News’ View: What Scott Brown can teach us

One year ago today, hundreds if not thousands of Yale students joined millions more on the National Mall to watch Barack Obama take the presidential oath of office. He was elected with a mandate for change, and on that blisteringly cold day he proclaimed “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.” After eight long years with George W. Bush ’68 in the Oval Office, that sounded pretty good.

Obama was a politician who inspired us to volunteer and make phone calls and even vote. He galvanized our generation into action with a call for activism and hope. But, like Obama’s promise of change, these feelings have not survived the long year behind us. Our optimism has reverted back to cynicism as we have seen the same politicking and brokering in Washington under Obama’s leadership that we saw under President Bush and President Clinton. Worse yet, we have placed so much faith in Obama that we seem to have forgotten that one man — even if he is president of the United States — cannot solve all of our problems. We elected Obama together, but then we thought he could work alone. Clearly, he can’t.

After all, our country has a stagnant economy and is fighting two wars in the Middle East. We have a health care system that allows malpractice lawyers to profit while doctors suffer. Our intelligence system simply does not work.

Even a month ago, nobody would have thought that Scott Brown, a low-key Republican from Massachusetts who drives a green GMC pickup truck with about 200,000 miles on it, could be the solution to these immense problems. Indeed, he alone will not be.

But the message Brown sends is one that may change business in Washington more than Obama’s election did last year. What voters in Massachusetts told Congress and Obama yesterday is that they and we are fed up. We’re tired of Nebraska getting special deals and health care reform that does not address some of the most important problems with health care. We’re tired of change that never comes.

As Yale students, it is our nature to think that we can solve the unsolvable and that the best and brightest, the Ivy League graduates, can find solutions that nobody else could. The truth, though, is that solutions can come just as easily from people like Brown and even people who didn’t go to college. The belief we had in Obama was, ironically, a belief in the elite. But maybe it’s time for us to remember that the elite has let us down for a long time now.

We’re not sure what Brown will do as a senator, but it seems he will vote with his conscience instead of with party bosses. This can only be a good thing, and reminds us that there is something from academia that should translate into politics. The search for truth should be more important than the search for political office. Here’s hoping Brown’s win will make our country focus a little more on true change.


  • DC’12

    in addition to being ideologically confused and meandering, this column is painfully condescending, even while it makes forays towards humility.

    the sentiment: we have depended too much on the elite, and now, as Obama disappoints us, down-home-truck-driving scott brown may have the solutions?

    he’s a highly paid lawyer with three houses, and a condo in aruba. he went to tufts, and a good law school. it shows a profound ignorance: we can’t even recognize our fellow elites anymore. or even worse, brown isn’t quite elite enough (he went to a non-Ivy after all) for us. or is it that he doesn’t fit our conception of elite: he is, after all, down to earth, religious, right of center, and served in the armed forces.

    the truth: the guy’s a standup character, and a hell of a lot better than coakley.


  • Working Stiffs

    Don’t tell us Yankees what to do. And I ain’t talkin’ about a baseball team. I’m talkin’ about a region of the country, the region of the country I was born and raised in. New England.

    Get the prefix?

    NEW England. The England without monarchs. Without aristocracy. Without elitism. The England called America.

    Scott Brown’s election is not so much a vote against health care, or deficit spending, as it is against a know-it-all administration that has decided to ram stuff through the Congress without paying attention to the citizenry.

    It’s jobs STUPID !!!!!!

    Big spending projects like health care and education MIGHT be swallowed by the public if their mouths were full of food. But their mouths are as empty as their wallets.

    Obama and his smart-aleck advisors made the same mistake King George Herbert Walker Bush (Yale ’48) made when he didn’t know the price of a gallon of milk.


    Well, the working stiff just stiffed the Adminsitration by their vote in Massachussetts.

    Wake up White House. Put a chicken in every pot BEFORE you buy General Motors.

