Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Time to Start Listening

Several thoughts on the Scott Brown victory last night over one of the most inept campaigners in the history of campaigning.

First of all, after watching some post-election group interview sessions conducted by Frank Luntz with Massachusetts voters, I am not necessarily convinced that this victory is in toto a referendum on Barack Obama. I was surprised by this. The assembled group of voters (most of whom voted for Barack Obama in 2008) still seemed to be mildly supportive of Obama's presidency, even if they are disappointed in the results to date. "He needs more time" or "he inherited a rough situation" would serve as a common viewpoint from the group.

That is not the same thing as Martha Coakley losing her gift wrapped Senate seat because of the voters' rejection of Obama's overall policies. While many Republicans are celebrating the Brown victory as such, I'm not certain that this is accurate.

This appears to be, at least from my vantage point, a rejection of big political machines that do not pay attention to what the voters are saying. With Washington it is always business as usual with too many politicians speaking on behalf of the American people while not listening to the American people. As one respondent said, "Are you listening now?"

Secondly, Scott Brown ran a good race in a state that is farther left leaning than is the core of the Republican Party. Scott Brown is probably not always going to be the vote that will please voters in middle America. He represents the citizens of Massachusetts. While he will be a conservative vote on foreign policy issues and rejects the current national health care spendfest, he might ultimately be considered a RINO by many conservative voters elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe he will ever be the milksop that Lincoln Chaffee was. I don't think he will be the too tempted to buckle Olympia Snowe either. I do think, however, that those expecting Scott Brown to be the voting twin of Tom Coburn will be disappointed.

Finally, I believe that this election is going to have a profound effect on the way that a number of elected officials will proceed. Perhaps Obama has not been totally repudiated by the voters in Massachusetts, but conservatives in the rest of this nation have been energized by Brown's triumph nonetheless. Few things in life are more dangerous that an underdog that believes he can win, and underdogs from sea to shining sea just got themselves a shot of adrenaline.

The Republican brass can take from this what it wants, but it too must be very careful. The voters are tired of having their voices ignored in favor of lobbyists and favored constituencies. They are tired of unfathomable levels of debt. They are tired of being told what they should want, while saying what they do want is ignored.

This might be a great day for politicians of both parties to start listening.

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