The key to today's special election in Massachusetts is how many people will turn out. Comparatively few turn out for a special election, so it all turns on whose base is more energized.
Judging from my family, the base is fairly sleepy. My son lives in Massachusetts, and just turned 18 a few months ago. I was on him right after his birthday: "Didja register to vote yet?"
"Register?" he said blankly. "You have to register?"
"That's right, " I said, with a vaguely threatening air. "Call the Mass Board of Elections, or whatever it's called there. They'll hook you up."
"Okay," he said hollowly. But he did it, and it actually wasn't that easy. The website wasn't working, and he called them, and there was some back and forth about whether they had any registration cards left, or whether he had called the right place, or gosh knows what. You know how they are when a young person calls. Heck, I know how I am.
When I spoke to him last week, he said yes, he was going to vote. Going to vote for "the Democrat?" he said tentatively. "Coakley," I reminded him. "Yeah, whatever." he said.
When I called him last night, he sounded a bit surprised. I confirmed that he didn't realize the election was today, didn't know where his polling place is, and didn't know how he was going to get there. "Ah, okay, uh-huh" I temporized, not wanting to impulsively ding him and make it even less likely that he would find his wandering way to the voting booth.
"Mom!" he yelled, trying to get my ex-wife's attention.
Fortunately, she knew where the polling place is, and supposedly they went together this morning at 7. Though he didn't answer his phone when I called at 7:30, and since I know how he loathes voicemail, I sent him a text message. I did get through at 8:15, and they were just going out the door. I told him to call me afterwards to tell me how it went. It's hard work creating engaged citizens out of 18 year olds. I'm hopeful, though.
I'm equally hopeful about the election of Martha Coakley. With my son in Western Mass for the last dozen years, and my 4 years in Boston for a grad degree, I know the people of Massachusetts are pretty ornery. I heard on the radio this morning that over 50% of them consider themselves independents. Scott Brown is a pretty energetic guy, and they like spunk. But ultimately I believe that the Democratic base is more energized than the Republican one. Since comparatively few people turn out for a special election, the question of Coakley's popularity is the wrong question. Is the base energized? I think the Democrats are more energized than the Republicans, but we shall see. Of course, the fact that the Diebold voting machines being used in Massachusetts are easily hackable is not very confidence inspiring. (I linked a conspiracy theorist story to the picture above, which figures the Dems are going to hack the machines to let Coakley win. It actually makes an interesting case, but as much as I want a win, I hope it's wrong.)
It's pretty clear that Scott Brown, if elected, will vote against ENDA. He opposes every LGBT civil rights intiative, including the Massachusetts State ENDA law now pending before the Massachusetts legislature. Martha Coakley, on the other hand, is certain to vote for ENDA.
Currently, including Paul Kirk, the sitting Senator from Massachusetts, I count 56 likely yes votes. There are 9 possible yeses waiting in the wings. I am quite certain we can get 4 out of those 9. If Scott Brown wins, the numbers change to 55 likely yes votes. I am far less certain we can get 5 out of the 9 possible yeses.
If Scott Brown wins, I will be forced to start scaling back my previous optimism on ENDA.
If you know someone in Masschusetts, or you know someone who knows someone, I would strongly suggest you call them if you want ENDA, or health care reform, or anything else on our progressive agenda.
If you want to help call people to get the vote out, click here. There are clear, simple instructions and telephone numbers of Massachusetts voters. I did it, and it's not as hard as you think even if you're shy. I strongly recommend you make a few calls. Strangely, it gives me a huge energy boost, because I feel that I'm doing my best to make a difference