    (from my blog

  • Lame

    DC ’12 is right. Brown isn’t even a little bit elite? Hm….I guess I can somewhat appreciate that the article attempts to be balanced and humble, but it definitely fails to be both these things in the end. “We” elected Obama? No. The vast majority of Yale did, but not everyone, so I think the more accurate phrasing is “Democrats on campus elected Obama” or “many people on campus voted for Obama…” It’s frustrating how liberals on campus like to ignore conservative viewpoints as if they either don’t exist or that anything remotely conservative is so crazy and extremist, when actually in non-elitist America conservative views are commonplace, mainstream, and — dare I say — valid. Looks like Mass just proved that.

  • Yalie 07

    I agree with some of what this column says (and that Nebraska deal was one of the worst “bargains” I’ve ever seen in politics), but you’re kidding yourselves if you think Scott Brown will vote according to conscience and not in lockstep with the national GOP on anything of substance. Republicans keep telling Obama and the Democratic party to be more centrist, but I never see anybody telling Republicans to be more moderate. The good news is, this is still Massachusetts we’re talking about and Brown has only 2 years til his next election. I’m not sure Scott Brown can get away with voting according to the wishes of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. Coakley was a terrible candidate (who knew Massachusetts could produce a worse Democratic candidate than John Kerry?), but there is still a Dem voter registration advantage in Massachusetts. She didn’t get key constituencies to turn out for her. When Scott Brown abandons much of his constituency (kinda like Sen Joe the Traitor Lieberman), I think there’ll be a lot of buyers’ remorse.

    The other thing that very few people are acknowledging is that Massachusetts already HAS a state mandated health insurance program and subsidizes insurance for its poorest residents. Scott Brown ultimately voted yes for this plan but he evidently doesn’t think those of us who aren’t Mass residents deserve something similar. And so, like 6 years ago, an inept Massachusetts politician losing means more pain for the rest of us. Enjoy Sen Brown Red Sox fans!

  • Anonymous

    This must have been hard for the YDN’s staff to write…

    Go, Scott, go :-)!

  • thetabooparty

    Cosmo has helped remove the gossamer veil of the pure white driven snow of Scott Brown. It is highly doubtful, however, that any of our “esteemed and honorable” Representatives in Washington do not have a similar dark side. That is not to excuse the behavior but rather to recognize that we are all simply human. We are all similarly flawed. Then, what can be said of Hope and Change?

    All people desire freedom. Life is tough enough so many choose to cling to hope for change. “Change you can believe in!” Hope is only dashed when the reality sets in that we place too much faith in the integrity of our candidates that inspire the electorate and fall terribly short of their aspirations. The candidates with their vision are not to be faulted. The actions of the scurrilous clan in Washington are poised to subvert any attempt at change. Change to them is threatening since it has the potential to destabilize their power.

    What Scott Brown represents is not Hope and Change. Instead he represents freedom from an abusive government. Regardless of the true nature of the man, the message to Washington is loud and clear. Stop the monkey business and return to the people’s business.

    Ron Wilner
    Founder and Creator of the Taboo Party

  • anon

    what scott brown teaches us is that nancy pelosi should leave congress!

  • y11

    good editorial. now we just need scott brown to beat blumenthal in ct!

  • PC’10

    Did you guys write this at 3 am after some columnist bailed on you or something? This is really, really, really, really awful. Very poorly written, said nothing, incredibly condescending, and detached from reality.

  • Yale Alum

    Umm are you guys not publishing any comments critical of DC ’12 (or of your editorial)? Or are you just really slow at posting updates? I’ve tried a couple of times not to put through my opinion. I guess I’ll try to be more concise. Massachusetts and the YDN editorial page (and all those lovely Independents out there) are kidding themselves if they think Scott Brown will do anything besides voting in lockstep with the national GOP. I agree with a lot of the sentiment in this editorial (that sweetheart deal Nebraska’s Ben Nelson got was one of the worst “bargains” I’ve ever seen in politics), but the reality is – health care reform is screwed. Here’s another fact – Scott Brown supported the state mandated insurance program (i.e. universal health care coverage) in Massachusetts. Apparently, it’s just not good enough for the rest of us though. The Dems need to get their act together (for starters, stop bailing out banks! When Goldman Sachs is turning over a record profit and yet lending remains low, you have a serious problem…), nominate good candidates and listen to the people who got them elected. Coakley was a terrible choice but she also didn’t get support from traditional Democrat constituencies on election day – people don’t like being taken for granted.

