Listening to both Martha Coakley’s and Barack Obama’s speeches at the rally in Boston today, one is struck by their defensive tone. (Video of the speeches is accessible here.) They are full of expressions of purported understanding for the anger of the electorate. Their purported understanding finds the source of the anger in the policies — surprise! — of Bush and Cheney, which Scott Brown is of course said to champion.
It’s a mantra that worked like a charm in 2008, but it’s lost a lot of its potency a little more than a year later. Coakley and Obama are out to channel the anger in the “right” — i.e., the left — direction. They seem to think the voters can’t figure it out for themselves. They are the victims of false consciousness.
By contrast, Scott Brown’s stump speech today at his rally in Worcester was brilliantly straightforward. Brown hit the themes of man against the machine, independence versus party hackery, humility versus arrogance, and the common man versus the elite. At the top of the speech, he even managed to strike these themes with some funny lines.
But Brown also expressly took issue with the leading policies of the Obama administration. He has staked his candidacy on opposition to the pillars of the Obama agenda, including the endowment of enemy combatants with the rights of American citizens, and Brown said so in no uncertain terms. He not only hit engaging themes, he took direct aim at the policies of the Obama administration and its congressional servants. In its own modest way, this is a great speech:
Thank you very much. What a privilege it is to share the stage with John Ratzenberger, Lenny Clarke, Doug Flutie, Curt Schilling, Fred Smerlas, Steve DeOssie, and many, many others – and my favorite singer, Ayla Brown.
As you know, Curt Schilling made the news just a couple of days ago when my opponent didn’t recognize his name. Of all the many false accusations she’s made in this campaign, one of the strangest was to call Curt Schilling a Yankee fan. Let me properly identify the guy she’s been smearing on the radio: His name is Curt Schilling, formerly of the World Champion Red Sox – you know, a baseball team that plays at Fenway Park.
Doug Flutie, what can I say, great guy, great career, and I am proud you are here. John Ratzenberger, a wonderful actor, you brought a lot of laughs to us during your many years with Cheers. Fred and Steve, you are legends and good friends. Ayla, thank you for again sharing your beautiful voice. Millions have seen her on national TV, and going through this campaign I’ve got an idea of what Ayla went through on “American Idol.” She had to deal with Simon Cowell, and I had to deal with David Gergen.
Our campaign is going strong, and the finish line is in sight. The day of decision is almost here. The whole nation is watching, but the choice on Election Day belongs to you and no one else. Friends and fellow citizens, I’m Scott Brown, I’m from Wrentham, I drive a truck and I’m asking for your vote.
When we started this campaign just a few months ago, the political machine wrote us off. A Senate seat in Massachusetts, we were told, was already spoken for – and this special election was just a minor detail that wouldn’t get in the way. The political machine already had a short-term placeholder in the Senate. Now all they needed was a long-term placeholder, and everything had been arranged.
Well, there was just one little problem with that plan – the independent-thinking people of Massachusetts wanted a real choice, and they – and you — have made this a real contest.
The voters are doing their own thinking, and the machine politicians don’t quite know how to react. So they put in a distress call to Washington, and the next thing you know, Air Force One is landing at Logan.
My first response is very simple: Democrat or Republican, the president of the United States is always welcome in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Now, it wasn’t exactly a scheduled visit. Sort of a last-minute thing. The political machine controlled that Senate, he was told, and it was going to stay that way.
Well, the party bosses gave the president some bad information. This Senate seat belongs to no one person and no one political party – it belongs to the people of Massachusetts.
Maybe they also told President Obama that I had no chance at all. After all, who ever heard of guy from Wrentham getting elected to the U.S. Senate? But as the president might remember, upsets like that have been known to happen.
The president may recall as well how much he used to talk about a new kind of politics – about campaigns based on conviction, instead of just false and small-minded negative ads. Well, as long as he’s paying a visit, he might want to talk to Martha about that. Not only are her ads negative, they are malicious. How quickly the politics of hope have become replaced by the politics of desperation. Shame on Martha.
Before the president rushed to the scene, we saw my opponent standing with a former president, the governor, the senior senator, the appointed senator – the whole party establishment, right on down the line.
At the beginning, it felt like me against the machine. But guess what? I was wrong. It’s us against the machine.
I don’t need an establishment to prop me up. I stand before you as the proud candidate of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents across Massachusetts, north and south, east and west.
The party machine is in high gear for my opponent. The establishment is afraid of losing their Senate seat. You can all remind them that this is not their seat, it is yours.
Should I have the honor of representing our state in Washington, D.C., I will serve no faction but Massachusetts. I will pursue no agenda but what is right. I will be nobody’s senator but yours.
One of the great advantages of being independent is that you meet voters of every kind. And you learn what people are really thinking about the big issues facing our state and our country. The political experts are still wondering how this little campaign of ours grew so fast and gathered so much strength and momentum. The reason is simple.
We do not want a senator whose only question on health care is to ask Harry Reid, “How do you want me to vote?” Massachusetts wants real reform, and not this trillion-dollar Obama health care bill being forced on the American people.
This bill would raise taxes. It would cut Medicare by half a trillion dollars. It would be unfair to our veterans. It would destroy jobs, and run our nation deeper into debt. It is not in the interest of our state or country – and as your senator, I will insist we start over.
I will work in the Senate to reform health care in the right way, the honest way. No more closed-door meetings behind the scenes. No more arrogant party leadership. We can do better, and as the 41st senator I’ll make sure of it.
In health care, we need to start fresh, work together, and do the job right.
On the question of taxes, my opponent this week endorsed yet another tax increase. She summed up her whole approach by saying, quote, “We need to get taxes up.”
She has it exactly wrong: We need to get job creation up, and taxes down. I will work in the Senate to put government back on the side of people who create jobs – and as John F. Kennedy taught us, that starts with a tax cut for the American people.
As a lieutenant colonel and 30-year member of the Army National Guard, I will keep faith with all who serve, and with our veterans, too. I will work in the Senate to defend our nation’s interests and to keep our military second to none.
In our debate, my opponent insisted that there are no longer any terrorists in Afghanistan. Maybe the president can pull her aside today and explain the basics: There are still many terrorists in Afghanistan, Martha! They are at war with the United States, and for the safety of this nation we must defeat them
As an attorney, I believe that our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation – they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.
Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington. And they think you’re on board with all of it. They think they own your vote. They’re sure they can’t lose. But on Election Day, the Bay State will set them straight.
We are witnesses, you and I, to something historic. We have run a race never to be forgotten. We are in a cause that deserves all that we can give it. In these final forty-eight hours, let us see it through to victory.
All along, I have counted on the goodwill and support of independent-minded people like you, and never more than right now. I ask for any help you can give, and above all for the honor of your vote.
In return, I make this pledge to you and to every citizen of Massachusetts: If I am entrusted with the people’s seat, I will give everything that is in me to be a good and faithful senator, and to make you proud.
Thank you all very much.
If Brown prevails on Tuesday, it should be hard for observers to miss the meaning of his victory.