21 January 2010

Scott Brown's Election Considered

U.S. Senator-Elect Scott Brown from Massachusetts is a loss to the Democratic party caucus, which previously had tireless liberal Ted Kennedy to advance its cause from that seat.

A quick review of his record on issues like abortion, civil liberties, the Obama health care plan, and taxes on the rich, gleaned from Wikipedia (linked above), suggests that he does indeed belong in the Republican party, rather than the Democratic party. But, it is also clear that he politics are more in line with the moderate Republicans who have represented the Northeast in Congress in the past couple of decades, rather than the hard core socially liberal, starve the beast conservatives that have become the norm as the Republican Party has made itself into something of a Southern regional party.

Brown appears to be more moderate than either Jane Norton, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat from Colorado in 2010, or Scott McInnis, who is seeking to be Colorado's next Governor on the Republican ticket. His political ideology appears to be similar to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, who holds the swing vote on that body, which is notable, because Brown will be the effective swing vote in most cases where sixty voters are required to overcome a filibuster now.

Brown's relatively narrow victory, in a non-Presidential year where lower turnout favors the party not in power, also provides reason to believe that Brown will have to make a name for himself as a liberal leaning maverick for his party if he is to have a prayer of being re-elected in 2012, by a Democrat who will have more time to plan a counterattack.

Honestly, Brown seems only a little bit to the right of the Blue Dog Democrats that make the effective majority for liberals in Congress much smaller than it appears despite large Democratic party majorities in both houses, and Brown may quite possibly be to the left of Joe Lieberman whose connection to the Democratic party in which he caucuses as an independent is increasingly attenuated. Brown will find easy company with fellow New England Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine.

The bottom line is that while this weeks upset victory for Republicans in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts was a defeat, that this defeat was not catastrophic. It will be harder to pass highly partisan issues where there is a Republican consensus in opposition, but Brown may seek middle grown if the tone and character of proposed legislation can be adjusted to fit his concerns.

For example, while one of Brown's key issues in the brief race for U.S. Senate was opposition to the current proposal for health care reform, he has said that he supports that arguably more radical reform adopted in Massachusetts, so he does not, like many of his colleagues in his caucus, have an ideological opposition to any kind of health care reform.

Equally important, the points were Brown is conservative are not necessarily the same points where Blue Dog Democrats tend to part ways with their caucus colleagues in conservative direction. So, in some cases, he and the handful of other moderate Republicans may make up for defections of conservative Democrats from their party.

Brown will also likely figure greatly in discussions within the Republican Party over its future. Many within the GOP believe that the secret to saving their party is for Republicans to be more true to their conservative principles. Brown provides a leaving breathing example of progress through moderation and comparative reasonableness, rather than through extremism.

The GOP has lost too many moderates to the ranks of unaffiliated and Democratic voters for one election like this one to completely change the debate. But, Brown does confound those activists within the party who argue that their conservative purification approach is the one and only path for a return to power.

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