Scott Brown—the next Great White Threat to Conservatism?
I heartily second Tom Tancredo’s remarks to the effect that we should thank God that McCain lost. The image of Obama’s turning the heat up on the frogs was spot-on.
I hope that I can take your strong agreement with Tancredo on the folly of on-going conservative support for increasingly liberal Republican candidates to mean that you will oppose continued conservative excitement about Scott Brown, now that Brown has played what you see as his role in history.
Thank God for Scott Brown.
Well, okay, but he’s elected now and has played that role. Seriously, when would the fact that he’s a liberal Republican (at least as much so as McCain, if not more so) become relevant and problematic? If he ran for President, would it be important then? Would we then stand up and oppose the direction he would be leading the party, the marginalization of social conservatives, etc.? Is this just some sort of “heaving a sigh of relief” buffer zone of a few months? I knew people during the campaign who had no idea what his actual positions on issues are. Surely we don’t want that kind of mindless support for a liberal Republican to continue indefinitely. I thought that was the kind of thing you were very concerned to oppose on principle.
I do not understand what the thing is that you are concerned about. Are conservatives now touting Brown as their leader, as a presidential prospect? You say “if he ran for president.” Is he now running for president or setting himself up for such a run? I’m not aware of that. So why not wait until those things happen before worrying about them? Why worry about something that at present doesn’t exist? Especially when, to put it mildly, our cup is overflowing with present dangers to worry about? Why not just enjoy the fact that someone has joined the Senate whose very presence has stunned the left and made it much harder for them to pass their revolutionary legislation?
As for Brown’s liberal stands on social issues, there’s plenty of time for them to emerge and they will become topics of conversation when that happens. I’ve mentioned them several times and pointed out that he is not a social conservative. But among the 41 Senate Republicans there are plenty of senators who are not social conservatives. That’s why even when Republicans had a fairly substantial majority in the Senate a few years ago, the federal marriage amendment didn’t get the support of a majority of the Senate, let alone the 67 votes needed. As I remember, it didn’t even get to a floor vote. So, as one among 41 Republicans, Brown is no more damaging to social conservatism than a lot of other non-social conservative Republicans. At the same time, if conservatives see Brown as a conservative and a conservative leader, then they are mistaken and their mistake should be pointed out to them.
But as for conservatives giving their support to and touting as a national leader someone who is not a social conservative, isn’t Sarah Palin a much bigger concern—by an order of magnitude—than Brown? I have been consistently arguing since September 2008 that conservatives’ all-out embrace of Palin has effectively destroyed social conservatism.
Well, it’s funny you should bring up Palin, because Brown is much more liberal than she is. (I think you will agree with this.)
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I tend myself to think that the sort of whole-hearted rejoicing about Brown that I’ve seen among conservatives is problematic because of its tendency to move people in the direction of not caring at all about where someone is on a variety of issues and to substitute something else for a concrete concern about a candidate’s positions—something like the symbolism of the moment, making the left grind its teeth, a move in a political game. (I really doubt that he’s small-government, either, so it almost certainly isn’t just social issues.) Isn’t this really what the McCain campaign was all about? “Never mind his positions, just vote for him to defeat Barack Obama. Vote for him because of what an Obama victory stands for. Vote for him to support our party.” I see the great upwelling of happiness about Brown among conservatives as really part of the McCain-type movement—pure party politics to the detriment of issues. As I said, I believe that there were people who supported Brown and literally did not know where he stood on various issues. They just knew that he would help to defeat Obamacare. It was the crisis of the moment, and that was all that mattered. [LA replies: Yes, there is always that element among Republicans: that all they care about is winning. Of course, people should distinguish between the “Scott Brown miracle” (the marvelous fact of his election and what it means), and Scott Brown himself. For people to embrace Brown uncritically because of the Brown miracle is foolish and to be resisted. But that is in keeping with that same rah-rah Republican mentality that led them to give their hearts and souls to the unworthy and disastrous George W. Bush.]
