January 15, 2010

Learning Lessons from Brown

Marc Comtois

Win or Lose, the Scott Brown candidacy in Massachusetts has shown that there is a motivated bunch of people looking to upset establishment apple carts, mostly those being pushed around by the in-power Democrats. Brown has struck a chord with these folks based on his common-sense, man-of-the-people approach. Yet, as both Erick Erickson and David Frum note, Brown is certainly a big tent Republican. Erickson thinks the media is blinded by their own preferred narrative:

Right now the media is missing a really big story. It does not fit their narrative.

The narrative, of course, is that conservatives want a totalitarian pure party with a purity test for the GOP. You want gay marriage? No way. Pro-choice? No support. For government assisted health care options? We don’t recognize you. At least that is what the media claims.

So the media has and is ignoring the alliance between left and right among the GOP in Massachusetts.

Scott Brown is not a conservative. He makes no pretension of being a conservative. He defends Romneycare, which most conservative have rejected. He is pro-choice. But he is for less government interference in the free market and less spending. Like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, he is the perfect sort of Republican candidate for New England.

Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund is encouraging its members to support and donate to Scott Brown.. Marco Rubio is supporting Scott Brown. RedState is supporting Scott Brown. We, well . . . I, suspect he’ll give conservatives heart burn as New England Republicans do. But all of us know he is a good, pragmatic fit for Massachusetts. He’ll vote against Obamacare and he’d vote against a second stimulus. Conservatives do know, despite media and liberal Republican (called “moderate” by the media) claims to the contrary, that the GOP needs 51 seats in the Senate to have a majority.

Conservative and liberal Republicans are united behind Scott Brown. You’d think a mainstream media that has generated millions of words on television, radio, and print about conservatives demanding a pure party would take notice.

But that would shatter their whole narrative. And the last thing anyone wants to do at the next party at the Met or Sally Quinn’s house is mention the latest liberal friend in rehab or that maybe their group think on conservatives is shallow, self-serving, and vain.

Frum makes much the same observation, but, as usual, is attacking his fellow, more conservative Republicans, if preemptively this time.
A Brown victory will rejoice Republicans nationwide. We will revel in it, triumph in it, deploy it, argue from it. Question: will we learn from it?

The Scott Brown who may rescue the country from Obamacare is not a talk radio conservative.

Strong on defense and school choice, opposed to the Obama administration’s signature initiatives, Brown voted in favor of Mitt Romney’s health plan in Massachusetts. He describes himself as pro-choice (subject to reasonable limitations), accepts gay marriage in Massachusetts as a settled fact, and told the Boston Herald editorial board he would have voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor. He calls himself “fiscally conservative and socially conscious.” He’s got an environmental record too: In the state senate he voted in favor of a regional initiative to curb greenhouse gas initiatives.

Most important: Unlike his arrogant, brittle opponent, Brown has shown himself an open and accessible candidate, optimistic and without rancor. In short – he’s running exactly the kind of campaign that we alleged RINOs have been urging on the GOP for months now.

It would be a travesty if Brown’s victory is seized upon as a victory for anger, paranoia, and ideological extremism.

They both make good points that, from a strictly political viewpoint, are worth considering here in Rhode Island. To me, Erickson's tone is preferrable. Frum has embarked on a new career based largely on hyperbolizing the right side of the GOP because, well, they don't agree with him, apparently. Nonetheless, there are a lot of left-leaning Republicans and Moderates in the Ocean State who probably are in line with Frum and think that the "right wing" seizing the RI GOP (via a closed primary) would be the antithesis of the Brown candidacy.

Perhaps, but I think that the moderate GOPers have, in the past, made the mistake of too-closely defining such a pragmatic Republican with the current independent candidate for governor Lincoln Chafee. Chafee is more liberal on social issues than many Rhode Island Democrats (not to mention Brown) and, as for economic issues, his recent gubernatorial kick-off displayed his unfortunate predisposition to have a plan for tax increases before having anything concrete on budget cuts (and is but the latest example of his zero-sum, baseline budgeting version of fiscal conservatism). In short, the term "moderate" came to mean "like Chafee," which is a disservice to other moderates who may not be quite so....quirky. I think conservatives would be able to support a moderate candidate who displayed the same traits and competency as Scott Brown if one were to arise out of the RI GOP and run for national office. At least I would.

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Great post Marc!!Don't look for purity-you might get disappointed.Look for what makes sense.The "progressives"are seduced by the purity trap.They will,in the end,go down with it-unless we do first.We shouldn't.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 15, 2010 11:56 AM

I am a Republican. I may be considered a moderate because of my left of right social positions (not left of center) arising from my libertarian views on personal rights.

I like Brown, I can't stomach Chafee. The differences are stark and easy to see.

Posted by: John at January 15, 2010 12:32 PM

An excellent point on calling Linc Chaffee a moderate is an insult to moderates. Linc WAS the textbook example of a RINO. You had to look hard to find issues he did agree with the GOP on.

Closing the RI Republican Primary has always been about Republicans choosing their candidates. Conservative Republicans, Moderate Republicans, Liberal Republicans, but you have to be a Republican for more than 30 seconds. (90 days under the proposed bylaws change). The small size of the RI primaries has been used to subvert the process. We simply want to remove that as an option.

Phil Hirons, Jr
RI Republican Chairmen's Caucus

Posted by: Phil Hirons, Jr. at January 15, 2010 12:50 PM

Mark Levin has been talking, for most of the week, about the need for conservatives to take back the Republican party, with many good anecdotes and historical references to back his point. If you have time, you can replay his radio programs at http://www.marklevinshow.com/home.asp

Posted by: George at January 15, 2010 3:49 PM
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