John McCain got his wish. By destroying UN Ambassador Susan Rice during a month-long campaign of Republican hysteria-mongering, Senator McCain forced President Obama to appoint a back-up nominee for the high-profile position of Secretary of State.
Senator John Kerry will resign and retire from the United States Senate in order to replace Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State. Kerry shares Obama’s vision of America’s place in the world and has long served the White House as an adviser. One could easily argue that Kerry is more qualified to be the Secretary of State today than Hillary Clinton was four years ago.
With his retirement, John Kerry sets off a political chain reaction in his home state of Massachusetts. His Senate seat will now be open for a special election in which a presumptive Republican candidate (Scott Brown) is the clear frontrunner.
Scott Brown won a special election in 2010 after the passing of Ted Kennedy. Senator Brown was soundly defeated after a year-long campaign by challenger Elizabeth Warren in 2012 but he remains popular in Massachusetts. John Kerry’s retirement from the Senate opens to the door for Brown to walk back in for another special election in 2013.
I believe that the special election presents Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick with a perfect opportunity. In 2010 he appointed an interim Senator who had sworn not to enter the special election. Paul G. Kirk served as a United States Senator for less than 5 months before being replaced by Scott Brown. He voted for Obamacare and allowed Democrats to avoid Republican filibuster of important recovery legislation. He did a political job with virtually no political entanglements. He sat in the seat, did his work, and went home.
Deval Patrick has stated that he intends to appoint another interim Senator who will also not seek immediate re-election. With a field of candidates for the full Senate seat, including Governor Patrick himself and long-time Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey, the perfect appointee for this short-term position is none other than Ben Affleck.
Affleck campaigned with John Kerry in 2004. He was on the campaign trail with Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. He is clearly interested in politics, and would present a formidable candidate if he chose to run in the special election. He would also be giving up a lot to run for the Senate. Affleck is currently enjoying the best year of his professional career. Would he be willing to give that up to jump into DC politics full-time? Probably not.
If selected for the interim position Affleck could serve, learn, and continue to speak truth to power as a Washington outsider. He would have four months to stand in front of C-SPAN cameras speaking as someone with pure ideals and absolutely no corporate interests. He is an independently wealthy and politically informed seat warmer.
Scott Brown will probably will the special election in 2013. The people of Massachusetts, for some strange reason, seem to like him and the special election will draw a very small turnout. When the people turned out for the general election he was crushed by Elizabeth Warren. When people stayed home for an uninspiring special election he sneaked into the Senate. He will probably win in 2013. But he will be just as beatable in 2014 as he was in 2012.
The fresh memory of flirtation with Affleck would affect the way Massachusetts voters approached the prospect of bringing back Republican Scott Brown in the special election. Affleck, by simply being himself, could help any Democratic candidate running to replace him. At the same time, if Scott Brown did succeed in his second special election challenge, Affleck could make himself a strong potential candidate for 2014.
The short service in Washington would give Affleck significant ammunition for his film career as well. Think of how interesting that movie could be. If he chose never to enter elected politics, service as an interim Senator would grant Affleck impressive clout in progressive circles. He already carries enough weight to testify before Congress on violence in Congo. Having actual Senate service on his resume would build on an already impressive career in the non-governmental policy sector.
More than anything, selecting Affleck would toss a grenade at the Republican caucus in the Senate. How would they react to someone who has absolutely nothing to lose? Fox News would lose its mind and the long-ignored progressives of the United States would have someone to admire (Barack O’Reagan has turned out to be incredibly annoying). It would be an amazing experiment and it would help this country tremendously… obviously it will never happen, because why would Democrats actually do something interesting?