Scott Brown, the Republican candidate for Edward Kennedy's old Senate seat in Massachusetts, has become a somewhat unlikely national candidate.
In liberal Massachusetts, after a Camelot-worthy sendoff for Sen. Kennedy, and in an age of "hope and change" that was brought about in no small part by Kennedy-family endorsements, this seat has been considered a safe Democratic hold. But it may not be.
After polls began to show the race tighter than anyone would have predicted -- one showed Brown in fighting distance of pulling off a win the Republican nominee will be forced to climb an even steeper hill in the final days of the race. But the possibility that the lead of the Democratic candidate, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, is now in the single digits warrants reassessing the race.
But Brown you may be thinking -- can't really be a Republican, if he's doing well in a lefty state. There must be no significant differences between him and the Democrat.
Brown probably never owned a poster of National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., as '80s Republican pop-culture archetype Alex P. Keaton did on "Family Ties." And he is, in fact, a supporter of Roe v. Wade. But that doesn't mean he's a Republican in name only.
The main objection to Brown from the right has to do with abortion, but prudent reasons exist for pro-lifers to support him. During a debate with Coakley, Brown made his distinction from his opponent clear: "I'm not in favor of partial-birth abortion. I am not in favor of federal funding of abortion. I do not believe in lowering the age of consent to get abortions as Martha does."
When the Supreme Court upheld the federal prohibition on partial-birth abortion, Coakley was livid, and wrote (in a co-authored op-ed): "In one fell swoop, five justices set back the cause of a woman's individual liberty and self-determination, as well as decades of established legal precedent." In 2007, she was among seven state attorneys general who sued the Bush administration over conscience protections for health-care providers who had moral objections to playing roles in abortions and contraception distribution. Since she announced her candidacy, members of EMILY's List, a group that supports pro-choice female politicians, have given around $400,000 to her campaign, and the organization has spent about $100,000 on phone banks and mailings for its candidate.
The Boston Globe has reported that in the '80s, "Coakley was a private lawyer who volunteered her time to help minors get court orders for abortions when they could not get their parents' consent." Spending your free time in such a way indicates a deep commitment to the cause.
And while there has been some suggestion in the Massachusetts press that Coakley moderated her position when she announced that she would support the Senate health-care bill despite some faux restrictions on abortion, it is important to realize that even pro-choice heroine Sen. Barbara Boxer voted for that bill because those restrictions are toothless. Coakley is doing just fine by her radical feminist supporters.
Brown, on the other hand, despite not being opposed to abortion, has the endorsement of pro-life groups in the Bay State.
Despite his pro-choice stance, Brown supports some reasonable restrictions on abortion. And, furthermore, and immediately pressing: he opposes the health-care bill, which, if passed, could begin federal funding of abortions for the first time, despite the fact that a majority of Americans oppose abortion.
Brown's "right" on other things, too, having cleverly used old John F. Kennedy clips to show that not all Kennedys would roll over in their graves if a senator from Massachusetts supported tax cuts and fiscal responsibility. As a National Guardsman and JAG lawyer, he speaks about national-security issues with the confidence and care of someone who understands the stakes of the war we're in something his opponent hasn't managed.
I understand completely the desire to want political leaders who will defend the central human-rights issue of our day in the United States. With Brown, you are not going to get the next Rick Santorum. But you will, if what Brown says and what he's done are indications, get a vote your way more often than not.
As a Massachusetts Planned Parenthood official put it: "He has actively done things that undermine abortion rights."
Brown may support the Supreme Court's activist, deadly Roe v. Wade decision, but that's not up for a vote anytime soon. If Brown goes to the Senate and votes against a health-care bill that would mandate federal funding of abortion, he would be more of a pro-life senator than Bob Casey from Pennsylvania and Ben Nelson of Nebraska two supposed pro-life Democrats who voted for the bill. A pro-lifer in name only doesn't do much good. I'll take a non-social-crusader who's a good vote on restrictions that are more likely to come up during his tenure than an entire overhaul. That's a big tent I can live with a big tent that saves lives.