Brown and Warren have a simple message for anyone with something to say about the Massachusetts Senate race: Shut up. To win one of the most powerful positions in American politics, they are prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars making sure that they are heard loud and clear by voters, donors, and opinion leaders. They won't hesitate to trumpet their views -- and make potentially momentous promises -- on issues ranging from taxes, health care, and the economy to foreign policy, immigration, and defense. They'll warn that America's future is riding on the outcome of their competition. Between now and Nov. 6, they'll be talking without letup about the urgency of this Senate race and the vital importance of electing the right candidate.
But if anyone else talks about it, that's "interference." Let voters, donors, and opinion leaders hear about Brown and Warren from someone other than the candidates themselves? That "will not be tolerated."
Far from deserving the props and applause they are collecting in some quarters, Brown and Warren deserve bipartisan scorn. There is nothing admirable about candidates for Congress seeking to squelch electoral speech. Brown and Warren wouldn't dream of demanding that news organizations refrain from commenting on the campaign or trying to influence voters. Why should any other organization -- liberal or conservative, broad-based or niche, brand-new or long-established, local or out-of-state -- be treated with any less deference?
"We have entered into this historic agreement," the Senate candidates' pledge says, "in order to ensure that in our race we each speak to the people of Massachusetts directly, as their candidates, and that our messages are not overtaken by special interests and outside agendas."
Were Brown and Warren really focused on limiting the influence of "special interests and outside agendas," they would be working to curtail the power and authority that Washington exerts over so much of American life. Even for a pair of Massachusetts politicians, it takes remarkable chutzpah to demand that citizens stifle themselves about a political choice that may affect their families and fortunes for years to come. If the candidates are overcome by an urge to silence political speech, let them tell each other to shut up. How dare they tell the rest of us to do so?
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