he doesn't even win renomination.
They have Hillary waiting in the wings, don't they? After Obama, her negatives will be almost forgotten. The black man had his chance; now it's the woman's turn, right?
Every Democrat in Congress would deny ever thinking such a thought. But Harry Reid's comments about race represent exactly the way they were all thinking during the 2008 election campaign. They still think that way.
That was the decision they made back in the 1970s when they reformed their nomination process: in the Democratic Party, it's all about doing the numbers with minorities.
You can't rise to power in the Democratic Party without being keenly conscious of race and gender -- they have bred themselves, by the rules they adopted then, into a party that is by far the most race- and gender-conscious in American history.
And, barring electoral disaster -- a crushing landslide that reduces them to ruin -- they can never, never change those rules. Until then, the Democratic Party has to be aware of the skin color and the absence or presence of a Y chromosome in their nominees in a way that the Republicans do not.
Democrats have made themselves into the tokenist party. Republicans, for all their flaws, have the luxury of not having to give a rat's petoot about the race and sex of their candidates.
Which means that they're not the least bit embarrassed about how white and male Scott Brown is.
So it will be fascinating to watch Brown and find out just who he is.
And, instead of being protected by the press the way Obama has been all along, you can be sure Brown is about to get the borking of his life. He has already proven that he can withstand a lot of vicious stuff and still win.
It will only get tougher now -- but if he comes through it, he won't be running for President the way Obama did, as a stealth candidate about whom no one knows anything. We'll know everything.
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