    At the end of the day, I am struck by the following. Health care reform is dead thanks to the man who took over Ted Kennedy’s seat and Massachusetts has outdone itself in putting forth another Dem candidate (Kerry being the first) whose loss will screw us all over.

  • y10

    Elites are good. Yes, they’re fallible, but far less so than down-home-truck-drivers. I like Scott Brown.

  • Richar Sepulveda

    Passivity is the real reason why Democrats keep losing. They do not use the same tactics employed by the Repukeblicans in order to defeat opponents. In this case, had it been the Dem who appeared in a pornographic photo, the Pukes would have made political capital out of it. By contrast, the Dems stupidly stood by and said nothing.

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    The Dems have the truth on their side but refuse to employ it in their campaigns. Two foreign wars (with right wingers demanding a third one on Iran), a major recession, devalued dollar, eroding infrastructure — all caused by Republicanism and its welfare for the wealthy policies. And what is the Democratic party response? Total acquiescence.

    Submissiveness and passivity are not the way to win battles. You fight fire with fire. But the Democrats fight with up-the-butt kisses. That’s why they will continue to lose.

  • me

    Great article! Camelot is over, the people have spoken (actually mandated)!

  • Tanner

    This election should be the end of the Kennedy family in politics.

    The reason for this election was because Ted Kennedy did not, (perhaps he never did).

    The rule in Mass. was that if a seat is open do to election, death or resignation the Governor of the state would name a replacement.

    When John Kerry was running for President, Mitt Romney a Republican was Governor.

    Old Ted and his co-horts where so worried they snuck through or bull dozed through a change in the rules and called for a special election.

    Well Kerry lost and goes back to the Senate, and lo and behold a democrate is elected as Governor.

    The Teddy gets sick. And what does he do he spends his last days trying to change the rules back, alas he ran out of time….Poor Teddy at the end of his life he took one last wrong turn.

  • @ Y11

    Yes, let’s have Scott Brown switch state residencies. Please tell me you were writing in jest and/or aren’t actually a Yale student…Blumenthal is a hell of a lot smarter than Coakley and is immensely popular in this state. Plus, Mass will be a wake up call for all Dems. Keep dreaming!

  • 1Y1

    No, people, this article is really, really stupid. I like Scott Brown, but not for this reason. Obama is faltering, yes, but not for this reason.

    1) Like DC ’12 pointed out, Brown is no Sarah Palin. This is, and will remain, a good thing.

    2) I’m not a big Obama fan, but it’s important to keep in mind that he is “disappointing” only in the context of the idiots celebrating on Old Campus last year… that is, his election did not turn out to be the Rapture after all. Their blunder, not his.

    3) The votes that got Obama elected in the first place were not cast because he was perceived as elite. They were cast by really poor people, many black, who normally don’t vote.

    At the end of the day, a top-tier education, successful career and experience in the world (i.e. being “elite”) will always trump the lack thereof.

  • Bipartisanship

    Since Republicans have come out in force on the comments, I’m curious as to what they think about this:

    Even with the carrot of tort reform, does anybody really think that anybody in the current iteration of the GOP would support health care reform? Just curious…

  • Good analysis
  • @#18

    good to know Yalies are getting their intellectual inspiration from John Stewart these days…actually that explains a lot.

  • @#19

    Dick Cheney, is that you?

    Yeah, it’s just so sad that we don’t get our intellectual inspiration from Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or Bill O’Reilly. How unfortunate. I really feel a void in my life without Fox News. How will I know what to oppose without it?

  • Yale Grad

    In response to #4’s: “Scott Brown ultimately voted yes for this plan but he evidently doesn’t think those of us who aren’t Mass residents deserve something similar”.

    #4, other states are free to inact their own Mass-style healthcare programs if they wish. Mass didn’t need the federal government to inact theirs, and neither do the other states.

  • @20

    Pretty sure #19 was expressing distaste at drawing intellectual inspiration from ANYONE like that, left or right. I’d say Glenn Beck & Co. are about as viable as Stewart, even if they are devastatingly less self-aware about it.

