Two months ago, when Senator Scott Brown crossed party lines to help pass a jobs bill, the Phoenix noted the political convenience of that supposed show of independence — since other Republican senators were also voting with Democrats, Brown’s vote was unnecessary. We wrote: “The real test of Brown’s willingness to buck his party will come when Republicans need his 41st vote” to carry out a filibuster.
That test just came with the new financial-reform bill — and Brown failed. Bowing to his boss, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Wrentham pretty boy signed on with his 40 fellow Republicans against the legislation. He even let the party shove him forward, onto Sunday-morning talk show Face the Nation, as the face of a policy stance he clearly doesn’t even understand, let alone believe in.
Nobody can say with a straight face that Brown’s promise to filibuster is based on any principled objection to Chris Dodd’s legislation. He doesn’t even seem to have gone to Republican leadership for the talking points. Asked last week by a Boston Globe reporter why he opposes the bill, Brown had no answer, and even asked the reporter what he thought was wrong with it. Three days later, on Face the Nation, Brown still had no specific criticisms, except for the novel and dubious claim — seemingly an invention of his own brain — that Dodd’s bill would cost 25,000 to 35,000 jobs in the insurance industry.
If the political calculation was not so obvious, we would be inclined to give Brown credit for some of his “independent” behavior since taking office in January. He has distanced himself from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party activists, avoided some of the worst rhetoric of the right, and crossed the aisle on occasional votes.
But the pattern is obvious: Brown’s new lord and master, McConnell, allows him to display “independence” only when doing so has no consequence. When McConnell needs vote No. 41, Brown is his willing lap dog.
Unlike Brown, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker has a history of standing up to the intolerant buffoons in his party. That makes his recent pandering flip-flop even more disgraceful.
Baker, trying to appease conservative delegates at this past weekend’s Republican state convention, circulated a flier promising to veto the gender-identity-rights legislation pending in the Massachusetts legislature. The cowardly move paid off: delegates denied Christy Mihos a spot on the primary ballot against Baker, and backed off from a threatened challenge to his running mate Richard Tisei.
It’s hard to imagine that Baker, a gay-rights stalwart who had a progressive policy toward transgender employees at Harvard Pilgrim, personally opposes the bill. So this appalling move can only be seen as politics over principle.
Worse, the Baker flier referred to the legislation as the “bathroom bill” — the term used by opponents who claim, falsely, that it would allow male perverts to stalk women in bathrooms. By using the term, Baker validated the worst caricatures employed by these ignorant conservatives to oppose important rights.
Since Baker is not stupid, we assume that he understands that conservatives in his party did not raise this relatively obscure issue by chance.