Editorial | Brown’s unsustainable campaign
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:04
The office of Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (LA ’81) on Monday released a letter to Whole Foods co-CEOs John Mackey and Walter Robb condemning the brand’s choice to stop selling seafood that it doesn’t consider “sustainable.” Brown is currently locked in a reelection race with Harvard University law professor and likely Democratic Senate nominee Elizabeth Warren, and Warren’s surge in recent polls has made the race a tight one.
Brown has carved a niche for himself as a conservative counterweight to the otherwise overwhelmingly liberal Massachusetts congressional delegation. He has made a habit of condemning Massachusetts’ academic institutions like Harvard as bastions of liberalism and has been criticizing Warren as “elitist” throughout the race.
His letter to Whole Foods expresses doubt that the decision was scientifically sound, instead suggesting that it stemmed from a desire for political correctness. It alleges that the brand’s choice to not sell fish acquired through damaging methods or depleted waters is based on “uncertain science.” Brown then argues that the decision will “hurt Massachusetts fishermen and their families at a time when they are already struggling to survive under onerous government regulations.”
Brown’s gesture might be touching if it weren’t a laughably transparent attempt to pander to the Republican base — by a Republican incumbent desperate to catch lightning in a bottle a second time.
Brown has been aggressively courting the state’s fishing industry ever since his election to the Senate to replace the late Ted Kennedy in 2010. Moreover, he has been doing everything he can to portray Warren as an out-of-touch elitist, mainly by virtue of her position as a professor at Harvard Law School. Brown, an attorney who owns two homes, three condos and a timeshare in Aruba — as well as degrees from Tufts and Boston College — hardly has a leg to stand on, so it says something about his campaign that he’s attempting to define the race within a framework that doesn’t give him much of an advantage.
The likelihood is near zero that Whole Foods will actually reconsider its stance based on one politician alleging that concern with the environment isn’t scientifically sound.
In addition to expressing deep sympathy for fishermen struggling under onerous regulations, Brown managed to get in a dig at the “uncertain and inexact science” the federal agency in charge of this industry uses to limit these honest laborers.
Brown is evidently trying very hard to hang on to a seat he barely won against an arrogant and lazy opponent, current Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, in a bitterly anti-Democratic political climate two years ago. It’s commonplace for politicians to use news stories to air their views and appeal to a demographic they’d like to win come election time.
But Brown has made the bewildering decision to publicly condemn a food chain whose business model is selling natural and organic foods for offering sustainable fish. This decision is so logical for the chain that it’s barely noteworthy. By fixating on it, Brown speaks volumes about his current situation: His campaign to repeat the improbable is in an extremely tenuous place. Even while most polls give the Republican Party a slight edge in Congressional elections this year, Brown’s seat remains the most likely to flip.
And Brown knows that. It’s the reason he’s doing everything he can to cast Warren and her supporters as elitists — because he doesn’t have much else to run on.