I’m not angry at Scott Brown. Are you?

Dan Kennedy has a piece on Huffington Post in which he posits the following after citing to yesterday’s Globe story reporting the pro-Brown results of some recent polls:

[S]ome Democrats seem surprised, at the very least, that Brown didn’t topple like a rotten tree at the first sign that he’d have a serious opponent. Those sentiments vastly underestimate Brown’s strengths…. Democrats ignore the reality that no one is really angry at Brown other than liberal activists.

Hmm.  I don’t know which “surprised” Democrats Dan has been talking to, and he doesn’t tell us.  Nobody around here, it would seem.  Pretty much everyone here has been saying that Brown will be hard to beat no matter how good his opponent is.  He has a ton of money, he’s a likable guy, and he is generally a savvy politician – his bewildering decision to back the crazy Blunt amendment notwithstanding.

Also, I have no idea whether I qualify as a “liberal activist,” but I will say this: I’m not “angry” at Scott Brown.  I find Brown to be disappointing, particularly in his failure to lead.  I find some of his stances deeply puzzling (the Blunt amendment being Exhibit A).  And I disagree with him on a lot of policy matters – but he’s a Republican, so that’s not really surprising.

If Brown had campaigned on a particular issue and then flip-flopped on it once he won, maybe I’d be angry.  If he had suddenly become a strident right-wing tea-partier, maybe I’d be angry (again setting aside the mysterious Blunt amendment issue).  If he had become an effective advocate for deeply destructive policies such as those backed by others in his party, maybe I’d be angry.

But he hasn’t done any of that.  He’s still more or less what he’s always been: an affable, somewhat bumbling, mildly conservative fellow who, through a peculiar series of coincidences, wound up way over his head in a job that he’s not very good at.  His major accomplishment in office has been to complain about how mean the Senate’s kool kidz are to him.  I mean, he thought those bin Laden photos were real, for God’s sake.  It’s hard to get angry at someone you can’t take seriously.

Don’t get me wrong: I take him seriously as a candidate.  I think he could win, and I always have.  I certainly hope he doesn’t, and I’ll do what I can to keep that from happening, because I think Elizabeth Warren has the potential to be a truly great Senator.  But angry?  No.  Warren won’t be able to rely on anger at Brown to win.  She needs to make the affirmative case that she will simply be a much better Senator.

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29 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I was persuaded and well-informed of

    Scott Brown’s weaknesses as a candidate. I think I’m now learning more and recognizing Scott Brown’s strengths.

    Most troubling is the 20% approval he seems to be getting from Democrats.

  2. Brown is a manipulator

    nothing more. There is no mystery to his support of the Blunt Amendment when you consider he campaigned in 2010 on being the deciding vote to tank PPACA. He hasn’t forgotten the he made a fool of himself and is determined to gut the bill with the help of Blunt/ Rubio.
    Herein lies Brown’s weakness – hubris. He manipulates the voters by supporting bad policies (moral objection, tax cuts)while claiming its what a kennedy would want; claiming to support planned parenthood while making contraception a matter of religious freedom then lobbying for women in combat roles; vows to vote down PPACA while claiming to understand the need for health care reform; opposes repeal of DADT until he is sure that a vote for it won’t hurt him with republicans; “speaks out” against Limbaugh when he is one of the key instigators of that backlash, and on and on.

    Angry progressive activist? Yeah. I have a moral objection to his collage of messages that show him to be fundementally amoral.His ability to manipulate issues in order to win campaigns is shrewd and kind of brilliant. But the fact that he has no other thought in his head beyond winning makes him kind of pathological. Politics is not a sporting event – winning is the beginning not the end – which explains alot about DC politics.

  3. I'm not surprised, either

    that Brown didn’t “topple like a rotten tree.” This was never going to be a cakewalk and things are pretty much where you’d expect them to be at this point.

    Just more churning about for a story, I guess.

  4. I'm angry. And I'm surprised...

    I’m angry that he’s clearly revealed himself to be old school sexist as well as consistently playing the victim card…

    …And I’m surprised (and angry) that both seem still to play so well in the CommonWealth. But it’s OK since I’m an effete liberal/intellectual snob anyways…

    I don’t think Browns support of the Blunt amendment is an outlier: it’s of a piece with his demonstrated sexism. As well, his clear willingness to trade on looks is, similarly, of a piece with his sexism.

    • Well,

      I think there’s a difference between being an “old school sexist” and being partial to jerky frat-boy humor. IMHO, “Thank God-gate” was an example of the latter, not the former. And I think it will be hard to make the case for the former, especially given Brown’s (conveniently-timed) advocacy for increasing the role of women in combat.

