Getting the Massachusetts Message Right

The press is full of ‘blood in the water’ analysis of the meaning of the Massachusetts election of Scott Brown.  As a former Bay Stater I appreciate how stunning that victory was in both bad and good ways. For Democrats, accustomed to dominance it is a humbling experience.  But the GOP will make the same mistakes the Democrats have made if they see Scott Brown’s election as a triumph for their version of Washington truth.

Let’s face it, at the end of the day the general public see little difference between the behavior in Washington of the Democrats and the GOP.  Both parties over-reach when their power is felt to be dominant.  Both parties are controlled by their fringes on the left and right.  Both parties are hyper partisan.  And both parties have been equal opportunity offenders of the public conscious.

“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore!”

The real message of Massachusetts is that the voters are saying ‘a pox on both your houses’. The tea party movement is a genuine demonstration of disaffection for the direction the country is going and should be seen by the Democrats as ‘in your face’ evidence of over-reaching.  Why don’t they see it?

The dirty little secret is they DO SEE IT, but they realize that they are likely to lose their dominance in the 2010 election (the party in power almost always loses seats in mid-term election historically). So the base of the Democrat party came to believe that Obama’s election gave them ONE SHOT at getting their agenda passed in the 2009-2010 term of Congress—and they decided to go for it.  But by so fiercely focusing on the end game for their left driven political base they have ignored the public majority in the center and shut-out the GOP on the right undermining the perception of a fair process in their overreach and risking an even worse political outcome.  Is this narcissism?  Is it desperation?

Don’t rejoice for the Republicans

The election of Scott Brown is not necessarily good news for them either. The truth is the GOP did a terrible job in the majority when they last held it and the behaviors of the Congressional GOP leadership and right-leaning base were just as obnoxious in their time in power as the Democrats are today.  Scott Brown’s election is as much a wake-up call for the GOP right as it is for the Democrat left.  And reading more support for the GOP into his election is a foolish fantasy for the right wingers.  The candidates who are winning in New Jersey, Virginia and now Massachusetts are NOT traditional GOP right wingers, but capable, reasonable, center of the road Main Street folks.

Change We Can Believe In

Scott Brown’s election is a savvy and, so far, successful attempt to take the Obama message of 2008 of ‘change we can believe in’ that the public signed up for and apply it to a center of the road style of governance that the public thought they would get in a President Obama.  Instead, Obama campaigned as one kind of president and has governed as a very different kind.  The public is feeling like he bait and switched them from a centrist agenda of positive, inspiring change to a left-wing agenda of government control over every aspect of our lives with debt that is never ending to fund it. And they are reacting negatively to it. The president remains personally popular among a general public that truly wants him to succeed, but he is at very serious risk of losing that benefit of the doubt.  And there is no way to blame the mess Obama is now in on his predecessor.  He did not inherit this political mess—he caused it.

Get back on the Green Line!

Like that Fidelity investments commercial that seems to run constantly these days, you know the one with the green line of “guidance” for the scared investor, Obama can still save his presidency by returning to the “guidance”  of his 2008 campaign message and living it as the centrist president the people voted to elect.  The election of Scott Brown gives him an opportunity to tell the left leaning base in the Democrat party they failed to deliver a product the people want and now must move to the center.  It is a tough love message of ‘follow-me or get run over’ that only he can deliver.  But unless he does he will have squandered his historic opportunity and ruined his legacy.

What should Scott Brown do?

Be the centrist independent the People of Massachusetts elected.  He may indeed be the 41st vote against ObamaCare, cap and trade, and the political bribery of the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker exemption and other desperation deals which should now die a visible death. But Scott Brown must be a demonstrable change of political behavior in Washington to invest and grow the political capital he just received.

If he succumbs to being just the 41st vote for the GOP he looks like every other sleazy politician in Washington instead of living into the legend he inherited with the seat of Ted Kennedy.  By being the new “lion of the Senate’ for the center of the road majority of the American people Scott Brown can give President Obama an opportunity to reclaim the captaincy of his listing ship of state and he disciplines both extremes on the left and the right with the true message from the Massachusetts election.

Now that would be change we can believe in.