So a 63-year-old WASPy Native American and a college age nudist/porn star run for the U.S. Senate. It sounds like the setup to a cocktail party joke. But it’s not. Enter Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Brown made national headlines in 2010 when he won the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in a special election. During that election, it came out that Brown had posed nude for Cosmo magazine when he was in college (porn star might be a bit of an exaggeration).
Ms. Warren was a prominent economic advisor for the Obama administration in its first few years. She oversaw the TARP legislation. Remember that really unpopular bill that bailed out all the blood-sucking Wall Street executives? That one. Her credentials, nonetheless, are impressive, and were it not for a recent scandal about her self-proclaimed Native American heritage, one would think the Democrat’s victory to be assured in the United States’ most liberal state.
The Massachusetts Senate election, fought by two characters with almost comedic backstories (if you’ve seen a picture of Elizabeth Warren… that woman is not Cherokee), is actually much more than it’s modest candidates. It is an example of civil campaigning.
Early on in the cycle, both candidates signed a pledge that stopped outside political groups (Super PACs, interest groups, etc.) from running political ads in the election. If a candidate wants to say something about his/her opponent, he’s going to have to do it himself/herself. Attack ads come from the candidates, not shadowy groups with ambiguous political motives. The candidates are held accountable for what they do, for what they want to say about their opponent. The same cannot be said for the presidential election, nor many other races going on around the country.
Outside money is not so subtly sneaking its way into elections on both the national and local stage. Just look at the Ohio Senate race where outside money has been keeping Republican lightweight Josh Mandel afloat. And because it’s outside money, the candidates claim clemency; innocence if an ad goes too far. Let’s make an analogy. It’s not that the general is merely watching his soldiers go into battle. It’s the general staying away as volunteer mercenaries fight his battle for him. How can we expect our elected officials to be held accountable on issues of national importance, when they won’t even admit they called Mr. Washington a liar?
But money isn’t everything. The candidates running in Massachusetts, while easy to make fun of, are actually, in spite of the political climate, quite reasonable. Elizabeth Warren is well qualified. She is a distinguished academic, and was an effective economic advisor. Matching her state, she is liberal, but not a demagogue. She used to be a Republican. Senator Brown too has the credentials. He is a longtime public servant, spending twelve years in the state House and Senate before winning in 2010. And while he may be from the Boston area, Brown is very much not part of the Tea Party. Ideologically, he is a moderate Republican. Yes, you read that correctly. The species we all thought was long extinct (found only in fossils like John McCain) exists in Scott Brown. He has worked with Democrats in the Senate. Brown is fiscally conservative, but socially moderate. He’s not afraid of compromise or bi-partisanship. You can argue his moderate stances are necessary in order to be elected in Massachusetts, but that doesn’t change the facts. Brown is a reasonable Republican.
As I write this, Republicans in Congress scheme ways to discredit Attorney General Holder, the White House preps various statements for the post-SCOTUS health care decision, all of which will attack/blame Republicans, while both parties lose sight of actually doing anything for the economy. Washington can learn from the Massachusetts election. Washington can learn what it means to be civil again. Washington can learn what it means to govern efficiently, not rule with blind ideology. The Massachusetts race has it all. And we can always learn from our Native American ancestors.