Sick to his stomach
A faux conspiracy in the Massachusetts Senate race
Sick to his stomach
Dick Polman, Inquirer National Political Columnist
Scott Brown would truly make history in Massachusetts next Tuesday if he captures Ted Kennedy's old seat in the special U.S. Senate election. Put simply, the deeply blue Bay State has never chosen a senator with Brown's right-wing Republican credentials.
Massachusetts voters last elected a Republican senator in 1972, when Ed Brooke - a moderate African-American - won his second term. Brooke's Republican predecessor was Leverett Saltonstall, a moderate who traced his Yankee roots to the Mayflower. Indeed, successful Massachusetts Republicans (including governors Mitt Romney and Bill Weld) have tended to be fiscally tight but socially tolerant.
Scott Brown is new school all the way, hewing to the national Republican orthodoxy. He's a favorite of the anti-abortion activists. He has come out in favor of water-boarding. He questions whether humans have caused global warming. As a state senator in Boston, he once championed - unsuccessfully - a legislative amendment that would have allowed religiously-devout medical personnel to deny emergency contraception to rape victims. He opposes civilian trials for terrorists (naturally, without acknowledging that the Bush administration tried the shoe-bomber, and the so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker, in civilian court).
But, most importantly, Brown is tapping one particular GOP staple - the fear/paranoia/grievance factor - and taking it one step further. Typically, Republicans allege that they're being screwed in the aftermath of balloting (sore-loser Al Gore was trying to steal the '00 presidential election, Al Franken was trying to steal the '08 Minnesota Senate election, that sort of thing). Brown, by contrast, is floating the claim that he's being pre-screwed, even before the balloting.
As mentioned in this space the other day, health care reform may soon come up for a final Senate vote, with success or failure potentially hinging on whether Massachusetts supplies the 60th Democratic vote (thus stopping a Republican filibuster), or the 41st Republican vote (thus enabling Republican blockage). If Democratic candidate Martha Coakley wins on Tuesday, she could be number 60. If Brown wins, he could be number 41. The hitch for Brown, however, is that it takes a bit of time to certify the winner - and it's possible that the Senate could vote on the final health reform package during the Massachusetts certification process. If that happens, the Democrats would indeed get their 60th vote - courtesy of Democrat Paul Kirk, the interim senator who is currently warming the seat for either Coakley or Brown.
Which brings us to Brown's false claim that he's being pre-screwed. On the stump the other day, he concocted this conspiracy theory: "The (Massachusetts) secretary of state thinks he needs to wait until every single ballot is counted and recounted and triply counted, and they're not going to certify me (as the winner) until after the health care debate. Now, you know what that does, that makes me sick to my stomach." He then insisted that if he wins, the state should certify him "right away" to avoid such chicanery.
He later repeated this claim in the friendly confines of Fox News, insisting that "the machine" was "trying to manipulate the process and make sure that if I'm elected, a duly elected senator, I can't be seated in an effort to vote on this important piece of national legislation" - a scenario that makes him "almost sick to my stomach."
Dude. Go chew a Tum already. Better yet, stop being paranoid and get with the truth:
Under state law, Massachusetts election officials have to wait 10 days after an election for the arrival of military and absentee ballots. And by law they must wait another five days for the cities and towns to verify and report their results. All of which means that, at minimum, the Jan. 19 election can't be certified until Feb. 3. That's not a conspiracy, that's the law.
But by raising the specter of being pre-screwed, Brown hopes to whip up the people who are most ticked off. And anger is what often drives people to vote in typically low-turnout special elections. So spinning this bogus conspiracy is therefore smart tactical politics.
On the other hand, it's also true that, once the Massachusetts winner is certified, the paperwork is then sent to the U.S. Senate. Harry Reid is then required to swear in the winner. If Senate Democrats decree that Brown's victory paperwork shall be sent to Washington via Pony Express or pack mule, we'll concede that he does have a beef.