Whether or not Republican Scott Brown captures the Senate seat in Massachusetts today, his surging and successful campaign is a fire bell in the night for the Party of Government.
For Brown has run as an independent, an outsider, a protest candidate. His principal target: the health care reform bill that is the altarpiece of the Barack Obama presidency and lifetime achievement of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
For a full year, Obama, Reid, Pelosi and the leading acolytes of their party and media auxiliaries have been selling this plan as a historic Democratic reform to rival the Civil Rights Act and Social Security.
Yet in this Kennedy compound, the only state to be carried by George McGovern, people want to take this bill out to the crossroads at midnight and kill it. Brown made this race competitive by promising to bring the wooden stake to drive through its heart.
How Democratic is Massachusetts?
Democratic registration is three times that of the Republicans. The party controls both houses of the legislature by huge margins, and holds every statewide office, both U.S. Senate seats and all 10 U.S. House seats. Massachusetts is a Democrat fiefdom, a one-party state.
Independents, however, outnumber Democrats, an indication of the growing disillusionment with both national parties in America
What, then, is the message out of Massachusetts?
For Democrats, the only good news is they got this wake-up call in January. They are on notice now that if they push their health care reform plan to passage and attempt to ride to victory on Democratic registration this fall, they could be vulnerable in almost every state.
Massachusetts today is conclusive evidence that Obama and his party misread the election returns of 2008.
By November, George W. Bush was at 27 percent; 80 percent thought the country was headed in the wrong direction; 92 percent thought the economy was poor or worse. As James Carville said, if the party can’t win with these numbers, it ought to go into a new line of work.
The one attribute Americans wanted most in its next president was that he be for “change.” And Obama had cornered the market on change, while John McCain had voted 90 percent with Bush.
But instead of seeing the election as a repudiation of the Bush Republicans, Obama, Pelosi and Reid read it as an embrace of their wonderful selves and a national cry for more government.
Following Rahm’s Rule — never let a crisis go to waste! — Obama and his party took the collapse of the banks and spreading economic chaos to attempt the greatest leap forward in federal power since World War II.
Most Americans understood candidate Obama’s health care plans to mean that folks who could not afford care would be able to get it, whatever their conditions. As the plan evolved, however, it grew in the eyes of the public into precisely what the Tea Party and town-hall protesters said it was: a federal takeover of one-sixth of the economy. Bureaucrats would decide who gets what care, when and for how long. And a panoply of new taxes, fees and regulations would be imposed, producing a revenue windfall for the federal government and a quantum leap in power for federal bureaucrats.
What Massachusetts is telling the nation is that the Tea Party people have won the argument, America doesn’t want this bill and either put it down or we remember in November.
Indeed, the crisis of the Democratic Party today may be found in a story this Monday by CNS.
It seems that an ABC/Washington Post poll found that, when asked, “Generally speaking, would you say you favor smaller government with fewer services or larger government with more services?” 58 percent of Americans favored smaller government with fewer services to 38 percent who favor more government and more services.
The Post, however, reportedly saw fit not to mention the results of this question in its news story about the poll.
Which is understandable. Why would you publish a poll that says three in five Americans reject your political philosophy?
In the near term, what is happening in Massachusetts is good news for the GOP.
What it says is that, no matter the weakness of the party label or brand, independents will vote Republican if that is the only alternative to the party in power.
The GOP can thus run this fall as the only effective force left in Washington that can block the Democrats’ drive for power. The GOP problem arises when the presidential season begins in spring 2011.
For what Republican ran last time for cutting back George Bush’s big government? Who ran against expansion of NATO into Ukraine and Georgia? Who opposed war in Iraq? Who stood up and said no to No Child Left Behind or Medicare coverage of prescription drugs?
Who in the Republican Party today is calling for a Barry Goldwater-like rollback of federal power and federal programs? Except Ron Paul.
Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail] is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books, including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. See his website.