Last week, I worried about a tight Senate race in Massachusetts, recalling Hugh Hewitt's mantra, "If it's not close, they can't cheat." Today, a huge voter turnout decisively handed "the people's seat" to Republican Scott Brown. In a state that Obama carried by 26%, where only 12% of voters are registered Republicans, and with two million votes cast, Brown leads by over 140,000 votes (with 98% of precincts reporting).
But will the Democrats learn from this stunning repudiation of their agenda by the bluest of blue states? It doesn't sound like it. Earlier today, Nancy Pelosi insisted that they will get Obamacare done before a new senator can be seated. Administration spokespeople are insisting this race wasn't about health care — even though Brown's most-repeated campaign line was "I'm the 41st vote" against a government takeover of health care, and the President himself campaigned for Coakley, emphasizing the health care issue.
Earlier tonight on Fox News, Juan Williams reported that his White House sources are telling him the President is going to "double down."
After the 1994 election, a chastened Bill Clinton learned his lesson, tacked to the center, declared "the era of big government is over," and joined the Republicans in ending welfare as we knew it. The signs suggest that President Obama and at least some of the Democratic leadership are not similarly willing to listen to the voices of the people. They're either too arrogant or too rabidly ideological.
I'm of two minds about that. On the one hand, if the Dems persist in their hubris, they're likely to face an unprecedented thumping in November, and that would be great. On the other hand, if they push through government-controlled health care and some of their other pet socialist schemes, it will be difficult to undo the damage they do to the country. Too many timid Republicans.
Speaking of Republicans, there's a lesson in this election for them, too. Some Democratic analysts have pointed out that Brown isn't a conservative, and that's true to a degree. He's certainly not a social conservative. He's pro-choice, and he didn't campaign at all on conservatives' pet social issues.
But Brown campaigned as a rock-solid fiscal conservative — cut taxes, cut spending, stop the "stimulus" and "bailout" nonsense, and abort the Democrats' headlong rush to turn this country into a European-style sclerotic social welfare state, with the resulting permanent low growth and high unemployment.
That's the message that will carry Republicans to victory this fall. Wearing their religion on their sleeves and making abortion and gay marriage the centerpieces of their campaigns won't work. Timid, McCain-style "moderate Republicanism," ready to "reach across the aisle" and standing for nothing won't work, either.
Last year, pseudo-conservative pundits like David Brooks declared "the era of Reagan is over." In fact, Reaganism is exactly what the Republican Party needs to embrace — less government, lower taxes, individual liberty, American exceptionalism, and optimism for the future. That's how they beat Carter, and that's how they can beat today's Carter-squared Democrats. That's the message that, if clearly articulated and proudly embraced, resonates with everyone from rock-ribbed conservatives to moderate Democrats. And that's a decisive majority — even in Massachusetts.