Conservative Republican Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown won an upset victory today in a critically important special election for the United States Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Edward Kennedy.
Brown's victory will bring to 41 the number of Republican Senators, meaning that the Democrats will no longer have the 60-seat supermajority necessary to cut off debate, i.e. end filibusters. Once Brown is certified and seated, the Republican minority essentially would have a legislative veto over harmful Congressional Democratic bills, most notably their proposal to federalize health insurance. Brown promised to be the 41st vote in favor of continuing debate on the matter, thus forcing the Democrats either to negotiate a more bipartisan reformist bill with the Republican minority or abandon their increasingly unpopular big-government proposal altogether.
Brown ran a populist conservative campaign that focused not only on opposing the federalization of health insurance, but on reducing federal spending and taxes. Lt. Colonel Brown also opposed the treatment of terrorists with the rights and privileges of Americans accused of crimes, instead of as unlawful combatants. In short, Brown emerged as the candidate of change -- from the policies of U.S. President Barak Obama.
Indeed, the special election was widely interpreted as a referendum on Obama's policies. Obama's last-minute campaign appearance in Massachusetts for the Democratic candidate only added to the evidence that Brown's victory represented a rejection of Obama's overspending and tax-raising, political payoffs to supporters and fellow Democratic politicians and special interests, and softness on terrorism.
The Brown campaign invoked President John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts with advertisements including Kennedy's voice in which he argues for cutting taxes, in contrast to the record of his more liberal younger brother, Edward, which was a clever way for Brown to escape from the shadow of the late Senator. In response to a question at a candidates' debate about whether Brown would be comfortable in Edward Kennedy's seat opposing the federalized health insurance for which the long-serving Kennedy had advocated, the Republican delivered one of the best lines in campaign history, by noting that the seat was neither Kennedy's, nor the Democrats' seat, but “the people’s seat.”
Brown becomes the first Bay State Republican to be elected to the Senate from the 3:1 Democrat to Republican Massachusetts since 1972. The GOP candidate, who just a few weeks ago was trailing in opinion polls by over 30%, won by a 52-47% margin in a high-turnout election, according to unofficial returns. Brown's election will give encouragement to Republican candidates for many public offices in what otherwise might be considered long-shot campaigns.
Ironically, Brown's election comes on the same day that New Jersey's new governor, Republican Chris Christie, was inaugurated. Virginia's new governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, was sworn in last week. Both replaced Democratic governors. As in both of their elections, the Democrats tried to tie Brown to former President George W. Bush's policies, but the voters rejected the liberal big-government policies of the Democrats instead.
Brown's election victory indicates the strength of the popular Tea Party movement, which represents voter opposition to the borrowing, taxing and spending ways of big government, with its centralization of power and corresponding loss of liberty. Conservatives are now energized by their stunning political accomplishment, which ought to motivate them to support like-minded candidates. The victory also suggests some voter approval of the Republican governors Massachusetts has elected over the last 16 years until the last election, the last of whom, Mitt Romney, campaigned notably for Brown.
This special election win for a populist conservative suggests that Obama and the liberal Congressional Democratic majority do not represent the kind of change (i.e. reform) that voters want. Unless Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill moderate their big-government policies, Scott Brown's election victory will have been a harbinger of the 2010 mid-term congressional elections, which tend to favor the party opposite of the president.