Neil Swidey makes an even-handed point about Scott Brown (R-Cosmo):
Will Scott Brown go on to become a transformative political figure like Ted Kennedy, a senator whose name keeps company with the likes of Webster and Clay? Before you dismiss the idea, consider how outlandish it might have seemed had the same question been posed about the youngest Kennedy after his first year in office.One state legislator I know said, "If Scott Brown can be Senator, ..." and trailed off into stunned amazement.
At the same time, it's hard to see how anyone expected much more out of Teddy Kennedy than a reliable vote for JFK, yet he grew into so much more. At times, of course, that growth was an ugly and halting process to watch. Even in the 1990s, ardent liberals such as I knew that Ted's strength was not his character or his intellect; it was his staff.
His office truly served his Massachusetts constituents, and we loved him for it and forgave his many personal sins. His office also brought forward careful, well-crafted proposals and compromises that made him a brilliant legislator.
Could Scott Brown grow in a similar way? Only time will tell.
I suspect that Brown won't have the chance. I suspect that he will never win a full six-year term in the Senate. The Massachusetts Democratic Party proved its strength in 2010, and we will be out in force for the 2012 Presidential election, striving to win back the sporadic voters who don't always turn out in mid-terms.
Brown has serious problems walking the fine line between his teabagger base and a liberal electorate. Conservatives dominate the Republican Party in Massachusetts. They haven't always, but for the past twenty years, they have only paused occasionally to nominate moderates. Mostly, they have chosen again and again to be satisfied with staying pure and getting whipped.
Many Massachusans would like to have more partisan balance, but they're not willing to mimic the national picture, which requires so-called balance by going halvesies with batshit insane Confederate conservatism. The marketplace of political ideas has spoken here, and Republicans, failing to listen, have steadily gone bust.
Not that Massachusetts doesn't have checks and balances still in place. There are persistent factions within the Democratic Party. It's just that the dividing lines are much more blurry between the Dukakis-heritage good government liberals, the urban coalition Dems, and the shrinking traditional conservative faction who are only Dems because the Republican Party is so hostile to both the center of the political spectrum and the center of the class spectrum.
Swidey talks about the strengths that may continue to help Brown - and they are practically all superficial. Brown's handsome. His family is attractive. His daughter can sing. (And that helps us how?) His image has a pickup truck and a barn coat Photoshopped into it for our media narrative.
Swidey's not the first reporter to dwell on the surface. In the modern hopeless political media, it would be exceptional if he didn't.
I would at least hope that Swidey would get the surface right. He calls Brown pleasant and affable. Not my experience. I tried to be friendly, though I was obviously not a supporter, and Brown went off on me. I wouldn't want to have a beer with the guy - not that that matters one whit.
Led by the media and our own laziness, we Americans have become more and more vacuous in our politics. You think Christine O'Donnell would have gone beyond Bill Maher's show if she weren't cute? You think Nikki Haley would be governor of South Carolina if she weren't pretty? You think the nude pose in Cosmo hurt Scott Brown? If only Joe Miller had had one of those!
Michael Deaver knew in the early 1980s that pictures are more important to politicians than words - and especially more important than thoughts. All those happy pictures of Scott Brown are his greatest hope for re-election.
You do know what that means for Sarah Palin, don't you?