By Gary Palmer
“Climate change” happened right before our very eyes and few politicians and members of the media realized it until Tuesday, January 19th. On that day, everyone felt a definite change in the political climate when Republican Scott Brown was elected by the voters of Massachusetts to complete the U.S. Senate term of the late Ted Kennedy. Ironically, Kennedy won his seat in a special election in 1962.
Brown’s victory in this special election was historic and shocking. Kennedy held a Senate seat for 46 years in what may be the most liberal state in the nation. In the 1972 presidential election, Massachusetts was the only state won by liberal Democrat Eugene McGovern.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat party leaders were in a state of shock, at the stunning turn of events. Apparently, until just a few days before the election, very few saw this coming. But when the Democrat candidate Martha Coakley conceded, it seemed as though a revolution had started.
This revolution started long before anyone ever heard of Scott Brown and it started far from the state of Massachusetts. In February 2009, people all over America began protesting reckless legislation, including the push to nationalize health care being forced through Congress by Pelosi and Reid. These protests gave birth to the “Tea Party” movement.
The first protest took place on February 16, 2009 in midst of another liberal enclave, the city of Seattle, Washington as an outcry against Congress passing a pork-laden stimulus bill that members of Congress admitted they didn’t read. The Seattle protest was initiated by Internet bloggers and the idea quickly spread with protests the following day in Denver, Colorado and Mesa, Arizona.
Then, on February 19th, in a live report from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, CNBC on-air editor Rick Santelli called for a tea party on the Fourth of July. Called “the rant heard ‘round the world,” people who had never before been involved in politics or protests began organizing tea parties and on April 15th hundreds of rallies were held all across America.
But the liberal media and the Democrats ignored them. In fact, Nancy Pelosi derisively dismissed the tea parties as “Astroturf” telling reporters that they were not grassroots protests by ordinary citizens; rather they were orchestrated by well-funded interests groups.
Moreover, when thousands of angry citizens began showing up to protest the health care bill at town hall meetings held by members of Congress, Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, the Democrat House Majority Leader, called the protesters “un-American” and again claimed these were not ordinary citizens, but part of a well-funded and well-orchestrated campaign. Although the political climate was getting hotter by the day, Democrat leaders apparently were oblivious.
Even after the shocking victory by Republican Chris Christy in the New Jersey governor’s race in November where independents voted 2 – 1 for a Republican, Democrats still pressed on as though nothing had changed.
The loss of the Massachusetts senate seat proves that not only has the political climate changed in that state, it has changed all over the country to the degree that every Democrat and every liberal or moderate Republican candidate should worry. Massachusetts had the highest voter turnout in 20 years for a non-presidential election and independent voters supported Brown by a 3-1 margin.
Brown’s victory was an independent victory; clearly not a Republican victory and definitely not a vindication of Republican policies. This does not bode well for other candidates such as Sen. John McCain who could be facing a tough primary election, possibly against former Congressman J.D. Hayworth. A McCain loss would be just as shocking as Brown’s victory in Massachusetts and would provide even more energy to independents.
For months public opinion polls were showing political storm clouds gathering. In addition to opposition to the health care bill, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 58 percent of Americans wanted smaller government and lower taxes. In a Rasmussen poll in December it was 66 percent. This was the wave that Brown was riding and it is why independents rallied behind his message of stopping the health care bill, his opposition to putting terrorists on trial in our criminal courts, his opposition to secret deals with special interests groups, his opposition to raising taxes and his boldly stated support for broad tax cuts.
While everyone seems focused on the general election in November, there may be more surprises in store for incumbents in upcoming primaries. As the polls show, Republicans are not any more popular than Democrats. In other words, in this political rendition of climate change, the wind now blowing across America could be the harbinger of an independent storm brewing against the fiscal recklessness of both parties. And that is climate change we can believe in.
Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.