After months of debates and millions of dollars in television ads, Massachusetts voters will render their verdict Tuesday in a US Senate race that offers a choice with deep roots in the state’s rich political history: an outspoken leader on liberal causes against a moderate New England Republican pledging to be a beacon of bipartisanship.
US Senator Scott Brown casts himself as representing a rare species, one of the dying breed of independent Republican senators who seek to broker peace in a divided Washington, in the tradition of Leverett Saltonstall, Henry Cabot Lodge II, and Edward W. Brooke, Republicans who represented Massachusetts in the Senate.
Warren is channeling the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s passion for championing the powerless, promising to be a leader in the Democratic majority her election would help secure, fighting harder than Brown ever would against a system now rigged for the wealthy.
“It is a kind of an endless loop in classic Massachusetts political history over the last century,’’ said Thomas J. Whalen, a political historian at Boston University who wrote a book about John F. Kennedy’s 1952 defeat of Lodge, the Brahmin Republican. That race launched the Kennedy dynasty and gave newfound respectability to the Boston Irish political establishment, creating the modern coalition that is now backing Warren, a Harvard Law School professor. “This is like Kennedy versus Lodge, in many ways,’’ Whalen said.
But while Warren and Brown’s evocations of older political generations may resonate with like-minded voters here, the meaning of what they promise to bring to a profoundly divided Senate and federal establishment is not as clear. Moderates in Congress are rare and getting rarer, and unvarnished liberals can find their causes have little traction in an ideologically charged arena.
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