Scott Brown: ‘People Aren’t Stupid’

‘And leaders should figure out they’re better informed now than ever.’

By JOHN FUND

Boston

0119mass08

(WSJ.com) When I arrived at his cramped state senate offices, Scott Brown had just opened one of the many packages he’s received since his stunning U.S. Senate victory 11 days ago. A local artist has done up a version of the iconic red, white and blue collage from the 2008 presidential campaign that shows Barack Obama with the word “Hope.” This one features a smiling Mr. Brown instead, but the word below is different. It reads “Change.”

By filling the seat vacated by liberal lion Ted Kennedy in a state Mr. Obama carried by 26 points barely over a year ago, Mr. Brown has certainly changed the political landscape. We sit down the morning after President Obama’s State of the Union message, an address in large part shaped by what’s been called “the Scott Heard ‘Round the World.” Mr. Obama uncharacteristically recognized some unforced errors in pushing his liberal agenda, along with expressing some new flexibility on issues ranging from small business tax cuts to offshore oil drilling to nuclear power.

Settling into a pinkish-red upholstered chair that looks like what it is—a castoff from a state furniture inventory—Mr. Brown reflects on his new celebrity. “I have to rely on who I’ve been and still am. I’m still the guy who works out at the YMCA and hangs out at the coffee shop,” he says. “The way to handle the attention is to fall back on normalcy.”

But he knows things are no longer normal. A few hours after we talk he will appear on Jay Leno’s TV show. His daughter Ayla—the one who performed on “American Idol”—has been offered a job by a major TV network. And the symbols that propelled his campaign forward are now a part of popular culture. On the day we meet, the Boston Globe has a lengthy article on the meaning of the brown leather “barn coat” he wore on the campaign trail. And then there is the pickup truck he drove around the state, which has become a symbol of his authenticity and “Everyman” origins as a kid who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and was scared straight by a judge after he was caught shoplifting as a 12-year-old.

The key to Mr. Brown’s victory was politically independent voters in the Bay State, who favored him by 3-1. So how should other candidates court the independent vote, which in most parts of the country is growing faster than that of either major party?

“People out there are disgusted,” he says, shaking his head. “Especially with any one party dominating government and talking down to them. They want straight talk, no BS. A focus on jobs and what really creates them. They want problem solvers in office, and it helped me that I was able to show I could work with Democrats in the legislature.” More…

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