Today, in Massachusetts’s special election for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, won an overwhelming victory. Brown defeated Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, 52% to 47%, in a race that up until a few weeks ago was a nearly uncontested competition in favor of the Democrat. This marks the first time since 1972 that the very blue state of Massachusetts has sent a Republican Senator to Washington.
In particular, the vote directly reflects the distaste that most Americans feel with the current healthcare package. Brown ran on a platform that promised a vote against the current healthcare bill. The overwhelming support for a Republican candidate exemplifies how out of touch the Democratic leadership’s strong-arm tactics are with the pulse of America. Furthermore, the newest Republican Senator also breaks the Democrats’ supermajority, giving the Democratic caucus 59 members. This ends the filibuster-proof Senate and prevents the Democrats from monopolizing legislative power without Republican input.
Both Republicans and Democrats should heed the lessons of this election. The win was primarily a triumph for the center. Democrats should recognize that their leftward tilt has alienated the bulk of America. Fifty-one percent of voters in Massachusetts are independents and obviously eschew extreme policies. In order to maintain their dominance, Democrats, particularly those who hail from conservative states or districts, would be wise to think twice about the supposed leftist mandate that they divined in Obama’s win a year ago. Today’s vote clearly is a harbinger of the disaster that will befall Democratic incumbents who are running for reelection in November. Brown’s win clearly shows that many other Democrats will face the ax from their moderate and conservative constituents if they fail to take note. America is primarily a center-right nation that voted for Obama on the ephemeral concept of change and as a refutation of Bush. The past year has painfully shown the Democrats that Obama’s election was not an anointment of new liberal era.
Likewise, Republicans must understand that the recent GOP success in Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts were on the back of the center-right. Senator Brown is a moderate, Northeast Republican, who for instance, is moderately liberal on issues such as abortion. In contrast to the Scozzafava fiasco in Upstate New York, the entire Republican Party rallied behind Brown. This is the Big-Tent paradigm that the Party needs to continue to rely upon. If they choose to ignore this fact and shrink the party to a narrow, ‘purist’ rump they will become as disparaged as the far-Left is has become.
This election is a grand win for the Republicans, but does not imply that such successes will continue. Much depends on how both parties respond. If Democrats continue their obstinacy (for instance by refusing to seat Brown or by pushing healthcare through in a surreptitious way) and the Republicans tack to the center, the Obama administration will surely fail. However, if the Republicans pursue a path of party-cleansing or the Democrats correct their failed leftward drift, the November elections, and certainly 2012, is anyone’s game. Two cheers to Scott Brown and two more to this being the first step in the reemergence of Big-Tent Republicanism and the resurgent Northeastern Republican.