      I absolutely agree that Brown’s image of himself as the perpetual underdog/victim is tiresome. But, again, that doesn’t translate to anger, at least to me.

      • no, really, you're too kind...

        I think there’s a difference between being an “old school sexist” and being partial to jerky frat-boy humor.

        I think you’re being too kind to Brown and I really don’t see all that much daylight between sexism and ‘frat-boy humor’. i’ve known too many frat boys. But we can disagree.

        What makes me angry at Brown, besides his sexism and victimology that is, is the transparently naked Republicanism/conservatism that energizes his very core whilst that he is allowed to get away with calling himself an ‘independent’ and a ‘moderate’. He is nothing of the kind… and every instance of ‘reaching across the aisle’ was with permission from the Republican leadership. The repeal of DADT, for example, was a deal struck between the Republican leadership and the White House in the waning days of the 111th Congress. Scott Brown had nothing to do with it.

        To be brutally frank; Scott Brown is doing to Massachusetts now what Mitt Romney did to Massachusetts in 2002: lying about himself and his core ideals to get elected. Republicans can’t win in Massachusetts in a straight up policy match with Democrats. They lose every time and thus have to resort to lies and half-truths and shadings to win. That’s what Brown is doing right now.

        • agreed

          I was certainly angry the day he won the special election, but this has simmered into frustration at how much of a cynical manipulator Mr. Brown is. All this man cares about is winning elections, he doesn’t give a damn about doing what is best for his constituents. The only time you see him around meeting people outside of a fundraiser is when he’s out making photo ops for re-election. He has no core convictions, and for this reason even if he was the “moderate” he pretends to be, I could never support him (even for dog catcher).

  5. Only way to Counteract

    “Positive emotion trumps negative emotion,” if I may quote Inception.

    Absent a few issues like the Clean Air Act, tax cuts for wealthy and oil subsidies, I think anger will not be enough. The only answer then is to drum up support for Elizabeth Warren and make her campaign a fundamentally positive one. If people can believe they can get a more responsive representative out of her then they will not be as inclined to side wit Brown. He will seem less by comparison. Leave the anger and vitriol to surrogates.

    • I agree with that

      Which, to me, means she needs to stick ever clearer to her message as the Sheriff of Wall Street, and incorporate that into how she’s going to make the life of everyday people better.

      I think the message has been bogged down of late, even if some of these things that have been bogging it down are actually things she’s winning most of these issues that are bogging her down. In the end, if they’re not reinforcing the message, it’s taking away from that and it’s an example of how to win the political battles, but not the war.

      All that said, I have to imagine her camp gets this and will respond in kind. I have a lot of faith in her as a candidate and in the people who are managing her campaign.

      RyansTake   @   Wed 7 Mar 3:43 PM
      • Gah

        I edited something something there, and then forgot to delete what I originally edited. Sorry for the confusing sentence.

        So let’s try again:

        I think the message has been bogged down of late, even if some of these things bogging her down are actually issues she’s individually winning.

        RyansTake   @   Wed 7 Mar 3:47 PM
  6. Nobody's surprised

    Everyone here dutifully says that they are not surprised, and always new that this would be no cakewalk.

    Yet, the posting here seems to suggest that everyone thinks that Brown (i) is a complete moron; (ii) was elected because Martha Coakley was a shitty candidate, and would never do well against a competent candidate; (iii) was elected solely because of “out-of-state tea party” support; and (iv) is a fluke.

    If Democrats could not get energy during a special election in which their big goal of 70 YEARS was at stake, why would they do any better in 2012.
    So, protestations aside, I don’t think DK is far off the mark.

    • Brown is an incumbent now

      It’s harder to beat incumbents, especially incumbents that continually get huge passes from the media on major issues from the Blunt amendment, in which the Globe basically okayed the idea that his position is Ted Kennedy’s, and on big campaign mistakes, which the media barely covered.

      RyansTake   @   Wed 7 Mar 3:38 PM
      • Even david

        in the post saying how seriously he takes Brown, says he’s a bumbling idiot who is senator by accident.

        The dynamic reminds me a lot of 2004, when “Bush is an idiot” was the prevailing notion, even during July, August, September and October when he was running circles around your guy. It is almost as if you are in a bubble.

        • Fair comparison

          I think Bush, like Brown, wasn’t trying to come off as brilliant. Bush was trying to come off as a war-time president, and framing Kerry as not one. It worked.

          Brown is trying to come off as centrist and frame Warren as not. I’m actually worried mostly that the result of that will be Warren fighting as hard as she can to become more centrist. To me, that’s what I’m scared of.

          As for anger, most of my anger is still directed at Coakley, even though I think she’s done a hell of a job as AG in the last 2 years.

        • Yup, we're the ones living in a bubble.

