Martha Coakley's Political Autopsy
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
Thousands are laying out their scalpels and rib spreaders, adjusting and tapping their microphones and some of them may even be putting their sandwiches on her abdomen. It's time for the inevitable political autopsy in the wake of any election, in which political pundits both professional and amateur get to play Wednesday morning quarterback or PE's (Political Examiners, a vocation or avocation requiring no political training or pedigree, alas, a byproduct of the First Amendment and the internet).
So let us see what we have before us: A bloodless lividity and premature rigor mortis of the personality. Some incumbent Presidents run Rose Garden campaigns. Martha Coakley never got out of the ironweeds. In fact, our uncharismatic Attorney General couldn't have run a worse campaign as if she was in quarantine.
What was the cause of death? Well, other PE's claim that it was a referendum on health care, which makes no sense whatsoever since Scott Brown has pledged to be a little Mitch McConnell, which is to say no health care reform. Others say the COD was Obama and his communicable, tanking poll numbers, which is equally fallacious since Coakley's own numbers began dropping long before the president came to Bean Town. In fact, she began burning through her 30+ point lead faster than Bush went through Clinton's $200+ billion surplus.
Still others have advanced the theory, the most ridiculous of all, that Scott Brown and his little Fred Thompson truck resonated with the Massachusetts voter, a far-fetched scenario considering that Brown, until a couple of months ago, was even more obscure than Coakley.
To be sure, Brown reached out to the voters more effectively than did the Attorney General and therein lies the beginning of the explanation of the real cause of the death of the terminally-ill Coakley campaign: It wasn't that Brown and his out-of-state teabaggers resonated so much with the voters but that Coakley didn't resonate with them at all.
This was a woman who couldn't melt a stick of butter if you stuck one under her arm. Under the rubric of carefully choosing her campaign stops, Coakley openly mocked Brown for doing what any politician does during an election: Going out and shaking hands, this time at Fenway Park. In the 11th hour of a campaign, this means braving the cold, not staying indoors in climate-controlled fundraisers.
But there was another culprit- Democratic disaffection with Democratic choices. Undoubtedly, the Massachusetts voter only has themselves to blame since they chose Coakley to be their standard-bearer in the primaries. Coakley's fatal mistake was in treating this as if she was running not for the United States Senate but for AG again, which requires not so much charisma and charm (although it wouldn't have hurt) as projecting a pragmatic image of law and order, being tough on crime and on criminals.
Coakley's certainly that- she's tough on criminals against whom she knows she can win slam-dunk cases, doggedly allowing evidence to get misplaced, massaged and manufactured while letting actual child sex offenders walk without a care in the world. In the end they came back to haunt her like so many Jacob Marleys.
Martha Coakley was the wrong person for the Democrats at the wrong time. We sent in an emotionally frigid schoolmarm when we really needed another Sarah Palin, only one not as clueless, glassy-eyed and sanity-challenged. We needed someone who resonated with the voters on a human level, something managed quite effectively by Senator Brown, a guy who didn't extend health care benefits to his staffers, once voted to deny 9/11 rescue workers benefits and to allow emergency room workers to deny care to rape victims on religious grounds.
You have to be a platinum-plated major league fuckup to resonate with the voters less than a guy who's capable of doing all that.
True, Brown had out-of-state zealots and tea partiers financing and working his campaign, screaming, wild-eyed zombies who didn't have a stake in the matter and wound up working, as usual, against their own best interests. But at the heart of the Coakley campaign's death by disadventure (as opposed to death by misadventure, which is a whole lot more fun, at least) was a disaffection with Democratic policies.
In retrospect, it would be easy to say that anyone else on the primary ballot would've been a better bet than Coakley, a woman who was not Amelia Earhart but Typhoid Mary. The state's independents, the largest voting bloc in the Commonwealth by far, waited for Coakley, gave her chance after chance to redeem herself then regrettably came to the conclusion that she was infected with a terminal case of the stupids and ossification of the soul.
She represented the same old-same old Democratic politics on Capitol Hill that's squandered a super majority for the last 6 1/2+ months since Al Franken finally took his seat in early July. As in 2008, we wanted change yet we also wanted the same thing. We wanted real health care reform, to see the final chapter in Ted Kennedy's decades-long crusade. We were looking for the old magic. And Martha Coakley, because we were collectively stupid enough to give her our party's nod, was put in the unenviable position of having to succeed in two short months a beloved liberal icon who had held this seat for nearly 47 years. And she fell short.
And, really, is that entirely her fault? We pushed Martha Coakley out into the cold streets of Boston, Worcester, Springfield and small towns on a suicide mission and the more she exposed herself, the more shot up she got.
Scott Brown won last night's election fair and square and proved once and for all that no Senate seat is safe for Democrats or is an heirloom. Not Ted Kennedy's seat, no one's. Ted Stevens, in the Senate almost as long as Kennedy, lost his own bid for reelection over a year ago in the heavily Republican state of Alaska.
So you want to know who the real culprit is for Martha Coakley's political death by disadventure?
Look in the mirror and hang your heads in shame.