When Senator-elect Scott Brown becomes president, odds are some reporter will write a political tell-all called Game Change – Part Deux: The Race of a Lifetime…Again.
It’ll be a behind-the-scenes look at Brown’s trailblazing campaign to “transcend” Obama and become the first “post-Obama” president—with firsthand insider accounts from people on the ground who made it happen…quoted on double-secret deep background.
And the biggest news will be a revelation that old-guard Republicans encouraged Brown to throw his hat in the ring because they quietly couldn’t stand Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin—and—their belief that Brown could simultaneously project a starched corporate image while deploying his breezy, “Say chowda!” dialect to both reassure and inspire.
The resume parallels between Brown and President Barack Obama are, at a glance, striking. Obama is 48; Brown is 50. They’re lawyers. They’re both charismatic ex-jocks who can work a crowd. They’re married to high-powered career women; each has two camera-ready daughters. Both rose quickly from the state Senate to the U.S. Senate.
Unlike their fellow hoop-playing, nerd-crush counterpart, Sarah Palin, they don’t go to a full-court press to capture their respective political bases. Instead, these guys play a zone:
Not So Cosmopolitan
For a black presidential candidate, anything that smacks of overt sexiness, flamboyance or even a penchant for good Scotch might raise flags about that candidate’s seriousness. To play against stereotype, Obama deploys, as needed, a goofy bike helmet, “dad” jeans, and tossing gutter balls to offset his fluid, low-key jump shot. But he held onto his patented podium jog and familiar “I love you back!” to let crowds know he’s still one of them.
Meanwhile, to temper his suburban-dad feel, Brown goes to his faded barn jacket instead of a standard-issue overcoat. That naked Cosmo layout Brown did in the ‘80s might have kept Obama out of the Senate, let alone the White House. But for the junior senator from Massachusetts, it helps answer the question: “What can Brown do for you?”
If you really listen to Rev. Al Sharpton or Rev. Jesse Jackson speak, you’ll not find anyone who better articulates a clear, straightforward progressive platform than they do. But Sharpton and Jackson orate with an African-American pulpit cant—a style, Sen. Harry “Negro dialect” Reid will tell you—that can save souls and lose electoral votes.
In 2008, the less Obama sounded like Sharpton or Jackson, the more comfortable voters of all backgrounds got with him. His JFK melody tinged with MLK harmony struck a chord with American ears. No doubt you’ll hear it again at next week’s State of the Union. But for Brown, the trick is to dial back the eloquence. He’s crisp, clear—and plain.
Expect to see “The People’s Seat” on a bumper sticker near you any day now, but don’t expect Brown to pen a memoir titled Filibuster: The Audacity of Nope, any time soon.
This Is How We Do It
The president really messed up when he gave Brown a hard time about his ride. Brown’s truck is his Barack/Michelle fist dap—his Obama/Jay-Z shoulder brush-off. Think of Brown’s pick-up like it’s his theme music that goes wherever he does. And if Montel Jordan rolls a big black truck, why can’t he?:
Both men represent the political future: With a hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington, 24/7 cable news and movies predicting the end of days in 2012, there’s no incentive for ambitious pols to wait their turn on Capitol Hill. There’s a risk of flaming out too early, like smart, young, brown and well-liked Gov. Bobby Jindal. But there’s just as much risk in waiting one cycle too long, like Hillary Clinton, and turning “change” into “same.”
If and when Brown makes a move on the national scene, don’t wait for Republicans to admit that he has the same years of experience Obama did when he ran for president. The newest red-state hero, whose blue-state Senate term expires in two years, might decide to move on up before somebody else tries to move him out. If you’ve mastered the dialect and can cross over like Robin Thicke or Rihanna, why wait?
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.