Opinion

Republicans and moderates: Don’t waste your money on Scott Brown

Photo of Jack Carlson
Jack Carlson
Clarendon Scholar, Oxford University

In 2010, when Scott Brown ran for Senate in the special election that followed Ted Kennedy’s death, his campaign attracted sensational attention and an outpouring of financial support from Republicans across the United States. In 2012, Brown failed to defend his seat against Elizabeth Warren, in the most expensive congressional race in the nation (and the most expensive contest in Massachusetts history). Now Brown has a chance to run yet another senatorial campaign — this time, it seems, against his most formidable foe yet: 20-term congressman Ed Markey. If the Republican Party has any sense, any esteem for fiscal conservatism, and any regard for the views and values of young, educated Republicans — in short, any thought for its future as a party — it will not waste any more money on Brown.

Support for Brown from forward-thinking Republicans would be a misallocation of resources, and would undermine the party’s most important principles and long-term aspirations. More than enough funds have already been spent on a politician who undermines the party’s commitment to fiscal responsibility; votes erratically and unpredictably; ran a shameful, embarrassing campaign in the last election; and has little chance of winning in the 2013 race.

On fiscal issues, Brown has criticized spending cuts, and in an open letter expressed eagerness to work with Sen. Reid and the Democrats to fight spending reductions. Shortly after he was elected, he was one of only a handful of Republicans to support President Obama’s deficit-increasing “$15 billion jobs bill.” More recently, after publishing some incoherent and embarrassingly misinformed tweets, Brown was perhaps the most vocal Republican to praise the White House’s shambolic (and inaptly named) “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” and strongly urged the House of Representatives to pass it. Earlier in 2012, Brown voted against both a Republican proposal to extend tax cuts for all Americans and a Democratic proposal to extend tax cuts for the middle class; he was also the only Republican who voted to support Obama’s request to increase the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion.

Brown has made wholly contradictory statements and votes on many topics, including tax increases, the Ryan budget, don’t ask-don’t tell, and cap-and-trade energy policies. On other issues, Brown combines some of the most retrograde positions of both parties. He is staunchly pro-abortion, but opposes gay marriage. He is a “proud union member” who is much-derided in Massachusetts for his climate-skeptic comments. He’s voted against the environment and also against efforts to curb uninhibited deficit spending. In short, this self-styled moderate is a confection of backwards-thinking and morally bereft positions from both parties, and his positions are out of touch not only with his New England base, but with the future of the G.O.P.: young fiscal-conservatives.

Scott Brown’s 2012 campaign was roundly denounced by all manner of media outlets as being one of the ugliest and most “bizarre” in recent memory. As a Massachusetts voter, and a former supporter of Brown’s, I can only agree. The campaign was utterly disgraceful. Brown’s key talking points involved: describing himself as “bipartisan”; denigrating Elizabeth Warren for self-identifying as a “native American, a person of color … which,” as Brown cringe-inducingly declared time and time again, “you can see she’s not”; and referring to his opponent as “Professor Warren.”

Now, if Brown runs, he will probably face 20-term Democratic congressman Ed Markey. Markey is unapologetically partisan, and has been seen in his district only occasionally since first heading to Congress in 1976. But the Massachusetts (and national) Democratic machine has closed ranks around him and he is poised to face little primary opposition.

Markey’s official challengers have yet to announce themselves, but — as a Massachusetts Republican — I can only hope that the G.O.P. does not continue to sink its resources into another Scott Brown campaign. Brown has not only shown himself to be incompetent, inconsistent, and ill-informed, but he threatens to draw both the Republican Party and the nation in a dangerous direction.

Jack Carlson is a Clarendon Scholar at Oxford University. All views expressed here are his own.