I thought about voting for Scott Brown. I wouldn’t say that I came close to voting for him, but I considered the idea without horror, so I think I understand why so many people did. Oddly enough, it is one of the same reasons I voted for Obama; I am not happy with the status quo.
In the Massachusetts senate race the choices, profoundly divergent, were also profoundly limited. After Alan Khazei, a truly independent voice was eliminated in the primary, we were left with either Coakley, a cipher of the Democrats, or Brown, a Sarah Palin Republican with wit and brains. Martha, the status quo, or Scott, the attractive symbol of change. In Massachusetts we like to think of ourselves as being leaders in the fray, keepers of the keys to liberty, wise in the ways of politics, a place for the nation to look when it has lost its way. We have relished being the birthplace of the Adamses, the abolitionists, the Kennedys, a lone voice against Nixon, a strong arm in the election of Barack Obama. So why did we elect a right wing conservative? Change.
After eight wearying years of George Bush during which even staunch Republicans became disillusioned, we needed change. We were tired of being a rogue nation on the world stage that would sooner die than reach accord on inconvenient ideas like climate change in which we could be singled out as one of the chief offenders. We were tired of Bush’s secrecy, his unlimited spending in a cause we never fully understood or supported, his continued assault on privacy and his imperious disregard of international conventions and the laws of our own land. We were tired of his handling of the economy, our houses becoming worth less and we were angry that our banks and bankers were acting like rich, spoiled brats with no parental discipline. We needed change.
Obama promised change and we embraced him with both arms. Daddy, welcome home. Father Abraham, where have you been? Conservatives and liberals slapped each other’s backs and gloried in our stand against racism, our historic venture into the vast potential of a post-racial landscape. Look, world, we are Americans, there is no place like this anywhere else on the planet. It was a prideful moment, but as pride often has a way of doing, it blinded us to our own motives. We were looking for Abraham Lincoln when we would have been better off with Franklin Roosevelt. Although it is still possible, change is a tricky master and Obama has not yet figured out how to lead it.
That is no more evident than in Massachusetts where there is already a universal state health insurance plan signed into law by a Republican, where banks have not failed, where unemployment is under 10% and declining, where, until last night, not a single Republican graced its congressional delegation. Despite all of the apparent good news here, people still want change. I want change, I can feel it deep and inarticulate burning within me. The Obama revolution, which promised to speak it, is still burning inside me without a voice. So I asked myself, what change do I want? Is Scott Brown going to bring the change I want? My answer was no, so I voted for Coakley because her party’s positions are more closely aligned with my own. But far many more people, independents like me, said yes.
Yes, they said, we want change. We don’t like the way that our politicians behave. In Massachusetts we have seen the results when a single party controls it all. We have watched politics as usual become corruption as usual. We know what the party can do when the party is the only party. In Massachusetts, you are either a party member or you are on the outside. Outside your own government. There is no dialogue, no loyal opposition, no consideration or deliberation. It’s a lot like George Bush’s government all over again; you’re either with us or against us. Martha Coakley embodied that and she took it for granted that that was enough to win the election. In fact as she began to lose control, a control she never really had and all of the national Democrats came pouring into the state to rescue her from herself, the Republicans came here for the opposite reason. They came to ride the wave behind a man who stood up on his surfboard, bronze and tan in the Massachusetts winter and said that he was the new voice of change.
Sadly, people believed him. Gridlock will go on. Incivility will continue to fester. Money will continue to rule. Perhaps now even more than ever. Scott Brown is the color of the day, another change in shoes who will no doubt become a part of the business as usual machine. Scott Brown is not a voice for change because neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can be the voice of change. They are just different sides of the same old coin.