Scott Brown didn’t just defeat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate race. He also defeated a hardy band of political clichés. That Republicans can’t win Senate races in deep-blue Massachusetts. That the state is devoted to “the Kennedy legacy.” That the Republican party has become hostage to extremists who would rather lose than support a pro-choice candidate. That the GOP has become a southern regional party. That what Democrats call “health care reform” is a fait accompli. That President Obama has magical powers of persuasion.
Democrats are blaming Coakley for running a bad campaign. Actually, it was a terrible one. But she had won statewide before, and the local party establishment expressed no alarm when she won the nomination. Either they didn’t see her flaws or thought that in Massachusetts it wouldn’t matter. What made a weak candidate a losing candidate was the national environment.
Liberals — some of the same people who chalked up Obama’s win to the public’s new zeal for progressivism — blame the economy for the public mood. But is it really high unemployment that has moved the public against the health-care legislation, abortion, and gun control? Remember that just a few months ago the conventional wisdom was that a weak economy would build public support for Obamacare. The Massachusetts race was as close to a referendum on that legislation as can reasonably be imagined, and it lost.
So another Democratic excuse is making the rounds: Massachusetts is a special case, since it already has near-universal coverage and thus has more to lose than gain from the legislation. But a lot of states, and indeed the whole country, will lose more than gain, and know it. Some Democrats have talked about putting Obamacare into law by having Democratic appointee Paul Kirk vote for it before Brown can be seated. We suspect that move would be too disgraceful to work. But to push the Senate bill through the House and make it law that way would also be to ignore the clear will of even blue-state voters. Democrats will deserve the thrashing they will get if they follow this course.
We have no doubt that NR will have friendly disagreements with Senator Brown on many issues. But Brown ran on tax cuts, tough interrogations of terrorists, and opposition to a federal takeover of health care and a bank tax. If that is a winning platform in Massachusetts, it will surely be one elsewhere.