By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why did Scott Brown sit out “It Gets Better” video?

I have been trying to imagine what U.S. Sen. Scott Brown thought he would gain by declining to take part in the latest “It Gets Better” video. Aimed at gay and lesbian teenagers, this effort features every member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation except Brown, whose office issued a statement that he’s too busy creating jobs and stuff.

(Brown had better hope he doesn’t show up in any Hot Dog Day photos.)

We were kicking it around on Twitter yesterday, and several people thought Brown wanted to avoid stirring up the right so that he won’t face a primary challenge when he comes up for re-election next year. I’m not buying it. At worst, Brown might face a token right-wing opponent in the Republican primary. Being able to position himself as the moderate alternative to that kind of nuttiness would only help his campaign.

In fact, in the Massachusetts context, there was zero downside for Brown in taking part and a considerable potential upside. Yes, he might have lost out on some national right-wing money. But his participation would have been a hit with the vast majority of Massachusetts voters, and would have confounded the large and obscure field of Democrats running against him.

So I’m going to adopt a theory put forth by another Twitter commenter: Brown’s running for vice president, or at least he doesn’t want to do anything that would keep him off the national ticket if the opportunity presented itself. Yes, I know it sounds kind of nutty. But his decision to sit out the “It Gets Better” campaign defies non-nutty analysis.

Brown’s decision is also loathsome on the merits.

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  1. Stephen Stein

    I don’t believe Brown harbors any delusions about his chances of becoming the VP nominee. I think his decision was just clueless, a symptom of know-nothing-ism that is swiftly becoming his hallmark.

    My guess is still Romney/Bachmann 2012, catering to the sane and insane alike.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Stephen: Balancing the ticket with someone who’s unbalanced? Genius.

  2. Maybe not VP, but an Ambassadorship perhaps, a cabinet position? Not sure if he’s qualified for a cabinet position, but lack of qualifications have never kept anyone from getting a job in Washington.

    I think it is just basic not wanting to piss off the nutter fringe just in case. And honestly, a year from now, anyone who would be voting for him is not going to go to the voting booth and think, “he didn’t do that ‘It Gets Better Video,’ I’m voting for the other person.”

  3. Christina Prignano

    I actually think it has to do with Dan Savage. I can see Brown not wanting to be associated (however remotely) with the guy who Google-bombed Rick Santorum.

    It’s a shame too because the message of It Gets Better isn’t and shouldn’t be political, and sitting it out politicizes the whole issue. The campaign is about bullying and self confidence, its message applies pretty universally.

  4. Balancing the ticket with someone who’s unbalanced clearly worked out well for McCain, eh?

    Another, simpler possible explanation: homophobia. Maybe he’s just not comfortable with the whole premise of “it gets better”. Maybe the details we know of his past abuse history are part of why.

  5. Mike Benedict

    It’s simple, Dan. Brown doesn’t stand for anything because he doesn’t have a spine.

  6. Patricia Daukantas

    Yes, it IS a universal message. I know in current times the message is being sent to GLBT youth, but it’s exactly the same thing that my mother used to tell me when I came home from school and confided my heterosexual-but-misfit angst to her.

    And it should NOT be political. Geez, what would Barry Goldwater say?

  7. Stephen Stein

    @Dan and @Chris – This *is* the Republican nomination we’re talking about. The party itself is unbalanced – an unbalanced nominee is nearly essential.

    Palin was un-balanced and intellectually challenged. She couldn’t craft plausible-sounding verbiage to explain her positions when challenged by the media. Bachmann is a different kind of crazy – she’ll go toe to toe with media types. Spouting nonsense, of course, but convincingly.

    With the media we have today, she can get away with that and not be seriously challenged.

  8. Tom (the Elitist Barber) Wilson

    Brown can’t be too independent. His corporate masters the Koch Brothers might get wind of it and not donate big money to his campaign like they did when he ran for Senate last year. Last spring Brown was unknowingly caught on camera groveling before David Koch for more money at the dedication of a Koch building at MIT. It was embarrassing for Brown because Koch didn’t know who he was.
    That said,I find Brown morbidly dull and rather lifeless.
    Somebody beam Scotty up!

  9. Peter Sullivan

    Wow I thought I was logging on to a news site, not the official cheerleading site for the Democratic Party.

    did you ever think that maybe Brown didn’t want to be included in a political (don’t kid yourselves) ad that featured all democrats!!!

    Moral high ground aside Dan, It is his prerogative to control the message he portrays publically. Not put it in the hands of the party he will face in the next election.

    Cheesy, partisan sniping in my oponion.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Peter: Have you figured out why it featured all Democrats? Let me give you a hint: because our only Republican member declined to take part.

  10. Mike Rice

    But on the upside Sen. Brown voted in favor of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act.”

  11. Michael Pahre

    I think that his opting-out of this PSA is Senator Brown’s way of trying to avoid controversy by staying out of the limelight.

    His one-and-a-half years in office have consisted of him trying to avoid taking a position on issue after issue, until he absolutely has to. (Exception: he ran under the 41st vote to filibuster health care reform.) Even in the repeat of DADT, he waited until the last minute.

    On a political level, it’s a relatively safe strategy, because you avoid getting too far away from where the public is on an issue. Avoiding this PSA is just his way of keeping his head down.

  12. Tom (the Elitist Barber) Wilson

    A number of major league teams including the Red Sox led by Jason Veritek have done this exact public service message. Does that also make it political?

  13. Peter Sullivan

    Jason Veritek isn’t running for public office…….
    If Politics worked like Major League Baseball, the best player would get the job….

  14. Mike Benedict

    @Michael Pahre: Recall that the GOP’s main criticism of Bill Clinton was that he governed by polling.

    Well, that and he was getting more action than they were. (Of course, we later learned that wasn’t true, either.)

  15. Tom (the Elitist Barber) Wilson

    So if someone is running for or is already in public office, they can’t record a public service message?
    I have to admit, I have no idea what your point is in the second sentence. The best politicians should be given huge salaries? By who, the Koch Brothers?

  16. Peter Sullivan


    The second sentence was a bit of a joke.

    And It isn’t really as complicated as the Media Nation crowd makes it out to be. If you were asked to participate in a political ad (again don’t kid yourself) with six or seven people that all shared fundamentally different ideas, opinions and views as you, you would be well within your right to decline for obvious reasons.

    Do you think if six Tea Party knuckleheads were doing the ad that Barney Frank would participate? Of course not…

    The old saying that you are judged by the company you keep rings pretty true here.

    Let’s not pretend we are actually talking about the poor bullied LGBT people here.

  17. Mike Benedict

    @Peter Sullivan: You may have a point, but you ought to quit with the analogies. They aren’t helping your argument. Lots of politicians have supported the right causes simply because they were the right causes, not because they were politically wise. Public defenders do the same thing every day. There is literally no reason for Scott Brown not to support his own constituents, except that he hates them.

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