The People's Seat
By Matt Smith
The shot heard ‘round the world’ has now come from Massachusetts twice. Two weeks ago very few people were talking about the special election in Massachusetts. Conventional wisdom had taken over that the Bay State would remain blue and a Democrat would occupy the Senate seat just like one has since the 1950s. The Washington Post print edition this morning reads “Republican wins Kennedy’s seat”. The headline alone confirms the media and liberal elite of Washington missed the point of last night’s Massachusetts Senate Election.
A key turning point in the campaign for Scott Brown was during the last debate on January 10, when in response to the opening question regarding “Ted Kennedy’s seat,” he responded, “This is not Ted Kennedy’s seat, this seat belongs to the people of the State of Massachusetts.” When you look at the statewide results there is no denying the people of the Commonwealth agreed with Scott Brown that the seat belonged to them.
Even though he was overcome at times by excitement, and broke his momentum by straying into awkward areas of his victory speech when discussing his daughters’ relationship status, and giving a shout out to Doug Flutie, Scott Brown listened effectively on the campaign trail and captured the sentiment of the voters when he said,“They thought you were on board with all of their ambitions. They thought they owned your vote. They thought they couldn’t lose. But tonight you, and you, and you have set them straight.”
According to Rasmussen Reports: “Brown pulled off the upset in large part because he won unaffiliated voters by a 73% to 25% margin. The senator-elect also picked up 23% of the vote from Democrats.” Rasmussen goes on to further cite the Brown votes were composed of 76% of voters who said they voted for Brown; 21% voted against Coakley; and 3% were not sure about the question.
So what now?
The wave of the Scott Brown victory is already starting to settle. On the Republican side – the Brown success is going to have many parents in the coming weeks as the political-class reaches for his victory coattails; on the Democrat side the loss will become the weird relative you do not want to acknowledge. Even before the polls had closed, Obama aides and Democrat party strategists were blaming the Coakley campaign for not following their playbook. If Martha Coakley needs someone to commiserate with she might want to call Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds who received the same treatment from Team Obama back in November. The White House, insisting candidates follow the Obama playbook, is a flawed strategy. The Obama playbook is much like a complicated NFL offense where only one type of quarterback can succeed and eventually the other team recognizes the formations.
President Obama has gone from some of the highest approval ratings entering office to the highest disapproval rating of any president after one year in office. Unfortunately for Team Obama, members of his own party are already signaling they might not be able to stay on board with the president’s agenda or approach. Senators Evan Bayh (D, Indiana) and Jim Webb (D, Virginia), both from historically Republican leaning states who have enjoyed similar victories to Scott Brown’s during different times, have made cautionary statements to the media following the Massachusetts results.
Perennial potential-vice presidential candidate, Evan Bayh, is quoted by ABC News saying, “There’s going to be a tendency on the part of our people to be in denial about all this,” [but] “if you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up.” Senator Webb is quoted in Politico saying, “In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”
The consistent assessment from the punditry class agrees with Senator Bayh about the Massachusetts results being a “wake-up call” for Democrats. Americans still personally like the president, but they increasingly disagree with his policies. Following the results though, David Axelrod, President Obama’s chief political strategist, boldly stated the president will stick to his agenda despite the defeat in Massachusetts. President Obama delivers his first State of the Union January 27. His aides are sending the signal that he does not plan to re-load which leads one to think he believes his oratory skills and leadership can right his party’s ship. They must have been watching the American Idol try-outs in Chicago instead of the returns. The vote in Massachusetts was about a strong candidate who listened to the electorate and the rejection of one party pushing the envelope too far with their radical agenda.
Scott Brown concluded his victory remarks by speaking to the national audience he knew was covering his remarks:
“Across this country, we are united by basic convictions that need only to be clearly stated to win a majority. If anyone still doubts that, in the election season just beginning, let them look to Massachusetts.
“Fellow citizens, what happened in this election can happen all over America. We are witnesses, you and I, to the truth that ideals, hard work, and strength of heart can overcome any political machine. We ran a campaign never to be forgotten, and led a cause that deserved and received all that we could give it.”
The Brown rhetorical approach is populist to the current electorate and might look familiar to the president and his play-makers. However, after being sworn in one year ago today, the president and the Democrat party misread the mandate they thought they received. Their missteps reveal the flaw in the liberal elite thinking that they sincerely believe they know what is best. The American people are united by basic convictions, the limits they want their government to respect, and what their thinking about what is best for their families. The Brown race is a “wake-up call” in the sense that the people of Massachusetts reminded the elites that America is a government by the people, for the people, and they still hold the true power – this time with the 41st vote.
Matt Smith is a consultant in Washington D.C. and former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison under President George W. Bush
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