          Writing about how we just don’t take Brown seriously in a post about how I take him seriously and a diary about how David takes him seriously is a perfectly reasonable position.

          You could never be in a bubble yourself, of the bizarro variety. No siree.

          /sarcasm off

          RyansTake   @   Thu 8 Mar 9:09 PM
        • Always, with the Sith, there are two...

          in the post saying how seriously he takes Brown, says he’s a bumbling idiot who is senator by accident.

          …with Bush who, I contend, was indeed a bumbling idiot, there was Rove. With Brown, who is, likewise, a bumbling idiot, there is Fernstrom.

          So, it is possible, in your GOP, where puppetry and ventriloquism are de rigeur to have a candidate of peerless folly in a candidacy we must, nevertheless, take seriously.

          Maybe Edgar Bergen was a prophet?

    • I admit I was wrong in

      thinking Brown was a complete moron, though I still think he’s a moron. I do think he was elected because Martha Coakley was a crappy candidate, but it’s hard to know for sure. Part of 2010′s lack of energy, which was, incidentally, nationwide, was Martha Coakley. Her campaign sucked and she was a lousy candidate. You’ve described it from the hungry GOP perspective. In spite of what pundits said, Democrats didn’t look at the seat as belonging to Ted Kennedy. For Democrats, 2012 is different already. I’m telling you that from personal experience.

      That said, my opinion about Brown’s strengths is evolving. The Democratic approval he’s receiving is troubling. Coakley needs most of the Democrats and half the independents to win. I thinks he’s drawing a lot of support from working-class men, including Dems, who are less likely to vote for a woman.

      The lack of negative campaigning is a wild card. Maybe Brown with his war chest would have dominated anyway, but Brown’s negatives need to grow. His strength is that he’s basically unobjectionable. Most people may not be able to point to anything he’s really accomplished, but they aren’t able to point to much he’s done wrong either. It’s not enough for Warren’s approval to go up, Brown’s disapproval needs to go up.

  7. He is a second-generation professional politician

    Politics is the way his Dad made his money and its the way Brown has made his money. Government work is pretty much the only job he has ever had. The only reason to be angry at Brown is if one is also angry at government employees in general or politicians or people who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Personally, I just think he is bad at his job and makes Massachusetts look ridiculous because of his inadequacies. He offered up his own daughter on national TV as soon as he became famous for God’s sakes. How can one be angry with someone like that.

  8. Hmm...

    A few things, David.

    I think you safely qualify as a liberal activist.
    Brown’s affable on TV, maybe, but in person he’s scared to meet with regular voters and has a tendency to yell and swear at children. He’s narcissistic and has a lot of trouble accepting criticism, acting whiny and blaming others when something goes awry. Reality doesn’t have much to do with TV.
    I don’t know why you’re painting him to be some kind of moderate, when he’s been anything but. Yeah, he’s bucked the party on a few little issues, but usually only after getting something huge in return (ie he voted to repeal DADT, but only after he held tax cuts for the rich hostage) — and he’ll usually only go that far when his vote wasn’t going to make the difference
    Anyone who votes in Mitch McConnell is an extreme right winger. Period.
    He did run as the “People’s Candidate,” then went in to become the “Wall Street Candidate.” He hasn’t been anywhere close to the bipartisan, for-the-people guy that he advertised himself as being.

    His defaults as a politician may have been entirely predictable to people who pay attention to politics as much as we do, David, but the average person took him at his word and he lied. Now, he tries to hide these facts from them and still mask himself as this bipartisan guy you’d like to have a beer with, but we shouldn’t allow him to get away with that. And you may not be angry, but I am… and anyone else who gets angry at liars should be at least a little angry, too.

    As for your major point — I actually agree with that. The notion that this campaign would be easy certainly was never going to be true. I still believe Warren will win and win big, but that big victory is going to be like Patrick’s in ’06; it’s going to be hard-fought and well earned, and the margin is only ever going to come toward the end.

    RyansTake   @   Wed 7 Mar 3:36 PM
    • I wrote that comment above with html for bullet points

      The bullet points showed up in the preview, but aren’t here in the final submission. Weird.

      RyansTake   @   Wed 7 Mar 3:48 PM
    • My guess is that Brown does

      all right at retail politics, but that he sucks at wholesale politics. That’s why he basically restricts himself to closed door events.

      • Being Challenged

        I can personally vouch for him getting touchy when he is challenged or he’ll kind of pull a Romney and avoid the question all together. Granted I was technically there as a blogger/journalist and not as a member of the public. In fact I would never had known about the event were it not for the Mayor’s office emailing me updates. Notably, Brown has not had a public even with Sarno since, hmmmm.

