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January 21, 2010
Mr. Brown goes to Washington - as a conservative
Scott Brown did the undoable: He won a senate race in deep blue Massachusetts running on the Republican ticket. But he did so not as a Republican; he ran as a conservative, independent of the Party establishment.
The Republican establishment has long forwarded the mantra that the party needs to moderate or silence its conservative base in order to win elections outside the South. Voters in blue states, so they argue, will never vote for conservative candidates who do not in many ways mirror their Democrat opponents.
This "Me too" attitude is championed by the likes of Colin Powell, Lindsay Graham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and David Brooks. They agree with the premises of the progressive welfare state agenda by saying "Me too" then differ only on the degree to which the leftist agenda should be imposed on the public.
Surely to the angst of this crowd, Scott Brown did not say, "Me too" to any of the Democrat agenda. Rather, he clearly proclaimed, "Not me!"
It is important for everyone on the right to acknowledge Brown also presented himself as an alternative to the "Me too" Republicans. He spoke clearly and definitively about every conservative issue from free markets to gun rights. His campaign website reads like a collage of Tea Party signs and placards. Basically, Brown ran the kind of conservative campaign certainly not cooked up in the Rockefeller Wing of the RNC.
And look what happened.
For contrast, ponder the election one year ago. The Republican candidate in that election favored cap-and-trade, bragged of working with Ted Kennedy, co-authored campaign funding legislation with Russ Feingold, and attempted to push through thinly-veiled amnesty. By all accounts he avoided being a conservative candidate.
And look what happened to John McCain.
It is therefore an error to chalk up Brown's victory as a win for the Republican brand. Frankly, there is not much of a Republican brand; only shadows of its identity remain in the minds of voters.
Coca Cola is one of the world's most successful companies because consumers know exactly what their brand represents; consumers know the next taste will be just like the last so they continue consume Coke.
Voters, like consumers, need to know what they are buying. George W. Bush and a Republican Congress did a good job of separating the Republican Party from good branding such as responsible budgets and aversion to deficit spending, The brand has suffered as they turned an appealing can of Coca Cola into Democratic-Lite. This dispirits the base and has no appeal to independents looking for reasons not to vote for the other guy.
So Scott Brown had little leverage working under the Republican banner. What he did do was clearly and passionately articulate pro freedom principles. He conducted one big taste test and the results have come back loud and clear: conservatism sells! And consider the context of Brown's accomplishment: it took place in the midst of a vast socialist power grab for the country. If ever there were a time when the public both desires and needs a clear alternative it is now.
The public does not want New Coke; Americans want the classic taste of freedom-loving conservatism. Let's build on Brown's success and prepare to meet the return demand for a good product. Word has it consumers will be back this November.
It will be refreshing to see Scott Brown riding his truck to Congress because he sure did not ride an elephant to victory.