Friday, January 22, 2010

Guest Post: What Scott Brown Means for America

Daniel Forrester is a good friend of mine from Washington DC. In this guest post, he analyses Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts earlier this week.

Scott Brown is the next Senator from Massachusetts. The turn of events that makes this event happen is stunning. While the pundits will suggest that this is a complete referendum on Obama, I think that is hype and not the full story. Here we have a candidate, Scott Brown, who defined himself at a time when his opponent literally went on vacation for three weeks. When something looks good to be true in America - a safe Senate seat that was a family heirloom, or even a young talented golfer with apparent super powers, then it is too good to be true. Coakley took the seat for granted.

In the end, all politics is local and there are feelings and dynamics alive in Massachusetts that are just not as national as they may seem at the surface. The symbolism of the win is what is national news - not the actually events within the race itself. This was branding and positioning 101 and the supposed winner and heir to Kennedy had no message to counter the brand.

It reminds me of Ted Kennedy's first run for President. He could never answer the question why he wanted to be President and the people never forgot. In this case the Democrat was never even asked the question as she didn't have anyone interested in asking. How sad a campaign. Clever man Mr. Brown. This early ad shows just how innovative his campaign was. The democrats laughed at him. They are not laughing now:

When the dust and the noise settles, there are some implications for Obama and his agenda and immediately around Health Care.This is a President who has tried to govern as fast as he moved during the campaign. It was former Senator Tom Daschle who told Obama to run for President when he was just in the Senate for a few minutes in 2006. Daschle actually told me once that Obama did not balk at his advice that Obama had to run as waiting even a few years would hurt him as he would be tied to votes and the inertia of being a Senator. In other words you would be tied to your experience and so we have a President with little experience but a once might brand. That mindset has been his hallmark once in power. Yet while governing, one discovers that speed can kill. Today we see that.

Remember in Massachusetts 97% of the people are insured without having Washington drive the agenda. So idea that this was a referendum on the current Senate Health bill, doesn't connect. But there is something alive in this vote that should give pause to this President as he steps on the pedal while burning through billions of dollars.

In the end, one candidate had a good and consistent message while his competitor sat the race out. Does this mean that the Republicans have a set of ideas to govern the country? Does this mean that the party is united? Does this indicate that Republicans have a central theme for 2010 and moving forward? The answer is no and or very unclear. George Bush will haunt this party for the next decade if there isn't a purge of the vapid selfish and big government thinking that has been the Republican party for the last 8 years. Republicans must realize this evening that in America they benefit as there are only two parties. America is as fed up with them as they are with Obama. If there was a meaningful third party in the US, they would wipe the floor with both parties. Reading into this event as a watershed is a big mistake.


ascotinlessables said...

Not sure I agree with a great deal of that. I wonder if he could possibly be a liberal Democrat? Whatever your guest may think, the overreaching, unwanted healthcare plan is dead as it is right now. The Republicans have never been 'one party' and have always existed as a big tent. I don't think that the Bush years will stop a revival of the GOP, remember for the last two years Bush was in office, Congress was controlled by the Dems!
Rather, your guest should reflect on the stunning implications for Pelosi, Read and Obama before writing off the resurgent GOP!

Nigel said...

>>This is a President who has tried to govern as fast as he moved during the campaign<<

On healthcare ?

Given that he took almost a year in a futile effort to achieve some sort of bipartisan consensus, and has been widely criticized for moving way too slowly, that's hard to believe.

He's certainly made mistakes, but that's not one of them.

Bob said...

great article and spot on.

coakely was a prat and lost, rightly so.

crewe and nantwich style lazyness.

also, he hint about 2012 for Brown is an interesting one...... as if he goes right votes wise Mass will struggle to support him.

Also the Boston v Western Mass Dem machines are not aligned and need to be fixed. And there was no heir apparent in Mass for Kenndedy which hurt them.

Thomas Haynes said...

A great article - thanks Iain! I have written two articles on similar issues. They can be found here: and here: I hope you have a chance to have a look, and that your readers will find them interesting. Thanks!

Nigel said...

And he might have added a couple of Will Rogers quotes:

"Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans."

"I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."

Lola said...

Good thoughts well expressed and a welcome perspective.

The comment that the US needs a 'third Party' with new ideas chimes over here too. This implies that both the Republicans and the Democrats are Big Governemnt parties, just like New Labour and the Tories.

There are two alternatives. One, totalitarianism of whatever type - communist or fascist - that takes your fancy or two, freedom. This latter automatically implies very small government and very low state theft of wealth, that is taxes.

Clearly two is better than one. I am not sanguine. Returning our freedom means turkeys voting for Christmas. And boys do we have a lot of turkeys, both in the US Government Executive and Congress
and in our Parliamnent and government.

Moriarty said...

The health care issue "did not connect"? Forgive my stupidity but being an English speaker I don't quite get the point being made here. Brown ran on an anti (federal) health care platform and was elected. What better evidence could there be that it was about health care?

The comments about Bush are indicative of the lazy thinking that surrounds his Presidency. I almost expect to see the following headline: "Democrats blame Busg for Republican Win in Massachussets".

neil craig said...

One factor which hopefully hurt Croakley was her previous involvement in prosecuting so-called abuse scandals (like the Cleveland one hear). Since America's penal system is tougher than ours this involved obviously innocent people dying in jail.

David L Riddick (aka The Aged P) said...

Sorry Iain but your friend seems to be alittle out of touch with reality.....thank goodness for the internet because now we can all get a closer look at American politics without relying on your friend or Toby Harnden or (heaven forbid)the glutinous Mark Mardell.
Exit polling indicated that Obamacare was the predominant factor in Mass voters minds - especially as there own state version, Romneycare, is becoming increasingly unpopular.
As for Obama in a rush he franchised the whole thing out to Congessional Dem leaders Reid and Pelosi rather than get his own cabinet to prersent a framework.
As for Third parties I can't believe that this guy is a follower of Glenn Beck....
Finally he goes through the whole post without mentioning Tea Parties - but then as he appears to be a Beltway boy, no surprise there.
Take a tip, Iain, if you want to know what is happening on the US right keep a regular eye on Hot Air

Anglo-Irish refugee said...

Interesting article, pity about the numerous typos and sub-editing errors.

Anglo-Irish refugee said...

Interesting article marred only by the typos and sub-editing errors.

Rush-is-Right said...

I think it's bollocks. The vote was as clear a repudiation of Obama as there could possibly be. In other spheres it's called 'buyers remorse'. The people who bought the Obama schtick a year ago are bitterly regretting it, and can't wait to see the back of him.

Mark Steyn puts it well here.

Hermeneuticals said...

America will never buy a third party. The peak of this thinking was Ross Perot who garnered just over 20% (i'm not checking the numbers)but then couldnt sustain it.

America is saying we want someone who listens to us that we can believe in. Only a true conseravtive (SMALL C) can fit the bill.

The smartest thing the Democrats have done is marmalize the people who could fill those shoes - Palin, Gingrich, Delay.