Guest Blogger

The Devil versus the Democrats

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 18, 2010 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: Martha Coakley, Massachusetts, Scott Brown, Senate seat, Ted Kennedy

Editors' Note: Guest blogger J. Todd (Tif) Fernandez is a volunteer activist with a Masters of Law in Human Rights from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and a JD and BA from Boston University. With a past career in state government and as a composer and writer, he's now pushing the Public Whip Count at ActOnPrinciples.org, and "Comprehensive=Inclusive Immigration Reform" with Out4Immigration.org.

Todd-Fernandez.jpgOh boy - things are freaky in Massachusetts! It's not April Fools or Halloween, but it is a day of reckoning or so it seems.

Remarkably, Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown's website has this for his position on gay marriage: "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. States should be free to make their own laws in this area, so long as they reflect the people's will as expressed through them directly, or as expressed through their elected representatives."

Nevertheless he's ahead in the polls, having closed a 15 point lead in Massachusetts' impromptu Senate election to replace liberal hero Ted Kennedy. Democrat candidate Martha Coakley, the highly regarded state Attorney General, is the anointed one who was ahead until people got to know her in reportedly one of the worst campaigns ever.

A good friend and seasoned political operative told me, "If you type "Martha Coakley" on the web the first result is 'Scott Brown for Senate'." I checked - and on my system in NY it didn't, but she's in Massachusetts so, who knows, and she was very serious.

The whole matter seems to remind her of an inappropriate Dan Aykroyd reference, and glancing at other websites about the campaign, I saw similar. Ouch.

My friend then rattled off a litany of bad choices and moments that got worse and worse. Supposedly Coakley remains in denial about her campaign's failure to connect with the electorate. They evidently are still over-estimating both the loyalty to Ted Kennedy's legacy, and her ability to capitalize on it. She's lost debates on due process for terrorist suspects and abortion, gone negative in ads in off-putting ways, etc.

"Ted Kennedy was Ted Kennedy like Elvis Presley was Elvis Presley," my friend reminded me. "That's over."

I argue this could be necessary to stimulate the base to vote, and that Kennedy's legacy is the best angle for that, but given my friend's insistence that no one cares (at least in mid-state), I wonder now.

Health care reform in Washington is also not firing, with 51% of the state opposing reform. Saving Kennedy's dream is not a strong sell, and therefore neither is casting Brown as the anti-health care devil. It's not helping that the Democrats keep insisting that the seat still belongs to Kennedy and indirectly to them. Brown answered that the "seat belonged to the people" and that resonated like a touchdown - and it's carried by the truth. Massachusetts doesn't like being told what to do or think. They are 51% unenrolled, all a smart bunch, and not that emotional.

But a bad campaign does not make a bad Senator and by many accounts Martha Coakley was a good Attorney General and would make a strong Senator for our concerns. Frankly, that's almost irrelevant at this point.

We the people need Senator Coakley.

We need to win this race to support the Obama presidency that our community worked so hard for and for the LGBT movement which is now facing its greatest moment. We need this to rebuke all the opposition building against this President and his support for our agenda. We need to prove that the message of change can work when given reasonable time. This is no joke.

Fair or not, this race has become a ridiculous one-year referendum on the Obama presidency. While not perfect, President Obama has demonstrated unprecedented courage for change. But changing a monolith of the size of the US government is a herculean task. Just imagine if you were changing something about your own work operation - then multiply by millions of employees and backseat drivers.

I see an apocalypse if we lose this. It may domino the mid-term elections, at which point the game is over or radically altered. The idea of change will suffer, our fight against corporate control of government will suffer, our struggle will lose almost every advantage it just gained moments ago after a decade of despair. The hope we are just beginning to muster will splinter into fear - or so says my gut and my own fear-mongering instincts.

Of course, maybe a loss, if it happens, would force Obama to respond to his base, to be less timid and conciliatory on matters of principle, and to move faster, i.e., to start operating like he only has one term. Maybe this will create the lion we need. But more likely, a loss in Massachusetts would mean a deeper strategy of caution. Either way, it will have us on the defensive, and we do not need to lose to learn lessons from the close call - hopefully.

We can not let slip the new dream we celebrated so recently.

The opening statement above from Scott Brown reveals a major troubling truth; he does not believe in the role of the judiciary in resolving the question of our human right to equality. His logic leads us to a US Constitutional amendment fight and if we lose that, to drastic action. While it may come down to this one day, we can not afford to have elected officials from Massachusetts paving the way.

Let the people speak now - when it matters so vitally and when it is appropriate to vote.

A new perfect storm of bad timing is unfolding in Massachusetts where popular frustration is meeting party arrogance colliding with a campaign problem. As we look to the horizon, we must keep our eyes on the prize and ride each wave on course.

Tomorrow is an important day for our movement. I pray that everyone eligible votes enthusiastically. If you cannot vote, help encourage others to vote. Our community will need to coalesce Tuesday in common spirit and intention to manifest equality for all.

Organizing for America is calling for phone banking.

The President is asking us for help. President Obama is our greatest hope at the moment - and we need to have his back.

Tomorrow our equality is on the chopping block and it's the devil of impatience (not Brown) verses the democrats and change.

Vote early and vote often.


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Nate Silver of 538, using new polls, has calculated Brown has a 3:1 chance of winning. Silver correctly predicted all Senate 2008 Senate races. This is all so sad. Well, the hope was fun while it lasted.

This Coakly-Brown matchup reminds me of two Gubernatorial races during the 1990's: in the Virginia race with Democrat Mary Sue Terry, and the Maryland race with Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend(yes, one of Ted Kennedy's family members). Terry herself had formerly been Attorney General for Governor Wilder, who had set a lousy example by insisting on running for President while still a Governor, and Townsend had been Lt. Governor for an increasingly unpopular Democratic Governor, Parris Glendening. Both of them ran lackadaisical races based on the assumption that "it was their turn", and both lost miserably. One didn't need sharp political instincts to realize that both had uphill battles even if they had chosen to run better campaigns. I am sure a lot of women voters were shaking their heads about these two, and resigned themselves to waiting for better candidates to break the glass ceiling in those states.

Judas Peckerwood | January 19, 2010 2:42 AM

God, I worked on that Mary Sue Terry campaign and you absolutely nailed it.

In the 20+ campaigns I've been part of, I've never saw a more entitled and overconfident gang of political hacks -- with no discernible reason for their hubris whatsoever. They were caught absolutely flatfooted, and when the deal came down they first went into denial, and immediately thereafter began to blame every low-level grunt who'd been forced to implement their doomed strategy.

You can add the Mitch Daniels vs Jill Long Thompson race here in Indiana in 2008 too. While Obama took the state (for the first time in decades), Long Thompson lost by a mile - all because of a piss poor campaign.