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Massachusetts and Haiti
How the latter affects the former

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
January 16, 2010

I'm not exactly an expert on Scott Brown. Two weeks ago, he could have walked right up to me, introduced himself, and I wouldn't have known who he was. If he mentioned he was the Republican candidate to fill the Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy, I would have thought (to myself) “Oh, the cannon fodder.”

Like everyone, I just sort of assumed that the voters of Massachusetts would elect a liberal Democrat to replace Kennedy, and didn't give the election much thought.

But then some polls show the race tightening, and there were even a couple that showed Brown with a lead, although the MoE made it a statistical tie.

Every Democrat in the country, predictably, went berserk. Brown, and his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, represent the decisive, filibuster vote on health care. The conventional wisdom is that if Coakley is elected, it passes, and if Brown is elected, it fails. This is one of those relatively rare instances where conventional wisdom is most likely correct.

The poll, conducted by Suffolk University immediately after a candidates' debate which Scott was widely seen as winning, lit a fire under Obama, who had been taking a hands-off approach to the race. He announced that Coakley had invited him to come and campaign on her behalf. Scott immediately growled about Coakley bringing in “outsiders” such as the President of the United States, a growl that might have been slightly less farcical had Scott not had general outsider and all around alien Rudy Guiliani in to campaign for him on the very same day. It doesn't help any that the election will be decided by the hated and widely mistrusted electronic voting machines. Those machines have done more damage to American democracy than Roger Ailes and Sun Myung Moon combined. They've managed to do what the Nazis and the Communists couldn't, and caused Americans to lose faith in their political system. It worries me. It's not unusual for last minute polls to show sudden swings, and more often than not those swings vanish on election day. I don't have any reason to question the integrity of the Suffolk University poll, but I will note that the only one with similar results is Rasmussen, which is predictably right-leaning. If not for the “bugger factor” of the easily manipulated voting machines, I would still be expecting a fairly easy win for Coakley.

There's a lot of confusion about Scott Brown, too. Nate Silver over at fivethirtyeight.com described him as “a liberal Republican”, whereas William Rivers Pitt at Truthout viewed him as the spawn of an unholy mating between Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. (Pitt didn't speculate on Brown's DNA, actually, but had Scott lumped in with the far right). It's not very often you see Silver and Pitt contradict like that. In fact, I hadn't seen it before.

So I went to Brown's campaign website and pressed the button labeled “Issues”.

By modern standards, Brown's website is straightforward. I've seen campaign sites where you come away without the faintest clue what the candidate's opinion is on ANYTHING, and sometimes you don't even know what party the candidate represents. You get vacuous homilies about “strong national defense” (ever seen a candidate advocate a weak national defense?) and “good education” (even Rush Limbaugh opposes “poor education”) and American values, which are not to be confused with Japanese values, which drive on the other side of the road.

Brown is more forthcoming then that. He has the same boilerplate listed in the preceding paragraph, of course, opposing the collapse of America, stupidity and Japanese driving, but he comes right out and states unequivocally that if elected, he would vote to defeat the health care bill in the Senate, which of course is the main item everyone is most concerned about. You can see his views for yourself at http://www.brownforussenate.com/issues

As far as his over-all philosophy is concerned, he's a moderate conservative. If Silver was wildly wide of the mark in describing him as a “liberal Republican” Pitt was wrong to lump him in with the Teabaggers. And even though the Teabaggers are wetting themselves in delirious joy over the possibility that he might get elected, he's gone out of his way to avoid them, limiting his outside help to Guiliani and not inviting people like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck to speak on his behalf. That makes what's about to happen to him a bit unfair. I want to see Coakley win, but Brown will lose because people he's avoided have said and did some pretty vile things this week, and it will cause a backlash against Republicans that will be felt in Massachusetts in three days. The scenes out of Haiti are shocking and sickening. This is a country that has suffered grievously over the past century, in no small part due to American corporate involvement in its affairs. With over half the national wealth flat-out stolen by US corporations and their puppet regimes in Haiti, life on that island was already the worst in the western hemisphere, with the capital city a vast collection of aged and ramshackle concrete buildings and shanties, the high price of poverty and capitalism. The trouble began with a relatively small loan from the National City Bank of New York, which gave America the opportunity to keep a hobnailed boot on the necks of the Haitian people ever since. Even now, Visa, descendant of National City Bank of New York, is charging a fee on every donation made for earthquake relief there. I leave it to you, the reader, to ask why the executive officers of Citibank aren't hanging from lampposts.

That Haiti isn't particularly known for earthquakes didn't help, not that the country could afford the luxury of earthquake codes to begin with. It all came to a head with an earthquake that, in California, would be considered a moderate nuisance that might have killed a couple of dozen unlucky people. In Haiti, the death toll is expected to be 200,000, and might be higher. We'll probably never know, exactly. Pat Robertson, of the “sees every sparrow fall” crowd, opined that the Haitians had it coming as a result of a deal the country made with Satan a few centuries earlier. The story is an urban legend, of course, but that didn't slow down Pat any. I'm guessing he wouldn't consider the name of that devil to be National City Bank of New York, would he? Nah. Jesus loves the little corporations, and all that.

Then Rush Limbaugh decided that the earthquake was a big, big break for Obama, since most of the victims had black skin, and Obama would benefit from all those dark-skinned victims. He went on to tell people to donate funds to private concerns (presumably, like Visa) rather than “the government” because the government would just squander the money. He told people not to give “one penny” to any government Haitian relief efforts. When hit by a tidal wave of objections, he tried to buttress his case by pointing out that the military (which, for purposes of ideology, had suddenly stopped being a sacred cow and was now a colossal waste of money) was sending down an aircraft carrier to Haiti, which cost nearly $2 million a day to run. Of course, Rush neglected to mention that the ship was, in effect, a 1,500 bed hospital, which would give devastated Port au Prince approximately 1,500 more hospital beds than it had after the earthquake. Pretty good deal for $2 million a day. Faux News' top three “news shows” devoted a total of 6 minutes and 45 seconds to the earthquake over three hours the following night. Glenn Beck devoted 17 seconds to it in his hour. Apparently Faux doesn't have much time for dark-skinned people who make deals with the devil to showcase government waste and “that Negro” in the White House.

The result is a fresh round of revulsion against the far right. The huge majority of Americans are humane, decent, caring, and giving when the need arises. The response of creatures like Robertson and Limbaugh aren't just alien to Americans; they're alien to humanity.

So what does this have to do with Scott Brown?

Nothing. Nothing at all. There isn't a shred of evidence that suggests he supports Limbaugh or Robertson, or shares their views on Haiti. But he's a conservative Republican.

And even though they have nothing in common with conservative Republicans, the leaders of the Teabaggers call themselves conservative Republicans, and that rubs off. Even though he doesn’t seem to have anything in common with these people, and indeed has tried to keep them at arms’ length, Scott will pay a price, and it’s one the GOP will pay this fall.

Teabaggers are heartless, brainless bastards who are a disgrace to America, and Scott isn’t one of them. But because the GOP let these people preempt them and steal their political cloud, Scott pays the price. As I said, I’ll be delighted if Scott loses. But because he’s precisely the type of conservative that conservatives need in order to maintain any standing in a two party system, it’s as big a loss to the country if loses as it would be if he wins.


I've just been informed that National City Bank was taken over by PNC, not Citibank, and has no relation to Citibank.

I regret the error.

Posted: January 21, 2010

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