January 20, 2010

SO, BROWN WON. This is big news; while the White House is still in the healthcare bunker, things like Jim Webb’s move for a “suspension” until Brown is seated suggest that Democrats in Congress, being closer to the front lines, have a better idea of what’s really going on. We may still see something called “health care reform,” but it seems much less likely that it’ll be anything like ObamaCare, and if they do somehow ram ObamaCare through they’ll see anger that’ll make the Massachusetts special election look like a cakewalk.

But while Scott Brown could get elected as the anti-Obama figure — and while others will be able to pull that off in the fall — the GOP needs to be sure that it doesn’t just look like it’s lining up for its turn at the trough. Polls show that most Americans want smaller government, even with fewer “services.” Running on a platform that money’s better kept in voters’ own pockets, rather than handed over to special interest logrolling and vote-buying, will work: If it’ll work in Massachusetts, it should work pretty much anywhere. It is a fashionably-gloomy line among some on the right to say that the country’s too far gone in statism and the government-handout parasite culture to support such an approach — but again, if you can make it with this in Massachusetts, you can make it pretty much anywhere.

Of course, what the GOP apparat does is less important nowadays than it was. As I noted before, there’s a whole lot of disintermediation going on here — Scott Brown got money and volunteers via the Internet and the Tea Party movement, to a much greater degree than he got them from the RNC. Smart candidates will realize that, too.

And lies don’t work as well as they used to. Obama promised transparency and pragmatic good government, but delivered closed-door meetings and outrageous special-interest payoffs. This made people angry. If Republicans promise honesty and less-intrusive government, but go back to their old ways, the likelihood that the Tea Party will become a full-fledged third party is much greater. Are the Republicans smart enough to realize this? I don’t know. The Democrats weren’t smart enough to look at Virginia and New Jersey and realize that what they were doing was a mistake that would backfire.

And on the third-party front, the Tea Party enthusiasm for Scott Brown bespeaks considerable pragmatism. Republicans who are seen as sellouts may face third-party challenges — or primary challenges, or both — but support for Brown indicates that people aren’t in a “take your marbles and go home” mode yet. Throwing a monkey-wrench into the ObamaCare works was seen as more important than getting the perfect candidate in, and that was a very wise move. I suspect that we’ll see similar pragmatism between now and November, but the GOP should also remember — as was shown in NY-23 — that making an example to encourage the others can be pragmatic, too.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey: Don’t Get Cocky.

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