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The news that former Springfield Mayor, Charlie Ryan, had endorsed Republican Scott Brown was a bit surprising. When I read the newspaper story describing his announcement at a popular local bakery in my old neighborhood, however, I was not at all surprised by the entirely “personal” nature of the endorsement. The 84 year old attorney, politician, community activist, and self-professed “life-long Democrat” lavished praise on the Republican incumbent senator without mentioning any of Brown’s actual policy positions or votes. Without specific examples, he praised Brown’s bipartisanship and leadership qualities while condemning “gridlock” in Washington. The implication that Republican Scott Brown has or will work to end such gridlock was clear, but at best horribly naïve.
I couldn’t help wonder if the mayor had reviewed Brown’s actual voting record, which contains a whole lot of positions that ought to be anathema to a “life-long” member of the Democratic Party. Does Ryan share Brown’s opposition to the collective bargaining rights of police officers (a vote I’m guessing Brown forgot to mention to the police unions whose endorsements he is seeking)? Does Ryan share Brown’s belief that employers should be allowed to deny reproductive healthcare coverage in employer-provided health insurance plans? Does Ryan agree with Brown’s opposition to marriage equality? Does Ryan believe, as Brown claims, that the Affordable Care Act is a “jobs crusher,” a claim that has been so thoroughly refuted as to make it absurd? Of all the Republican filibusters that Brown supported, how many did Ryan support? Does Ryan endorse the Brown campaign’s use of the “politics of personal destruction” against Elizabeth Warren, which include an expanding list of outright falsehoods? Has he seen Brown’s new website entirely devoted to bashing Warren with surprisingly bold lies and false innuendos? Does that seem like the move a man with good character, Mr. Mayor? Does Ryan share Brown’s opposition to tougher regulation of the financial services industry, which the Republican senator started taking pains to disguise as soon as it became clear he would be facing consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren in his re-election bid?
Does Ryan share Brown’s misunderstanding (or willful misinterpretation) of President Obama’s – and Elizabeth Warren’s- comments about the taxpayers’ role in supporting and building businesses in America? Brown actually repeated this line of attack during Ryan’s announcement event. Could Charlie Ryan really believe that governments and taxpayers gave him no help in building his very successful law practice? Does this life-long Democrat think that his political party’s organization and fellow members’ efforts had nothing to do with his many political successes? Does he really think that business and politics are NOT team sports?
Newsflash: BUSINESS AND POLITICS ARE TEAM SPORTS!
I think Mayor Ryan has fallen for a very old and very deceptive political pitch used by candidates whose philosophy and policy preferences are at odds with the majority of voters. He has allowed Brown to use him to help deceive voters into thinking that the election is about the candidates, rather than about public policy; that it’s a “good guy versus a bad guy” situation. In so doing, he has allowed himself to be used to paint a very inaccurate portrait of the workings of the U.S. Senate.
Representatives and senators in Washington are, in fact and by design, team players, and the teams in the present U.S. Senate are the Democrats and Republicans. The ones who aren’t good team players quickly become ineffective and irrelevant. Apparently, Mayor Ryan forgot, or doesn’t understand, how party leaders in the Senate protect their members who represent potentially disagreeable states? Brown’s claims (and statistics) about his moderation and bipartisanship are a mirage. Almost every one of Brown’s votes against his Republican Party was tactical, not substantive. Brown, just like every Blue Dog Democrat from a red state, uses votes on which his own vote will not affect the outcome to vote against his own party so he can pump up his bipartisan “stats” for election-time. This tactic is fully supported by party leaders, making it anything but independent-minded or a sign of moderation. A review of Brown’s actual votes makes this quite clear. Once you understand the “inside baseball” tactics of legislative parties it also becomes clear that, despite his campaign rhetoric to the contrary, Brown fully supports his Republican Party’s obstructionism.
Those who understand the real life operations of the U.S. Senate, as opposed to the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” version, realize than Brown’s alleged moderation and bipartisanship cannot (even if he wanted it to) trump his obligations to the Republican Party. Voting for Scott Brown, whether intentionally or not, is a vote for the Republican policy agenda as well as for a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, which would solidify rather than stunt Washington gridlock.
I hope Mayor Ryan rethinks his endorsement of Scott Brown. If he genuinely supports the Republican policy agenda, then his well-earned reputation as a straight shooter demands that Mayor Ryan say so openly and clearly, rather than allowing himself to be used to trick low information voters into thinking Scott Brown really is willing to work with Democrats and with President Obama. If he truly misunderstands how the Senate works, then the mayor’s well-earned reputation as a thoughtful and highly intelligent man demands that he acknowledge having been the victim of Scott Brown’s substance-free patronizing charm offensive. He’s not the first, nor will he be the last, to fall victim to a smooth talking incumbent pol who seeks out the friendship of prominent local citizens for purely cynical political reasons.