  9. Ryan- I don't think the general (voting) public shares your views.

    Scared to meet with regular voters? I assume you’re talking about the town halls, but he has been all over the Merrimack Valley the last few weeks, and not at fundraisers. He’s been pressing the flesh since running for town assessor.

    “Yell and swear at children” I know where that is from, but do you think that will stick?

    Win and win big Patrick ’06 style? We’ll see. Scott Brown is not Muffy Healy.

    • I'm not trying to get anything to stick

      I’m describing him as a person, as I see it.

      I specifically state he will try to avoid people catching on to these examples of reputation not matching reality. I think he’s bad for Massachusetts, not totally stupid. Of course he doesn’t want the pesky truth out, and has a team of communication gurus to help him on that account.

      Scott Brown is not Muffy Healy.

      The GOP convention was cleared for Charlie Baker because everyone and their mother thought he wasn’t Muffy Healy, either. Remember, he was the heir to Governor Weld and Pre-Governor “I Saved the Olympics” Romney. He was the guy who was going to cream Deval Patrick. Until it didn’t come anywhere close to happening.

      The ’06 reference was a reference to the campaign, more than the result. It took a very long time for Deval Patrick’s campaign to snow ball. As early as the summer in ’06 before the primary, he was more than 10 points out of the race and a huge chunk of the state had never heard of the guy. It took him to build up the network of people to really get out there, but once he did, he was a train that wasn’t going to stop until November.

      In that way, I think what Warren has been able to accomplish is similar. She’s building up her train now and once it’s finished, I don’t think it’s going to stop. The race may be closer than ’06 and it may be very close in September and early October, but it’s my hope that come November most people in the state will be able to get that Scott Brown is the guy to vote for if you want Wall Street to do well and Elizabeth Warren is the person to vote for if you want Massachusetts to do well.

      RyansTake   @   Thu 8 Mar 9:20 PM
  10. Failure to lead?

    David, I wanted to explore the statement that your biggest disappointment thus far has been Brown’s failure to lead. If Brown truly is a failure in this regard, the question has to be asked: “Compared to what?” Well, how about his predecessor?

    After serving in the Senate for nearly a half-century, Ted Kennedy was a consummate leader in countless ways. A great legislator, and a great leader. So how could any reasonable observer hold Scott Brown to that same standard after serving in office less than two years? Would Martha Coakley have been any more of a leader under similar circumstances?

    Here’s the real point of my post: I would argue that at this point in his Senate career, Scott Brown is a more effective leader than Ted Kennedy was in 1964 – two years after he, too, won a special election to fill an unexpired term. Whatever leadership Ted was able to muster at that time came largely by virtue of his older brothers. But he had little credibility inside the chamber. And honestly, why would he? Viewing film of his public statements from that era, he was borderline inarticulate – hardly the charismatic orator which Americans came to know later in his career.

    So if you want to judge Scott Brown against Ted Kennedy, let’s judge him against Ted Kennedy circa 1962-64 – that’s a much truer basis for comparison. Conversely, I think it could be safely argued that had Scott Brown been packaged by a millionaire father bent on creating a political dynasty, in order to be elected to a Senate seat vacated by an older brother who happened to be the president of the United States, with another sibling serving as attorney general, he’d probably be looking pretty good right now.

  11. My quibble with Dan K's column

    But with Obama on the ballot, a lot of people in Massachusetts are going to come out on Election Day looking to vote a straight Democratic ticket.

    The historical evidence doesn’t support that notion. Many voters split their ticket b/w President and Senator, particularly independents, which MA has a lot of.

    And this election seems to have all the ingredients for that: Obama likeability (so he’ll get the vote), dissatisfaction with economy (which would lead independents to vote Brown as a counterbalance).

  12. Yes, I am angry at Scott Brown--Plagiarism

    Scott Brown committed plagiarism on this government-paid Senate web site. And, where was the plagiarism found? It was in his statement of values and it was directed to young people in order to get them involved with government. That’s right, on his Senate web-page, in a section oriented to young people, Scott Brown plagiarized his own value statement.

    And, what did he do when he was discovered? He claimed that it was an error by a summer intern. Of course, Scott Brown did not have any summer interns, and the plagiarism occurred in February.

    So, he lied about his plagiarism of his values statement.

    When elected officials, like Scott Brown, repeatedly lie to us, then we have a good reason to be angry. When they lie to young people about their values, then we ought to be very, very angry.

    It’s completely wrong to suggest that Scott Brown is a nice guy. He isn’t.

  13. I think Brown should hire Charlie Baker's team ...

    I’m not angry at Brown, I do believe he’s full of crap when he’s playing the role of lovable doofus. He does push the Republican agenda and wants to take away healthcare from Americans. I don’t want him to represent me.

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