Scott Brown gave a great victory speech Tuesday night after a tremendous victory.
He is an attractive, articulate, courageous, hard working candidate.
He had the courage to serve for years in a small minority in the Massachusetts legislature.
He had the courage to serve for 20 years and become a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts Army Reserve.
He had the courage to run for the Senate seat which no Republican has won since Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. in 1946 (in a state where the last Republican Senator, Ed Brooke, was elected in 1972).
He had the courage to run a positive, issues-oriented campaign (a lesson every Republican candidate should learn from this victory as well as the gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey).
Senator-elect Brown had the courage to cheerfully stick with his truck even under scornful ridicule from the President.
“The land of the free and the home of the brave” (as our national anthem suggests) has to start with bravery or it can’t remain free.
Scott Brown’s bravery changed history in the most consequential special election of my lifetime.
Lesson One: Candidates and Campaigns
The first lesson Republicans should take from Tuesday night’s victory is the GOP should run candidates everywhere this year and not worry about whether the district used to vote Republican.
When 64% of Californians voted in a May 2009 referendum against more taxes and more spending they were sending a signal there is a potential anti-big government majority if Republicans can allow themselves to accept it and work with it. Every congressional district in California voted no including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco.
In the last five days a poll has shown Tim Griffin beating incumbent Democrat Vic Snyder by 17 points in Arkansas’s 2nd congressional district. Snyder has now announced his retirement.
In Cincinnati, former Republican Congressman Steve Chabot is now up 17 points over the Democratic incumbent, Steve Driehaus, who beat Chabot in the 2008 election.
In Michigan, former Republican Congressman Tim Walberg is now 7 points ahead of the Democrat Mark Schauer who beat him in 2008 (and in a special election Republicans picked up Schauer’s state senate seat).
In New York, Rep. Timothy Bishop (D) holds a very small lead against potential Republican challenger Randy Altschuler, 47% to 45% and Altschuler is still little known.
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie carried urban counties no Republican had won in 20 years.
In Virginia, in the process of capturing 59% of the vote statewide (where a year earlier Obama got 53%) Governor Bob McDonnell (R) carried Fairfax County in Northern Virginia which has been the heart of ethnic diversity and suburban liberalism.
There are moments when history changes and the American people decide to shake things up. This may be such a moment and it means Republicans should fill in the ticket at every level in every state.
Lesson Two: Being Positive Matters and Congressional Republicans Should Take Note
In the three winning campaigns (Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts) the Republican candidate has been issue-oriented and had a positive message. In each case, Republicans drew a principled, issue-oriented difference between themselves and the Democrats.
The Brown election gives House and Senate Republicans an opportunity to reach out to President Obama and offer to work with him.
The American people are genuinely frightened about the economy, about terrorism, about the loss of honesty and transparency in their government.
The American people want a party which is trying to solve the things they fear, not a party which is trying to use their fear to remain negative.
An alternative party can win huge victories in 2010 and 2012; an opposition party will have far fewer victories.
Now is the moment to reach out and offer to work with President Obama on jobs, health, education, national and homeland security, and balancing the budget.
Republicans can offer principled suggestions and seek to work with the President.
Republicans could not work with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid because they are committed to a high tax, big bureaucracy, secretive, politician-dominated, leftwing America.
Give the President a choice between working with the emerging majority of Americans or sticking with the dead end of an increasingly repudiated left.
Lesson Three: President Obama Has Had Two Bad Anniversaries and Now is the Moment for Him to Rethink What He Has Been Doing
The anniversary of the President’s victory in the 2008 election saw decisive Republican gubernatorial victories in two states he had carried.
The anniversary of his inauguration was yesterday, and it is the same date a new Republican Senator was sent to Washington to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat, which Scott Brown reminded us is “the people’s seat.”
Analysts like Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg are warning that 2010 could become a catastrophic year for Democrats. At best it is going to be a bad year.
Charlie Cook’s recent National Journal article made the stunning point that since World War Two there have been only 12 months in even numbered (election) years in which unemployment was above 8%. All 12 months were in 1982. I was in Congress then, and we lost 26 seats.
