Saturday, January 23, 2010

Scott Brown

Lots of other folks have weighed in on the subject, and while I felt some obligation to the non-Newenglanders who drop by, I didn't think I had much new to say. I doubt that what follows is entirely original, but it may offer some new lines of thought for you.

First, a bit of regional history and description. While Massachusetts is indeed a notoriously liberal state dating back several decades, it is not uniformly blue. There are a few areas that are so intensely liberal that they overwhelm the others. Cambridge, Brookline, Provincetown, and the islands may come to mind here. Boston, Worcester, and Springfield are very Democratic, mixed union/progressive/ethnic.

Vermont, once a very conservative state (remember Bing Crosby's line in "White Christmas" that it was impossible to find a Democrat in VT?), had New Yorkers and others move up there from the 70's on in search of The Simple Life. As there weren't that many native Vermonters to begin with, the state was overwhelmed and became liberal. This is important to remember because western Massachusetts - Berkshires, Little Ivies, Seven Sisters - is essentially South Vermont. (Vermont has crept over into NH as well, and the banks of the Connecticut River are now the "west coast" of NH). Central Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent the North and South Shore, have much more in common with old NH and old VT. Fiscally very conservative, socially mildly conservative, tempered by a libertarian non-interference mentality.

Those areas went overwhelmingly for Brown, offsetting the continued 88-11 Democratic dominance of Cambridge and P-Town.

Brown would be considered a RINO in many regions of the country. He is modified pro-choice (or modified pro-life, I suppose, believing that first trimester abortions should be allowed). He likes the idea of universal healthcare, but finds the current Democratic proposals abominable. He is generally frugal, but not dramatically so. He is not a crusader for anything but less spending and business encouragement. He is 30 years in the National Guard and certainly on the conservative side of gun issues and the GWOT, but not a firebreather.

Not a crusader. This is an important point in New England. He is not going to Washington to change the abortion laws (in either direction), nor the gun laws, nor the gay marriage laws. He seems, on balance, to be likely to vote conservatively on those issues, but they are well down the list for him, not highest priorities. From this we might conclude that even in Massachusetts, among generally liberal people, socially conservative positions can be tolerated, so long as the candidate is not a crusader. I think that is also true in the reverse, that conservatives will overlook or put up with a good deal of social liberalism in a candidate so long as there is not that hard-edged insistence on making the country act a certain way. Our libertarianism is a cultural preference for non-interference rather than a crusading spirit of repealing various drug, gun, or sex laws.

Brown did not run as a Republican as much as an anti-Democrat Independent. A lot of his votes were anti-Obama, anti-Coakley, anti-Democrat, anti-spending, but these did not coalesce until the Republicans gave people someone to vote for. They are latent, not automatic. In New England, the campaign stance of "I'm the normal person, those other guys are nuts" is much more appealing than any "Take Back America" approach. It is more Tea Party than libertarian or social conservative, though care was taken not to chase either of those others away. Caveat: I don't think a third party run on the same platform would have been at all successful. The stability and respectability of a major party is important.

There was a strong anti-corruption, anti-entitlement flavor from the Democratic defectors. Republicans should take note that this does not mean "We will be a lot less corrupt than those other guys" is a winning campaign slogan. This is the major area where the MSM still has considerable power - the ability to focus attention on whatever scandal they choose. Republicans have to stop thinking they can afford any.


Mike_K said...

I spent some time in New Hampshire a few years ago. It seemed to me at the time that everybody in Vermont worked for the government and that added to the tilt left. That was obviously an exaggeration but seemed to have some merit.

New Hampshire has had an influx of Mass tax refugees who, unfortunately, brought their voting patterns with them. That is why most western state residents hate California tax refugees.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, the irony is great, at least for those who consciously left for tax reasons. They drag others in their path, however, who have no clue why there is a job in NH rather than where they came from.

Those folks tend not to vote right.

Der Hahn said...

Our libertarianism is a cultural preference for non-interference rather than a crusading spirit of repealing various drug, gun, or sex laws.

I think this is true in a good part of the old conservative Upper Midwest/Middle Border as well.

A minor quibble over the 'Brown didn't run as a Republican' line. Maybe it got more play on the Internet than TV but did you see the commercial featuring a newsreel of JFK morphing into Scott Brown? The subtitle identifying JFK prominently included the word 'Democrat' (not just a weaselly D-MA) that changed into ‘Scott Brown Republican’. I got the impression that he wasn’t obscuring his party affiliation in the way I’ve seem some candidates. It may not be directly comparable but how many of Obama’s ads mentioned his party identification?

Gringo said...

Your point about not being a crusader is well taken. While Sarah Palin did not choose to abort her child, I have seen no evidence that she has crusaded about changing the abortion laws. Her choice on the issue is what riles up the libs.

Personal disclosure: my stance on abortion is similar to Brown.

Anna said...

I have posted this on neo-neocon before but it bears repeating here i think. i live in Maine and it is afflicted with the same disease that VT/NH both are. that is, the people who actually are from here tend to be very conservative/libertarian but the state is over run with
a) refugees from MA, CT, & NY looking for "the simple life" (hahaha)
b) hopeless welfare cases from the same 3 states. I think Mass pays people to move to Maine.
Also, because there are no jobs in Maine, all the young and talented people all leave, leaving the degenerates of society in a higher concentration.

I think NH will not be long in following the same pattern, unfortunately.

Cheap Diablo 3 items said...

Awesome. It's my job to enjoy the job interviews. Appreciate your having one of these weblog