So Scott Brown has beaten Martha Coakley for the seat formally held by Senator Edward Kennedy. It has been one of the most hotly-contested elections since … well frankly the Virginia and New Jersey Gubernatorial contests. Republicans have won all three.
Of course, the punditocracy on both sides of the aisle are in full-throated roar. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” say those on the far left, while those on the far right are close to claiming President Obama is a lame duck just a year into his presidency. The Coakley campaign said Obama should have come in to help her sooner, while the Brown camp is euphoric that Obama seemed to have no effect in the race.
But not just the Brown camp. Republicans everywhere are feeling emboldened and powerful, like the anticipated 40 years in the wilderness might not come to pass after all. And now, with the ability to block cloture again available, the GOP has wrested some small bit of control on Capitol Hill back from the Democrats.
With the election of President Obama, the leadership of the Unites States Congress swung far to the left. From my observation, neither Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid has the ability nor the inclination to be bi-partisan on anything substantive. With full control of the executive and legislative branches of government, they steamrolled ahead on health care legislation that would be extraordinarily expensive and still not cover everyone. And, at a time when millions of Americans are concerned most about finding a new job or at best not losing the one they have, Congress debated health care. And, while Congress and the President continued to say that they were going to stimulate the economy and create jobs, they offered up additional bailouts and a health care bill that no one really knew how it was going to be paid for.
To many independent and moderate voters, it seemed like Nero continued to fiddle while Rome burned.
And so, in all but one opportunity they’ve had, voters have taken Democrat seats and handed them to Republicans. Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts have all changed hands. Only in New York’s 23rd Congressional District have the Democrats been able to hang on, and the way congressional districts are drawn, that’s not a huge surprise.
Some will call this election historic. Senator Kennedy was elected to the seat in 1962 at age 30, which is the youngest age allowed for a U.S. Senator. It had previously been held by his brother, John F. Kennedy. Kennedy, born to privilege, spent nearly his entire adult life in the Senate, and somehow managed to portray himself as a “man of the people.” For that seat to now be held by a Republican is historic, in some ways.
Democrat Evan Bayh, from my home state of Indiana, warns that the election of Scott Brown should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats, that they’ve governing far to far to the left. Bayh is a fairly moderate Democrat, so it’s understandable that he’d call for them to move more to his way of thinking.
But Republicans, too, need to proceed with caution. The moderate and independent vote rs that are swinging these elections back to the GOP won’t subscribe to a far-right ideology any more than they’ll subscribe to a far-left ideology. Republicans would be wrong to read these elections as a far-reaching endorsement of far-right wing policies.
Republicans are feeling good, and with good cause. They’re winning, and much sooner than most pundits gave them a chance for after the Obama election in 2008. But three contests do not a movement make. It will take hard work at a grass-roots level and they will need to listen to people who may sometimes disagree with them. If they can do that, this could be the beginning of a return to political prominence for the GOP.