As I write, the pundits are all atwitter over the stunning upset pulled off by Scott Brown, the “independent” Republican who made mincemeat out of former state attorney general Martha Coakley in the race to fill the Massachusetts “Kennedy seat” in the U.S. Senate. Democrats are lashing out at each other over their loss, with the national leadership blaming Coakley’s odd decision to go on vacation in the crucial weeks leading up to the election, and the Coakley camp blaming the national party for not coming to her aid sooner. The turning point in the campaign was reached during one of the debates, when Washington “wise man” David Broder—the archetypal Washington insider and professional “centrist”—asked Brown if he would dare to sit in the “Kennedy seat” and pass the deciding vote against Obamacare, which Ted had made his personal crusade in his final days. “Well with all due respect,” responded Brown, “it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat—it’s the people’s seat.”
As they say in the comics: “Ka-pow!”
Brown is no dummy: He knew what he was doing, and it took him but a few moments to plug into the populist rage sweeping across this country—rage against our arrogant political elites, who believe they are entitled to their positions, perks, and privileges. Coakley is accused of not running a good campaign, but the truth is that she barely ran a campaign at all until it was far too late. She took an extended Christmas vacation while Brown was out knocking on doors because she assumed victory was guaranteed. She started out 19 points ahead of Brown in the polls and wound up losing by a 5-point margin.
It was great fun watching the pro-Obama pundits and media try to “spin” this one—like watching a fly try to swim against the current of a tsunami.
But no matter how acrobatic their spin, they can’t evade the meaning of their stunning defeat in that bluest of true-blue states, Massachusetts. Imagine what is going to happen in, say, Nevada come election time. Harry Reid can, and it ain’t pretty.
The meaning of the Brown victory is the same as that of the Obama victory: A perceived outsider triumphs over the entrenched establishment. As I wrote back in December 2007,
The paradigm that best describes what is happening on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond isn’t “right” versus “left,” “Christianism” versus “secularism,” or red-versus-blue state mind-sets, but populist demands for change against our hidebound, insolent, arrogant elites in the media as well as in government.
This was my explanation for the rise of Obama and the upending of the Democratic Party elites, personified by Hillary Clinton and her supporters. With the Brown campaign, the populist demand for change continued to swell, only attached to a different party. This time, the populist wave is even stronger and angrier, because of the betrayal of the Obamaites, who have sold the country out for the benefit of Goldman Sachs, Big Pharma, and their friends on Wall Street.
In one sense, this is a boon to a seemingly revivified conservative movement. The tea-party movement, to which Brown made an effort to reach out, was vindicated, and this will bolster like-minded candidates across the country. But Brown is not really a maverick; his record in the Massachusetts legislature puts him on the left wing of a very liberal Republican Party. To top it off, he’s a party-lining neocon when it comes to foreign policy. The evolving view of many in the tea-party movement that the Afghan crusade is futile is not shared by Brown.
Although the two wars we are fighting weren’t much discussed during the election, Brown does support Obama’s war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and when General McChrystal made a well-publicized request for 40,000 more troops, Brown, who emphasized his service in the National Guard, was all for it.
Prediction: By the time this is published, the “Brown for President” boomlet will have already started to gain momentum. Yes, I know—who ever heard of a state legislator rising to the U.S. Senate after a few years, and then going on to take the White House? Oh, wait . . .
Brown is merely the white Obama, an agent of “change” that is really the same old message, repackaged and served up slightly cold: smaller big government (he endorses a modified version of Obamacare and is silent on the bailouts) and eternal war. The jutting chin, the heroic physique, the blow-dried hair, the posing inside his pickup truck—it all adds up to more Madison Avenue faux-populism.