Scott Brown wins ‘the people’s seat’
Scott Brown’s stunning victory will be attributed to all kinds of factors. Voter skepticism about a costly healthcare plan too complicated to be easily explained certainly played a role.
But in my view, what resonated most with the citizens of Massachusetts -- and with independents all across our nation -- was Brown’s admonishment that the office was not “Kennedy’s seat” but “the people’s seat.”
Brown seems to get what most politicians appear to have forgotten in their naked grab for power: that the United States of America is not the country of Democrats or Republicans. Rather, it is the people’s country.
It was telling that during Brown’s remarks right after his historic victory, he went out of his way to speak not as the representative of a political party but as an American. He made clear that, in the post-9/11 country we all inhabit, we must figure out some way to put partisanship aside and unite on the critical issues of our time instead of focusing on the far less important matters that divide us.
I decided at a young age, growing up in abject poverty in and around Boston, that the GOP’s core principles of self-responsibility, smaller government and lower taxes were the best fit for me.
Today, I have given up on the Republican Party, identifying instead as an “independent conservative.” To paraphrase President Reagan, in whose administration I was honored to serve: “I did not leave the party. It left me.”
Disappointingly but entirely predictably, soon after the GOP regained control of the House in 1994, it morphed into what it had defeated. Pork, scandal and hypocrisy were the new laws of the land. True conservatives were horrified not only by the behavior of the Republicans in Congress but also by the actions of a Republican White House, which dramatically increased the size of our government and debt.
Sixteen years later, with the moral hypocrisy of Republican politicians such as Sens. David Vitter and John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, it’s clear that things haven’t gotten better in the Grand Old Party.
In fact, things have gotten worse. Much worse. Not just for the Republican Party but for the nation as a whole. That is a reality that Brown may not truly grasp yet, but one he will certainly have to confront in the Senate.
It’s worth noting that during his victory remarks and his television appearances Wednesday morning, Brown went out of his way to stress the pending and growing threat of terrorism. Could this be merely political calculation? Possibly. But we have to hope not.
Healthcare may be the debate of the moment, but far more important to the future of our democracy is staying focused on the war on terror. Former Pentagon colleagues and intelligence operatives tell me constantly that we will get no second chances in that endeavor.
Let’s hope Brown realizes that the kind of partisanship, pork feasts, finger-pointing, hypocrisy and lack of accountability that were accepted in the pre-9/11 world are no longer tolerable. Distraction from the threat of terrorism today just might result in the loss of an American city.
For a quick tutorial on that subject, I suggest Brown call former Sens. Bob Graham and Jim Talent, who head up the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Should he do so, he will learn that it’s only by miracle or dumb luck that we have not already lost a few hundred thousand Americans to terrorism.
With his remarks, Brown really does seem to get that our country and its political parties are broken. During his campaign, he understood and capitalized on the fact that many Americans -- especially the now legendary independents -- are nervous about the hard-left turn President Obama is trying to navigate with his trillion-dollar healthcare package. He hit on the president’s growing list of broken promises, not the least of which was his pledge of complete transparency in the sausage-making process.
For at least this brief moment in time, Brown is giving some Americans hope that in him, they might have someone in Washington who prizes adult leadership and accountability over self-interest and party loyalty.
He beat the machine in Massachusetts. Now we must hope he has what it takes to vanquish the entrenched and destructive special interests in Washington.
Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official. He served as press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole and is the author of three novels.