- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Is there a single proposition that explains Scott Brown’s stunning win in the Senate race in Massachusetts? The concept of a single proposition is that it both simply and fully describes the common theme among several different things.

Did Mr. Brown win because he ran a better campaign than Martha Coakley? Yes, but that doesn’t explain everything.

Did Mr. Brown win because he ran against the Obama-Pelosi-Reid version of health care reform? Yes, but that’s not the whole story.

Did Mr. Brown win because people were angry and he somehow managed to channel that anger into opposition to Mrs. Coakley? Probably, but that was only one of several dynamics at work.

Did Mr. Brown win because Massachusetts is not as liberal as many thought and he was more in tune with this reality while Mrs. Coakley was out of tune with it? There’s almost certainly some truth in that.

Did he win because opposition to President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has become so intense that any Republican could win against any Democrat in 2010, even in Massachusetts? That’s what many are saying.

Each of these explanations is at least partly true, but none is fully explanatory. Is there a single explanation, a single proposition, that lies beneath each of these partial truths that more fully elucidates what happened in Massachusetts on Jan. 19? I submit that there is: Scott Brown won because American citizens everywhere, even in the bluest of blue states, are fed up with arrogance in public life.

It is arrogant for Mr. Obama, Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Reid and Mrs. Coakley to say that their understanding of what is best for America is superior to that of the average citizen. It was arrogant for Mrs. Coakley to take her election for granted simply because she represented the state’s majority party and sought to preserve the Democrats’ hold on the late Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat, a point Mr. Brown made to his great advantage.

It’s arrogant for legislators to say they don’t need to read the bills they pass. It’s arrogant for them to meet with lobbyists and big donors but dismiss ordinary citizens who take part in Tea Party demonstrations. It’s arrogant for legislators to assume that they can run banks and car and insurance companies better than anyone else. It’s arrogant for a candidate for president to campaign on not raising taxes for those earning less than $250,000 a year and then, once in office, to do exactly what he said he wouldn’t do. It’s arrogant first to claim that people may keep the insurance they have if they like it and then to support a bill that denies them this very option, without ever admitting the duplicity. It’s arrogant to think the people won’t notice when you take what’s supposed to be an economic stimulus bill and instead turn it into a squalid set of earmarks and payoffs to special interests. It’s arrogant to promise a new openness and transparency in government when campaigning for the people’s support and then to shut them out and meet behind closed doors to hammer out sleazy deals the old-fashioned way.

The rejection of these many forms of arrogance is what carried Scott Brown to victory, but this reaction against arrogance isn’t limited to this race - it’s been the pervasive political story of the past year. I maintain that this single proposition encompasses most of the other reasons pundits have cited in countless analyses of this historic race. The reason it’s important to understand this deeper force is that a misunderstanding of what drove the voters in Massachusetts will lead future campaigns to miscalculate. What America is calling for, even crying for, is the rarest of commodities in politics: humility.

Humility embraces transparency. Transparency promotes integrity and accountability. A big part of Barack Obama’s appeal as a presidential candidate was his promise to bring transparency to Washington, in contrast to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld, who were seen as secretive, swaggering and arrogant.

Even though Mr. Obama emerged the victor in 2008, it is clear he didn’t really understand this underlying force that propelled him to victory. Within days of taking office in 2009, he began to display arrogance. If conservatives truly are to learn from Mr. Brown’s success, the essential point they must grasp is this: In the politics of 2010, arrogance is a terminal condition.

Scott Brown got it right: The seat for which he ran is the people’s seat. And public service is actually about serving the public.

Colin A. Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring (www.letfreedomringusa.com).



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