It’s a yarn that’s been spun for almost as long as Congress has existed in America. Man of the people is elected to the legislature on a wave of popular disaffection in order to clean up the self-serving representatives of big government that hide behind an alleged loyalty to the flag. True patriotism, according to newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, calls for a death to Obama’s plans for healthcare reform… and a truck.
We shouldn’t vilify Brown for being symptomatic of the caricatures that US politics revolves around. Whilst his opponent and numerous other Democrats assumed that the late Ted Kennedy’s seat would be a no-brainer, Brown was busy travelling the length and breadth of the state in his 4×4 eerily echoing Obama’s brand of personalised politics.
It’s not Brown’s personification of the Protestant work ethic that makes him an unappealing prospect; it’s his overwhelming willingness to slot into the Democratic-Republic dividing line that grows wider day by day.
Take Obama’s under-fire healthcare reforms that now face the prospect of being watered down beyond recognition, or simply faltering a ‘final hurdle’. For Republicans if you can’t afford healthcare you are simply too lazy to work for it. The bill Brown describes as being “forced down the throats” of upstanding Americans will serve to hike up taxes so that they pay for what the indolent can’t.
Never mind that the ‘idle’ account for 15 percent of their nation’s population or that even those with a healthcare plan can find themselves on the cold shoulder of their insurance company should they suffer being diagnosed with an undeclared hereditary disease. Such gaping flaws cannot be reduced to a simplistic dogma and are therefore discarded in favour of the same tired rhetoric.
The seat Brown will occupy in the Senate is particularly pertinent because it gives the Republicans the extra vote it needs to filibuster (i.e. talk out of town) any bill emanating from the Obama Presidency that they don’t like. Of course, George W. Bush had nowhere near Obama’s Senate majority and still managed to pass an extraordinary amount of partisan legislation. It’s a sign of the times that the last time the Republicans had 59 seats was way back in 1923.
What feel different now, however, are the circumstances. Prompted by the rhetoric of the War on Terror and appeals to their New Christian Right base, politics within the Republican Party have garnered a dangerous brand of moralism. Without a strong leader the party has been forced to connive their political capital through relentless opposition to the Democratic agenda, feeding a growing sense of disillusionment with politics which they can again engender to their benefit by positing their candidates as the solution to the problem they caused.
In his victory speech last week Brown claimed to have won “the people’s seat”; in fact, it seems that when the Republicans are in full swing they have only their best interests at heart.