Well, I figured I’d get that out of the way early.
Scott Brown’s victory is, in all seriousness, a momentous one. It would have been important even if he hailed from a purple state like Colorado or New Mexico. After all, it would have denied the Democrats a 60th vote in the Senate. But that Brown won the seat formerly held by the most visible face of the left, in perhaps the most left-wing state in the country, just solidifies how big a shift we have seen. Just one year ago today we were inaugurating Barack Obama, and it seemed as though he and the Democratic leadership were going to steamroll radical legislation that would have significantly altered this polity.
A funny thing happened on the way to Utopia. Though the Democrats managed to pass a spending bill masquerading as a stimulus package, their attempts at further major reform have stalled. Cap and Trade passed the House but is basically dead in the Senate. Health Care stands on the brink. Meanwhile, the economy has largely been ignored, though perhaps we should be grateful – they’d probably only screw it up even more.
There’s no need to recap the entire history of the Tea Party movement, nor of all that took place over the past month in Massachusetts. As was the case in 2006, there’s more than one explanation for last night’s results. Martha Coakley ran a bumbling campaign, sticking her foot in her mouth every time she opened it. Scott Brown, on the other hand, ran a brilliant campaign. But it would be foolish to deny the national implications of this race and the deep resentment felt even in Massachusetts towards the current state of affairs in DC.
So what about Scott Brown? Even already a few pro-life conservatives are grumbling, and I can see their point. Brown is pro-abortion, and is generally a libertarian on social issues. Even on fiscal issues he doesn’t quite appear to be a conservative stalwart. But Brown is, in all likelihood, the best candidate a conservative and/or Republican can hope for in the state of Massachusetts. That doesn’t mean that we can’t, over time, change the cultural milieu in order to elect more conservative candidates in states like Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York, but we have to accept incremental victories.
Of course what we have seen gives lie to the notion that conservatives want to purge moderates from the party. It’s true that conservatives revolted against the likes of Dede Scozzafava, but that’s because she was a left-wing Republican in a fairly conservative district. Had Scott Brown been elected in Utah or North Dakota, conservatives would rightly lament his victory. But conservatives are more pragmatic than given credit for. And while angry nutroots bloggers seek to purge their party of the likes of Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh, conservatives are willing to embrace – cautiously – guys like Scott Brown.
As a movement, conservatives need to support the most conservative electable candidate, and in a state like Massachusetts that man was Scott Brown. Again, I think we can do better over time. But for now, we’ll enjoy this victory.