While undeserved media attention and increasing negativity have dominated much of the 2012 presidential election, there is particularly one race in which the candidates represent the best of what our political discourse has to offer.
Vying for the honor of the junior senator from Massachusetts are Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. The former is the past native son of the Tea Party and current holder of Ted Kennedy’s former seat, while the latter was a Harvard Law School professor who was Obama’s first choice to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Scott Brown represents exactly what the Republican party needs: an energetic, moderate new face who is a solid leader. When Brown won the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for 47 years, he did so with a common man persona: by campaigning tirelessly as an underdog, while wearing a Carhartt jacket and driving his old pickup truck.
When Brown was elected to the Senate in 2010, the Tea Party viewed it as a mandate to defeat health care reform. As a Republican in an overwhelmingly democratic state, Scott Brown does not fit neatly into concise ideological labels. This is especially surprising considering the hyper-partisanship nature of today’s politics.
Brown has an interesting voting record that adheres to both the conservative platform as well as to bipartisanship: he has voted against his party 27 percent of the time and ranks as the second most likely Republican to do so. Brown voted for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010, but opposes same sex marriage; he was one of four Republicans to oppose Paul Ryan’s ghastly Medicare plan. He supported Massachusetts’ 2006 health carelaw, but also opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Brown voted for the Dodd-Frank Act, but at the cost of some of its regulatory provisions.
The challenger Elizabeth Warren, like Brown, comes from a working-class background and is an embodiment of the Democratic Party’s commitment to the middle class. The former law professor’s father was a janitor in Oklahoma, and she has made the defense of the middle class the centerpiece issue of her life.
As a bankruptcy expert, this topic is nothing new to Warren. During a time when income inequality is a hot topic, many on the Left have come to hail her as a populist hero. In a time of bank bailouts, Super PACs and unprecedented corporate lobbying, Warren’s influence has grown and will continue to do so.
Warren has been one of the most important advocates for the middle class in Washington. She was instrumental in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which aims to enforce laws preventing misleading practices by credit card companies, bank, and mortgage lenders.
Granted, the Bureau has struggled to get off its feet because Republicans blocked Warren’s and Richard Cordray’s nominations for unprecedented reasons.
In fact, PolitiFact says that this was the first time in Senate history that “a political party has blocked a nomination of someone because they didn’t like the construction of the agency.” Opponents of financial regulation could very well regret blocking her nomination, since she consequently decided to run for Senate instead.
Though the election rhetoric is heated, the race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren should serve as an example for all elections. Not only are the qualities of the candidates excellent, but their campaigns have also been impressive.
The candidates do not only align in their working-class backgrounds, but also with their unique commitment to eliminate the influence of Super PACs from their race. Brown and Warren have committed to paying a penalty of 50 percent of the cost for any positive or negative advertising by an outside group. The money from the penalty is to be given to a charity of the opposing candidate’s choice.
The race between Brown and Warren is one of virtue and one that people seeking public office should emulate. These candidates have chosen to put forth a refreshing vision for the country rather than engaging in lies and demagoguery, like many candidates do.
Currently there are 53 Democrats in the Senate along with 47 Republicans. In an election in which just over half of the Democratic Senate seats are up for election, this race could determine the tilt of the 113th Congress.
Ross Fogg is an Oxford sophomore from Fayetteville, Ga.