Conservatives have a conundrum on the Massachusetts Senate race January 18. The race is not about ideology, the media-hyped battle between a Republican conservative and a Democratic liberal. Scott Brown is a self-described “pro-choice” Republican who wrote on his campaign website that “this decision should ultimately be made by the woman in consultation with her doctor.”
University of Chicago Professor Boris Shor has analyzed Brown's state senate voting record and noted that Brown is more liberal than the “RINO” Dede Scozzafava that Tea Party candidates in upstate New York dumped last year: “Brown’s score puts him at the 34th percentile of his party in Massachusetts over the 1995-2006 time period. In other words, two-thirds of other Massachusetts Republican state legislators were more conservative than he was. This is evidence for my claim that he’s a liberal even in his own party. What’s remarkable about this is the fact that Massachusetts Republicans are the most, or nearly the most, liberal Republicans in the entire country!”
Even on the nominally “conservative” issues that Brown embraces, they indicate a leftist radicalism that is even more dangerous than his Democratic counterpart. One of Brown's television advertisements clearly place him in the John Yoo wing of the Republican Party, something that all freedom-loving conservatives should shudder to endorse.
This is not to say that Martha Coakley is any better. She's a Kennedy clone without the charisma, and she's only in trouble because she all but stopped campaigning after winning the Democratic nomination. But because even the independent libertarian candidate Joe Kennedy is pro-choice, there's not a single candidate on the ballot who is pro-life. So the decisive issue in the campaign won't be about abortion.
It may be about the prestige of the Democratic Party nationally. A loss in the heartland of liberalism after President Obama himself campaigned on behalf of the Democratic candidate could panic Democrats nationally. Most conservatives salivate at that prospect.
On the other hand, a victory by Scott Brown would leave him as the dominant force in the tiny Massachusetts Republican Party. What usually happens after one candidate wins the only statewide race the party holds, as happens after a presidential election on a national level, is that the dominant personality brackets the extent of acceptable conservatism (for Republicans) or liberalism (for Democrats) within the party. Some are already talking about Scott Brown as a Presidential candidate in 2012, since he'd have almost exactly the same amount of electoral experience as Obama had when he was elected. Do Republican conservatives really want Scott Brown's liberalism to dominate the party statewide, and possibly even nationally? Do they really want Brown to represent the most conservative a Republican can be after his election? The answer for principled conservatives is “no,” even if they also want to embarrass Democrats nationally.
It makes for a tough decision on Tuesday.