  • @ Yale Grad

    nice spelling of enact. You’re right, we are free to do that – except that people move around and if a Mass resident gets a job in CT, I suspect they’re no longer getting subsidized health insurance nor are they required to get health insurance, which may be problematic come disease or injury. Incidentally, we’re also free to allow gay people to get married, ensure that science (not creationism) is taught in classrooms and that thorough background checks are required before you can purchase a gun, right? Oh wait, I forgot – state’s rights only selectively matter to conservatives. Otherwise, the GOP is very happy to shove their views down individual states’ throats and challenge things like gay marriage laws. You don’t actually address the substance of my viewpoint. Scott Brown, like most of his cronies, is a hypocrite. The senate bill doesn’t even include a public option. It’s very similar to the Massachusetts bill. What gives? Taxes?

    Also, I thought this was America – don’t/shouldn’t we care about everyone in this country? Isn’t health care a right and not a privilege?

  • @22

    wow comparing Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly to Jon Stewart? That…is one of the biggest stretches I’ve ever seen. But I’m intrigued – please elaborate. Last I checked, Jon Stewart skewers everyone and doesn’t read his journal entries to people. Oh and he also doesn’t just sob on TV. But yes, clearly, that is very Glenn Beck like.

    On a broader level, it’s interesting that you criticize Beck & co and Jon Stewart as non-relevant voices. Who should we be paying attention to specifically? Wimpy news anchors and journalists? To my mind, Jon Stewart does a hell of a lot better at reporting than most of his colleagues in the “real news” sphere. I suspect though that Republicans weren’t too fond of hearing the truth between 2000-2008 and are still a wee bit bitter…

    Also, re: left and right (and then I will stop this rant) – moderates and independents like to toss out the whole “extremism” thing. Yes, there are crazy liberals and crazy conservatives. But I sincerely hope you realize that independents are no less beholden to corporate interests or donors than the “extremists.” As evidence, just take a look at Joe Lieberman. And more importantly, independents are great at stalling legislation and watering it down – but not so great at actually advancing anything of significance (good or bad). Granted, Dems of late are also in the same category, but take a look at things like the invasion of Iraq, Medicare or the Civil Rights Act.

  • Leslie from Massachusetts

    I agree that Obama can’t do everything — or most things — alone. We who elected him because to make changes have got to help do the hard work: we must continue to engage politically, get others to, and so on.

    Unfortunately, Scott Brown has made it clear that he will follow along with the 40 other nay-sayers who oppose everything in the Obama agenda — apparently just to “bring Obama down.”

    While the Republicans may be saying “no,” we must find a way to get a progressive program through Congress. Again, Obama is lost if we don’t do the hard work to make it happen. Yes, we can!

  • yaledem

    I really hope most of these comments aren’t written by Yale students (although unfortunately I know the editorial is.) I would expect better from us.

    Also, Brown went to Tufts and Boston College Law School. I know they aren’t Yale, but come on, guys, don’t pretend he’s some country bumpkin. Both great schools, also a privileged man.

  • le_aviateur

    The right wing media’s talking heads are putting so much(too much)emphasis on the results of this election. Scott Brown’s primary responsibility as a Senator is to the electorate who put him into office, the people of Massachusetts, and don’t think for a minute that the left and Obama will hesitate to offer him the carrot before the stick. They have already done this with several GOP legislators to get their way and will do it again if they must. Politicians are bought and sold everyday; Mr. Brown is a political insider and by no means any different.

  • yalie

    this is probably the most poorly conceived and executed editorial that has graced these pages. logic? humility? fact-checking? why does the editorial lack these elements?

  • Nebraska Guy

    Let me point out a couple of things to you. First, anecdotal evidence suggests that most Nebraskans are completely ashamed and embarrassed by the idiocy of Senator Ben Nelson. A few things we hold more highly than money and fame is honesty, integrity and the value of one’s character.

    Second, our government is controlled by a huge number of Ivy-League grads. Apparently the brightest minds in our nation are still not immune to the corruption that power brings.

    Best wishes to all of you and I hope that when you have YOUR chance to serve, you make better decisions than those we’ve chosen in the past.

  • robert99

    I would have thought by now that nobody with sense could write anything adulatory about obama even as preface.