This year America will almost certainly have 9% plus unemployment for the entire year. That alone bodes badly for the Democrats.
The President now has an excuse to stop, rethink, recalibrate, and learn some painful lessons.
President Bill Clinton did just that after the 1994 election.
President Jimmy Carter could not bring himself to change.
President Obama has a lot of time to make course corrections, but it will involve real change (see the truck lesson below) in both policy and process.
No more secret deals.
No more Pelosi-Reid machine votes.
No more leftwing, Democrats-only strategies.
The leftwing leadership in the House and Senate would hate and fight such a change in course.
Moderate Democrats (and most Americans) would breathe a sigh of relief.
Lesson Four: Republicans Should Offer To Help Solve America’s Jobs, Security, Deficit, and Health Challenges through an Open, Transparent Legislative Process
This is the right moment for House and Senate Republicans to offer to meet with the President and start a new health reform process.
Republicans should indicate that health reform is one of their four biggest concerns.
First, they want to work on jobs and the economy.
Second, they want to work to strengthen anti-terrorism, national security and homeland security (see lesson seven below).
Third, they want to work on reducing the deficit by cutting spending, stopping theft and fraud, and replacing bad government with leaner, more effective, more modern approaches but with no tax increases.
Fourth, within this framework, they want to help pass health reform legislation to improve health outcomes, lower costs and expand coverage.
Republicans should emphasize that the new legislation on all four areas should be written in open committee meetings, with an open amendment process in committee and on the floor, and with conference committees broadcast on C-Span.
This offer to work together to help the nation would be well received by the American people and would represent a real shift from an opposition party attitude to an alternative governing party attitude.
Lesson Five: The Tea Parties and Populism Are Real
One of the funniest moments in the Massachusetts special election was an email from Senator John Kerry (D-MA) warning liberals that the Tea Parties were trying to bring a Tea Party to Massachusetts.
Apparently in his French finishing schools no one had informed Senator Kerry that the first tea party was in Boston.
The Tea Party movement is going to be a major force in 2010 and 2012.
It represents a real uprising of angry and frightened Americans who are fed up with both parties.
It’s no accident Scott Brown spent so much of his victory speech emphasizing his independence. This was not a Republican victory. Only 12% of Massachusetts is registered Republican. This was a people’s victory—a genuine alliance of Republicans, independents, and moderate Democrats.
Both the Republicans and the Democrats should take notice of the scale and authenticity of the Tea Party movement. They will be back on April 15 and on dates after that. They will represent a healthy reform energy that will challenge both parties to rise to new levels of integrity and serious reform.
Lesson Six: Trucks Beat Lobbyists
The strangest thing about President Obama’s ill-advised, last minute visit to Massachusetts on Sunday was his fixation with Scott Brown’s truck.
You have to look at the speech to see how strange it was. FDR, who was a genuine Hudson Valley aristocrat, would have instinctively understood to be on the side of trucks. Bill Clinton might have driven up in a truck.
However the elitism of the new leftwing Democratic Party—the party of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine—is so ingrown and so out of touch it did not understand what Scott Brown was doing. Fred Thompson could have told them because he brilliantly used a truck in his first Tennessee race.
The President’s tone deafness on the truck had been compounded by Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) going to Washington for a Washington insider PAC fundraiser. The symbolic gap between the machine and the populist could not have been clearer.
If your opponent has chosen a symbol for their campaign they may have had a reason for doing it. Be very careful about flippantly highlighting your opponent’s chosen campaign symbol.
That is precisely what President Obama did when he said:
“Now, I’ve heard about some of the ads that Martha’s opponent is running. He’s driving his TRUCK around the commonwealth — (laughter) — and he says that he gets you, that he fights for you, that he’ll be an independent voice. And I don’t know him, he may be a perfectly nice guy. I don’t know his record, but I don’t know whether he’s been fighting for you up until now, but —
…“So, look, forget the ads. Everybody can run slick ads. Forget the TRUCK. (Laughter.) Everybody can buy a TRUCK. (Laughter.)
