It's been a while since I wrote about Massachusetts politics. Back in January 2007, I fretted that the inauguration of Deval Patrick as the governor of Massachusetts was to transform the Commonwealth into a de facto one-party state. Judging from the fact that three Massachusetts Speakers of the House in a row (all, naturally, Democrats) have been indicted on various corruption charges, this was a valid concern.
The pendulum seems to be swinging back. On Tuesday, Scott Brown, a little-known Republican State Senator, defeated his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coackley, in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy.
Ramifications of Brown's stunning victory for national politics are numerous. In the short term, it imperils the passage of President Obama's health care reform. In the long run, it can change the whole agenda of the Obama administration by virtue of destroying the filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate.
I won't dwell on that. I'd only predict that U.S. Senator Scott Brown will soon become the G.O.P.'s new shining star. It's only a matter of time that someone calls him "presidential material." Sure, why not? With Sarah Palin being vice-presidential "material"…
I don't like Brown. He sounds phony to me, and I don't believe that his willingness to toe the line of the Republicans in the Senate derives from some solid conservative principles. Rather, it betrays his intellectual inability to define Republicanism that would attract independent voters in Massachusetts.
Yet I voted for him. Not because I want him to "kill" Obama's health-care reform (which I support). And not because I want him to preserve filibuster (which I consider as minority rights gone amok). I voted for Brown because I couldn't stand anymore the arrogance of Massachusetts Democrats who believe that "Ted's seat" must go from Democrat to Democrat in the same way as the supreme power in monarchy goes from sovereign to sovereign.
Ted's seat indeed! The Kennedy family has kept this Senate seat for 53 years, and if the leaders of Massachusetts Democrats had their wish, it would have been quietly "transferred" to Ted Kennedy's widow, Victoria. But she refused, and no eligible other Kennedy was available. Well, bad luck. The Democrats then turned to the next best option — another Democrat — deciding to bestow the senatorship upon faithful Democratic apparatchik Coackley. (Given Coackley's involvement in the Amirault case, I couldn't vote for her in any case: it's one thing to have a local DA with a K.G.B. mindset; it's another to send her to the U.S. Senate.)
The election of Scott Brown provides a much-needed reassurance that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is still a republic.
President Obama campaigned for Coackley in Boston on Sunday. Judging from the margin of Brown's victory (52% to 47%), this didn't help, and the president's advisers need to think hard on why Obama's personal appeal seems to be consistently faulting as of late. But this is a secondary thing. The first order of business is to make sure that the president carefully listens to the message Republicans across the country are sending to him:
Yes we can.