Fresh off the best week they’ve had in years – literally – conservatives and Republicans would be something less than human if they denied themselves the opportunity to savor an amazing trifecta of victories: First and foremost, the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat, along with the Supreme Court decision vindicating the First Amendment rights of corporations and the demise of Air America.
But the time for jubilation is almost over; the time for some serious thought and hard work is just beginning. If they learn the wrong lessons from last week’s events, Republicans will find themselves with significantly less to celebrate next November. And drawing the right conclusions from Brown’s victory will make all the difference. So what should conservatives and Republicans keep in mind?
1. Give It the Light Touch. Wasn’t it little Orphan Annie who sang, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile”? Well, Republicans aren’t. Even as Scott Brown deplored Obama’s agenda and called for a change, he did it with cheer and good humor. He didn’t stoop to ugly, personal politics as his opponent, Martha Coakley (and then the President, with his cracks about Brown’s truck), did. That’s important. It robs the GOP’s opponents (in both the Democratic Party and the press) of the opportunity to characterize conservatives and Republicans as frightening, mean and angry.
2. Be Specific. Scott Brown was clear about what he wanted to go to Washington to do: Stop ObamaCare, cut taxes, and present a strong front to America’s enemies. He didn’t have a detailed agenda, but he did have a specific one – short, concise, easy to understand – that, not incidentally, resonated with voters’ deepest concerns.
3. Don’t Overpromise. Brown didn’t claim that if voters sent him to Washington, he could upend the entire Democrat agenda and win the war on terror. That’s because he couldn’t. Instead, he promised to be the 41st vote to stop ObamaCare. Similarly, Republicans will find themselves at the mercy of an angry, discontented electorate if they repeat one of the mistakes of the President’s campaign: Promising the conservative equivalent of slowing the rise of the oceans. Either voters will see through the false promises at the outset (most likely, in the cynical, post-Obama-election age) or – as the President is now learning – they will extract a heavy political price for having earlier been deceived.