In Praise of Scott Brown

“You’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May . . .”

No one knows that better than former Senator Scott Brown, who is taking it on the chin from gleeful but still-angry Democrats and not-gleeful and newly-angry Republicans.

So let’s take a few moments to praise Scott Brown.

First, the critics. Put aside the Democrats, their tune unchanged since Brown stole their lunch money in 2010 (tune unchanged but mood brightened considerably). The damaging assaults upon Senator Brown have come from fellow Republicans. The Boston Herald’s Michael Graham kicked Brown to the curb in the hopes that someone might come forward who would be more authentically “Republican.” Graham then offers several Massachusetts Republicans who are ideologically indistinguishable from Brown. In Graham’s estimation these folks would make the Republican case better than would Brown – by impaling themselves on their own swords (you try it).

Then there is the Herald’s Holly Robichaud, legitimately disappointed that Brown waited so long to decide on 2013, making the job tougher for prospective GOP senate candidates. She also complains of a list of bad Brown positions: against Tea Party interests, for the fiscal cliff compromise, looking for some way to address guns in the wake of Newtown.

With friends like these . . .

As for this supposed betrayal by Senator Brown, who else do Republicans have, honestly? Before 2010 they last held a US senate seat in 1978, when GOP Senator Ed Brooke was defeated by Paul Tsongas. Let’s not kid ourselves, any savvy Republican looking at the 2013 senate special election is doing so because of what Scott Brown accomplished in 2010.

Brown earned the right to take his time deciding after two draining runs in just over two years. If the Democrats win a senate seat they hold it for decades. Republicans rejoiced in Brown’s 2010 win, despaired over his defeat in 2012, and expected him to go to war again in 2013 and 2014? Eddie Futch didn’t send Joe Frazier out for Round 15 in the third Ali-Frazier fight for a very good reason. So Republicans, get off Brown’s case.

Brown laid a reasonable claim to bipartisanship in the 2012 campaign. He wasn’t Todd Akin, or Richard Mourdock. He wasn’t Mitch McConnell or Rand Paul. He was Scott Brown and he seemed to wrestle honestly with the best way to do his job given the pressures of his party, his own beliefs, and the wishes of his constituents.

If he didn’t run enough on pure Republican principles in 2012 (who did, Mitt Romney – what happened to him in Massachusetts?)  – well, Brown’s job was to win. Maybe Graham and Robichaud would like him to run as a Dittohead climate change-denier, but that wasn’t going to work. It’s Massachusetts. Brown understands that; he is one hell of a good politician.

He serves his country in the National Guard. He treats people respectfully, even people he disagrees with. He connects with the guy in the pickup truck and the Catholic wondering what happened to the Democratic Party. At the end of a losing effort he still had a favorable rating of sixty percent. He is by all accounts a thoroughly decent guy who overcame an extraordinarily difficult childhood to succeed in life. He has a lovely and loving family.

Massachusetts could do worse (it’s happened). The Massachusetts GOP can do worse (usually).

So let’s praise Scott Brown.


About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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