As the saying goes, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately, it appears that the people of Massachusetts have an extremely short memory. Little more than a year after Americans relegated the hapless Bush Administration to the dustbin of history, voters in The Bay State seem ready to make the same mistake that brought George W. Bush to power in 2000: choosing style over substance.
Riding a wave of misplaced, “populist outrage,” an obscure state senator and darling of the Tea Party set named Scott Brown stands poised to upset Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in today’s special election; a contest that will decide the Senate seat vacated by Democratic icon Ted Kennedy when he passed away last August.
The media’s preferred narrative for this campaign depicts Brown as an exciting, charismatic, crusader who understands the public’s dissatisfaction with President Obama and his “big government” agenda. Meanwhile, Coakley is characterized as a hopelessly bland, liberal, bureaucrat who’s lost touch with “regular folks.”
If this storyline sounds familiar that’s because it bares a striking resemblance to one that made the rounds during the 2000 Presidential Election. As some of us still remember, that contest quickly devolved into a referendum on which candidate voters would rather have a beer with, George W. Bush or Al Gore. The ensuing decade provided ample evidence that relatability isn’t always the best criterion for governing.
As far as I can tell, Brown’s most notable accomplishments include driving a pick-up truck with over 200,000 miles on it, posing nude in a 1982 issue of Cosmo and raising a daughter who once competed on American Idol. While these experiences have (for some reason) endeared him to the citizens of Massachusetts, they hardly qualify Brown for admission into our nation’s most exclusive governing body.
More troubling still are the remarks Brown made during the 2008 campaign, when he implied that then-candidate Obama was born out-of-wedlock and made disparaging remarks about his deceased mother (like most tea partiers, Brown is a real class act).
The most frustrating aspect of Brown’s rise, however, is that he’s ideologically bound to oppose the interests of the blue-collar and middle-class voters who comprise his base. Should he prevail, Congress can forget about passing essential legislation like health care reform, improved financial regulations, enhanced consumer protection laws, a cap-and-trade climate change bill and a second round of economic stimulus. The only policies Republicans like Brown are willing to say “yes” to these days are tax cuts that disproportionately favor the wealthy.
If the people of Massachusetts ignore history by electing Scott Brown to the Senate, I anticipate a serious case of buyer’s remorse setting in shortly thereafter. It won’t take long for citizens of that notoriously blue state to realize that they’re stuck with an obstructionist, GOP hack eager to repeat the tragic follies of the Bush-era. When that happens, we’ll see if anyone still wants to have a beer with him.