“We asked Martha’s opponent what’s he going to do. And he decided to park his TRUCK on Wall Street. (Laughter.)
…“ there’s a big difference here. It gives you a sense of who the respective candidates are going to be fighting for, despite the rhetoric, despite the television ads, despite the TRUCK. (Laughter.)
… “So I’d think long and hard about getting in that TRUCK with Martha’s opponent. (Laughter.) It might not take you where you want to go. (Laughter.)”
Every laugh solidified Scott Brown’s vote and reminded people Coakley was the candidate of an out of touch, elitist machine.
Lesson Seven: National Security Matters
Andy McCarthy has a superb article Wednesday morning on National Review Online in which he says:
"It’s the Enemy, Stupid! National-security strength lifts Scott Brown."
It was health care that nationalized the special election for what we now know is the people’s Senate seat. But it was national security that put real distance between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. “People talk about the potency of the health-care issue,” Brown’s top strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, told National Review’s Robert Costa, “but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.” There is a powerful lesson here for Republicans, and here’s hoping they learn it.
….Scott Brown went out and made the case for enhanced interrogation, for denying terrorists the rights of criminal defendants, for detaining them without trial, and for trying them by military commission. It worked. It will work for other candidates willing to get out of their Beltway bubbles.
… The laws of war are the rule of law. They are not a suspension of the Constitution. They are the Constitution operating in wartime. The Framers understood that there would be wars against enemies of the United States — it is stated explicitly in the Constitution’s treason clause (Art. III, Sec. 3). The American people understand that we have enemies, even if Washington sees them as political “engagement” partners waiting to happen. Americans also grasp that war is a political and military challenge that the nation has to win, not a judicial proceeding in which your enemies are presumed innocent. The rule of law is not and has never been the rule of lawyers — especially lawyers we can’t vote out of office when they say we must let trained terrorists move in next door.
…Scott Brown didn’t modulate his positions to send a thrill up the media’s leg. He said the United States needs to stop apologizing for defending itself. And he won going away, in the bluest of blue states.
Every American concerned about our safety in an age of terrorism ought to read McCarthy and look at Brown’s campaign and take heart that safety is a winning issue, and the left is absurdly on the side of putting terrorists’ rights above protecting American lives.
Lesson Eight: Secular Radicalism is a Losing Theme Even in Massachusetts
In one of the strangest moments in Attorney General Coakley’s march to defeat, on the Thursday before the election in a radio interview, she said that although “you can have religious freedom … you probably shouldn’t work in an emergency room.” (Read “Nun Need Apply: Martha Coakley deems Catholics unfit for hospital emergency rooms” by Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online.)
As the left has grown more secular and more militant in its hostility to religion it has begun to arouse strong opposition. Among Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, and Orthodox Jews, Coakley’s position represented an anti-religious bigotry which they fear.
This position was one more blow.
Defining conscience and religion as legitimate parts of America is an enormous winning position, and Scott Brown’s career had a strong component of defending faith and conscience even in Massachusetts.
Lesson Nine: The American People are Sovereign and When Their Leaders Infuriate Them They Will Rise Up and Fire the Leaders
My daughter Jackie Cushman caught this principle perfectly Wednesday morning when she wrote:
“The message from Massachusetts: The Voters are in Control: The Message from Massachusetts is that the American people get to decide who will represent them. No seat should be assumed safe. This should energize Republicans to run for every elected position, whether or not the area has ever elected a Republican. If you don’t run, you can’t win. The Obama Administration should take this as a warning of what might occur in November. If they back off, stop the health control plan and listen to the American people, they might mitigate their losses in November. Government should understand that they are here to serve the American people, not for the American people to work for them.”
As it was with Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, the Progressive movement (especially Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan — again and again the American people find a way to overwhelm the establishment.
In America the people are sovereign. Last night reminded us it is still true. We remain an exceptional country of freedom and opportunity despite the politicians and bureaucrats and academics and elite news media.