While there is always a tendency in Washington to over-analyze the meaning of elections, I think that we can draw the following conclustions from Scott Brown’s victory:
1. Obamacare is an albatross for the Democrats. The White House wants to blame Coakley for being a bad candidate, but Massachusetts is a very left-wing state. Every single member of its congressional delegation is a Democrat. It went for Obama by 26 percentage points. It has sent reflexive statists like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to the Senate for decades. Yes, Scott Brown was a good candidate, but good GOP candidates normally lose 60-40 in the Bay State. It’s hard to draw any conclusion other than the fact that voters were registering disapproval with what is happening in Washington, and healthcare was at the top of their list.
2. Democrats should ram through government-run healthcare. I hope they don’t, of course, but smart Democrats understand that Obamacare is not (and never has been) about health care, but rather about creating more dependency on government. Yes, Democrats will lose more seats in November if they move forward, but they presumably will strengthen their long-term political status by making more people rely on politicians.
3. Obama is not a centrist. A few people were under the illusion that Barack Obama was something other than a doctrinaire statist. This always struck me as absurd, since a quick look at the NTU vote ratings reveals that he received an “F” every single year and generally was graded as being worse than even Ted Kennedy. I suppose the charitable interpretation of why people got snookered is that Obama’s rhetoric during the presidential election was very bland and he projects a thoughtful demeanor. But so what? Obama and his strategists knew the Republicans had spent their way into a ditch and that voters wanted a change. Obama simply had to appear semi-reasonable to win, and that’s exactly what he did. Ever since he took office, though, he has pushed to make government bigger and more oppressive. Voters don’t like that. They rejected Republicans for being for big government. Now they’re rejecting Democrats for the same reason.
4. The GOP succeeds when it presents a conservative alternative. Scott Brown is presumably not another Jim DeMint, but his campaign rhetoric was very conservative by Massachusetts standards: For lower taxes, against government-run healthcare, for less spending. That message has worked very well for the GOP when it is a national theme, as it was in 1980 and 1994. When Republicans try to be “compassionate” (with other people’s money, of course), by contrast, they get debacles like what happened in 1992, 2006 and 2008. This doesn’t mean Republicans will always win by being conservative and it doesn’t mean squishy Republicans never win, but it does mean that the GOP’s long-term success is tied to whether taxpayers perceive Republicans as protecting America from big government. I’m not sure the national GOP really understands this, but they’re at least pretending to be for small government again. That’s a start.