Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Republicans in Massachussetts

While Republicans are obviously elated at Scott Brown's victory yesterday, many are already talking about the likelihood that he will lose the next election in 2012. I am a little surprised; I figure that if Brown can win once, he can win again, especially with the advantage of incumbency. Massachussetts has had Republican governors, so a Republican senator does not seem like too much of a stretch.

I once met a Boston-area radio talk show host (I'm sorry that I've forgotten his name). When I heard his profession, I assumed that he was a liberal, but he turned out to be conservative. I prodded him about what sort of audience he had, and he told me that people in Boston were quite conservative on many issues, in spite of being very pro-Democrat. This may seem incredible, but it is fairly well known that blacks, for instance, are conservative on a number of key issues -- abortion, foreign policy, crime -- in spite of voting around 90% for Democrats. I've forgotten what specific issues the talk show host mentioned to me, but I'm sure abortion was one of them. In any case, I think it is at least plausible that there is an undercurrent of conservatism in the state that could keep Brown in office in spite of his being a Republican. I don't deny, of course, that Democrats will put up a stronger candidate next time and run a better campaign, and there is always the possibility of a "macaca" moment that throws calculations off. I expect he will have a tough race, but I think he has a reasonable possibility to get re-elected.

I strongly disagree with Daniel Larison, who says that the election is all about anti-incumbent feeling. For one thing, there was no incumbent in this race. For another thing, I think pure anti-incumbent feeling is very rare; most often, it is "anti-party-in-power" sentiment. Considering the context of the election -- the health-care bill on the verge of passage -- I would be amazed if the voters were not voting in large part on the basis of Brown's promise to be against the bill.

I couldn't help myself from reading the Daily Kos, to see how extreme liberals were reacting to the vote. Activity was way down from the last time I checked (during the past election season, admittedly), and was basically what I expected: the world is ending, the voters were stupid, etc. One person said that it was sad when an election could be decided by not knowing which team a particular athlete was on, referring to Coakley's gaffe about Schilling being a Yankees fan. I have some sympathy for the idea that sports should play no role in elections, but a few thoughts. First, it is always a good idea to know some basic facts about the local sports teams, especially in Massachussetts where the Boston teams have such an avid following. (It would be a different matter in California, which has so many teams.) Second, if Coakley didn't care about Schilling's endorsement of Brown, she should have said so. Once she tried to label him as a Yankee's fan, she had bought into the idea that Schilling mattered, and opened herself up for the mistake. She could just have easily said that the endorsement of sports figures (or actors, singers, and the like) was not important, since they have no special insight into politics.

I also want to give credit to Obama for graciously commending Brown for a well-run campaign, and to Coakley for complimenting him on his election. Although this behaviour is still expected of politicians, it seems to be increasingly rare in the public debate (e.g. Keith Olbermann's insane rant against Brown), and I'm always happy when minimal standards are upheld.

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