As the most expensive senate race in the history of Massachusetts draws to a close in early November, candidates Elizabeth Warren (D) and Scott Brown (R) position themselves in anticipation of election day.
Incumbent Senator Brown has driven home the message that he is independent from partisan influence and considers each issue on its merits. However, this stance seems suspect upon closer examination, specially from the perspective Hispanic voters. In a race that could place Republicans back in control of the Senate, the events currently unfolding in Massachusetts are a matter of national concern.
Since his election to the Senate seat in 2012, Scott Brown has insisted that his victory demonstrated that “the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken.” While at the time such a position could be interpreted as prudent posturing as a newly elected senator of the Democratic bastion that is Massachusetts, he has embraced the notion as a central component of his current reelection campaign,
“I approach each issue that comes before me with an open mind and willingness to compromise. I believe there are people on both sides of the aisle with good ideas, and I’ll work with anyone of goodwill to move our country forward. I’ll always put patriotism over partisanship, because we’re Americans first.”
However, some progressive groups have raised questions about such alleged independence. In a tally of votes cast by Senator Brown, The Washington Post found that despite claims to the contrary, he sided with his party 66% of the time.
Senator Brown’s campaign has consisted of a dual track strategy both to legitimize himself as an independent while undermining the credibility of his opponent, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren. He was cast her as an elitist phony and commented on her salary. For her part, Ms. Warren has attacked Brown for voting against against jobs bills.
Scott Brown needs to explain to [unemployed] people why he voted against three jobs bills a year ago that would have supported thousands of jobs here in Massachusetts.
As the candidates debated early in October, Senator Brown’s independence undermined his ideological consistency. During the debate,
“Mr. Brown [identified] Justice Antonin Scalia, the archconservative, as his “model” Supreme Court justice, drawing boos from the audience and a pleased-as-punch smile from Ms. Warren.
After naming Justice Scalia, Mr. Brown then tossed out the names of several other justices, including that of Sonia Sotomayor, which seemed such an obvious pander to women and Hispanics that it drew laughter.”
As Hispanics in Massachusetts know, when it comes to issues that affect them, such as education, health care, immigration, etc., Senator Brown is consistently Republican. On education he favors a voucher system and opposes bilingual-programs. His website lists “Repeal Obamacare” as an issue category by itself, despite the benefits the program brings to Hispanics.
On the issue of immigration, the Senator of Massachusetts opposes the DREAM Act and has pushed for the use of Secure Communities, a flawed program I have previously critiqued using a report from the Warren Institute of Law and Social Policy at the Berkley Law Center.
Senator Brown can afford to call himself independent while consistently supporting policies that would harm the Hispanic community because, while higher than in most states, the Hispanic community in Massachusetts represents only 10% of the population.
Beyond the senatorial race however, a victory for Senator Brown could represent a shift in the control of the Senate, which is currently held by the Democrats. Such a change would not bode well for Hispanics nationwide who would likely be denied the benefits of Senator Brown’s “independent” bravado.