Editorial: Scott Brown for Christmas
You know what Santa should stuff into the chimney of the New Hampshire Republican Party in the wee hours of tomorrow morning? Scott Brown.
For a party that has gone seriously off the rails in recent years, for a party having trouble attracting serious-minded candidates who might also appeal to independent voters, Brown’s entry into the Republican U.S. Senate primary could be better than an iPad on Christmas morning.
This isn’t an endorsement, of course. Brown hasn’t joined the race yet, and who knows what his positions will be on issues that matter most to residents next fall. If he does jump in, he’ll need to persuade New Hampshire voters that he really does care about them, and not just a return to Washington. He’ll need to convince skeptics here that he is who he appears – not a shape-shifter saying whatever he thinks voters here (as opposed to his former constituents in Massachusetts) want to hear.
But if state Republicans are looking for a new public face for their party – something to counter the startling image of the guns-at-all-costs protesters gathered outside Brown’s event in Nashua last week – this could really help.
When Brown won his Senate seat from Massachusetts and then, quickly, lost it, much ink was spilled trying to determine whether he was, in fact, a liberal or a conservative or an independent. Was he a centrist? A moderate? A right-winger in sheep’s clothing? A left-winger in sheep’s clothing? A RINO? It depended largely on who was doing the labeling. What struck us about his short tenure was his willingness to buck his party – more than the vast majority of his colleagues of either party in the Senate, in fact. In other words, he often looked at issues and legislation without the rigid dogma of a party regular.
Consider: Brown considers himself pro-choice on abortion – as do most New Hampshire voters. He supports a federal assault weapons ban and opposes a national conceal-and-carry law – reasonable positions at a time when the government has been stymied in its ability to do anything at all to stem gun violence. He cast the deciding vote on the Dodd-Frank bank regulation bill. Although he had opposed such an action in the past, his final vote on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was to repeal it. And while he supported Romneycare in Massachusetts, he has become a big critic of Obamacare for the rest of us. He’s an anti-tax fiscal conservative.
Contrast that with the current state of the New Hampshire GOP. The 2010 election brought us a particularly alarming version of Republican dominance, illustrated by the extreme causes and uncivil behavior in the New Hampshire House that made local GOP officeholders the butt of jokes from late-night TV comedians. Voters quickly soured on the situation and, in 2012, gave Democrats back the House and nearly all the major offices on the ballot.
Which brings us to the 2014 race. Yes, conservative activists like those picketing Brown’s speech last week tend to control the primaries. But if the New Hampshire Republican Party is interested in a broad debate about its own future, a charismatic candidate who will bring national attention (not to mention money) to the race is not a bad place to start.