I doubt that he is going to run for President soon, but he might at some point. My feeling is that it’s going to be hard for people to pull back. Having referred to him in these larger-than-life, historic terms, how can they then act like party-poopers later on by saying, “Well, but let’s not get carried away. He’s not actually the kind of candidate we should be supporting for further advancement”? In a sense, it’s a bit like Palin’s own support for McCain. Having stifled whatever qualms she felt (and I think at the beginning she did feel rather uncomfortable) about their differences, e.g., on ESCR, she got into the “mode” of campaigning wholeheartedly for him, and now, even though she isn’t his VP candidate anymore, she’s still McCain’s wholehearted supporter. That didn’t have to happen. She could have said, after the loss, “Well, thank goodness that’s over” and gone back to a sober reappraisal of their differences, supported only candidates more in line with what she represents in the mind of the American public. But psychologically, her on-going support for McCain is predictable. She became identified with him. I suspect something similar could happen with a swathe of American conservatives and Brown, which will further the “ignore the issues” tendency among American conservatives.
Sage McLaughlin writes:
I agree with Lydia that there has been an obscene sort of boosterism that has surrounded Brown over the last couple weeks. I’m frankly tired of watching the conservative commentariat continue to gush over him, because, actually, he isn’t a conservative and it’s past time to move on. At this point it’s strictly about rubbing it in the left’s face, and there’s a real risk of high-stepping into the end zone this year and fumbling the ball in November, if you’ll forgive the football metaphor. [LA replies: I would say the football metaphor is entirely correct. For example, I’ve often felt that Rush Limbaugh is, at bottom, a football fan, and that his ultimate responses to politics are those of a football fan. Rah, rah, go team go. I think that’s true of many other conservatives.]
I may dissent slightly from her last message, which says that “the great upwelling of happiness about Brown among conservatives [was] really part of the McCain-type movement—pure party politics to the detriment of issues.” But, as she acknowledges, it was very much about the issues, and particularly the greatest “live” issue of the day. It was an issue so large and a fight so unimaginably important that not only was our support for Brown wholly justified, but so was the outpouring of elation that followed.
Yes, it’s time to move on and get a grip on who he really is—an unsavory McCain-Snowe type of Republican who will sell us up the river on the fundamental cultural issues. But so was Arlen Specter, and his party switch very nearly proved catastrophic for the country. Sometimes, these grubby partisan victories are well worth some celebration, even taking Lydia’s admonishment to think about the wide array of issues on which Brown’s vote may prove troublesome.
I may be less aware of and bothered by this phenomenon than Lydia and you because I hardly ever watch cable TV, so I haven’t been seeing the “obscene Brown boosterism” of conservative commentators that you speak of.
However, what do you mean when you call Brown “unsavory”?
Sage McLaughlin replies:
What I should say is that I have an unsavory impression of him, based on the fact that he once posed for a soft porn magazine, and because he seems to be completely unashamed of it. Maybe it’s too much to put on a single data point, but it bothers me.
First, as he says, “It was Cosmo, it wasn’t Playgirl.” Nevertheless, it was essentially a nude photo, with everything but his genitals showing, and a soft porn-style photo. And, yes, he is unashamed of it and he defends it to this day. And that is objectionable and makes one wonder about him.
He even said to Barbara Walters, that if he hadn’t been in that photo, he wouldn’t be where he is today, therefore how can he regret the photo, everything is connected. But he didn’t explain what he meant. What did his quasi nude Cosmo photo at age 22 have to do with his entering local politics in his 30s and ultimately being elected U.S. senator at age 50?
His remark to Walters, at least as you’ve paraphrased it, sure doesn’t seem to make sense. I think it’s some variation on what I often hear from people these days when soothing their consciences about past wrongs—“Sure, I was a drug addict and a thief, but I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for for all that.” I cringe when I hear this, because it suggests that whoever that person happens to be is so unimpeachably wonderful.
One can’t help having the thought that his famous nude photo, for which he hasn’t repented, has something to do with his elder daughter’s standing next to him at his victory speech half naked. This family is into showing flesh.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 07, 2010 04:06 PM | Send