Why does anyone care about politics? It’s a good question. For all the yammering people do about government and politicians little seems to change and few seem satisfied. But politics could be compared to romantic love, where people still long for a certain ideal despite constant heartache, false hope and disappointment. No one finds it strange that people keep looking for love despite a lifetime of failure.
Politics is no different. A year ago, conservatives had not only just been betrayed by a big government Republican president, but the hoopla surrounding the new Democratic president led many to declare that liberalism had permanently triumphed. The Left claimed the GOP had been reduced to a Southern, regional party and some on the Right, notably Bush speechwriter David Frum and New York Times columnist David Brooks, advised conservatives to ditch their limited government rhetoric and embrace a more constructive attitude toward the state.
Today, liberalism is not enjoying the same popularity. Obama has the lowest approval rating in history for any president at this point in their term. The centerpiece of the Democrats agenda—national healthcare—is opposed by a majority of Americans. And a Republican just won Ted Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts. Think about it–in just a year’s time, we’ve gone from the conservative movement being read its eulogy to a Republican taking over the decades-held, blue state seat of the so-called “liberal lion of the Senate.” Writes the American Spectator’s James Antle, “Well, it took George W. Bush five years to bring his party to the brink of electoral disaster. It has taken Obama one year. That’s change, all right.”
But what are conservatives going to do with this discontent? Republican Scott Brown’s senate win in Massachusetts this week was indeed a conservative victory despite the fact that Brown is no conservative. Brown isn’t even much of a Republican and would be dubbed a “RINO” in any political context that was not ultra-liberal Massachusetts. Senator Brown will hopefully be useful in stopping the Democrats current national healthcare scheme but is by no means opposed to the concept, or as he told NBC’s Today show, “I never said I was going to do everything I can to stop healthcare… I believe everybody should have healthcare, it’s just a question of how we do it.”
Yet, the Right continues to go gaga for Brown. Let us remember that it was national disenchantment with Bush that led to the election of Obama. Now that Obama is governing pretty much like Bush—and the nation is still disenchanted—why are so many conservatives eager to rally around a Republican who isn’t much different than Bush or Obama?
When so many voters are expressing discontent with Washington, DC, not only at tea parties but at the ballot box, why would anyone looking for a substantive change in our government look to a politician who exhibits the worst, most establishmentarian positions of both parties? For example, Brown not only voted for government run healthcare in Massachusetts, in addition to supporting some version of it at the national level, but he applauds President Obama’s troop escalation in Afghanistan. If it can be said that Bush protected the welfare state while expanding the warfare state, and Obama is now protecting the warfare state while expanding the welfare state—Brown’s brand of Republicanism seeks to protect and expand both. The tea party movement’s message is clear: “stop spending!” This is not Brown’s message. Not even close.
No doubt, it is frustrating that there isn’t much serious leadership to harness and direct this growing anti-government sentiment, or as Pat Buchanan sums up the current conservative conundrum: “Who in the Republican Party today is calling for a Barry Goldwater-like rollback of federal power and federal programs? Except Ron Paul.”
There is no one–with the noted exception of the not-so-sexy Ron Paul–which is exactly why conservatives are so eager to find someone. Anyone.
People too eager to find love usually don’t, and in their desperation, they settle. When the nights are lonely any warm body will do. This is exactly what conservatives found this week in Scott Brown. Brown is no rightwing knight in shining armor, but a one night stand—attractive and useful for the moment but ultimately good for just one thing—stopping Obamacare.
Conservatives cannot afford to settle. Not anymore. Yet, too many seem ready to marry themselves to this new, barely Republican senator from Massachusetts. The Right needs to control its hormones. And while there’s no shame in being thankful the Democrats no longer have a supermajority in the US Senate, conservatives shouldn’t be thanking Scott Brown for anything more than a good time.