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Now what?

Congratulations to Scott Brown and his campaign team for a very impressive win last night.  They ran a fantastic campaign and, quite frankly, deserved to win.  A few take-aways and thoughts after a very disappointing evening in Massachusetts.

1. Healthcare is not dead – Despite what you may have heard/read today, the fight to fix our healthcare system is far from over.  I would expect that, in the next few days, the House will take up the Senate bill and will pass it with no changes, thus negating the need for another Senate vote.  Failing that, they will be forced to chop up the bill into smaller parts (something the American people seem to want anyway) and pass what they can.  This allows them to claim some level of victory and move on to other issues voters seem to care more about right now.  It would be a huge mistake on their part for them to try to force through a bill before Scott Brown is seated – it would send a terrible message to the country and would be political suicide. 

2. 41st vote – I don’t think there are words sufficient for me to describe my frustration over the perception out there that, because the Republicans now have 41 votes, the Democrats can’t do anything despite still holding 59 of 100 seats in the Senate.  As Ann Woolner notes, in her fabulous piece in Business Week, “These days political parties are so polarized, so short on ideological moderates and so bent on each other’s demise that compromise on hot-button issues is the rarity.”  With one party being hell-bent on destroying the President, no matter the cost to ordinary Americans, and using filibusters at every turn, 60 seats has become critical to accomplishing almost anything.   The Founding Fathers intended a simple majority to be needed to pass legislation and, as Woolner points out, “If the Founders wanted a supermajority for everything, they would have said so.”  The fact that it is a well-accepted conclusion that, because Brown won, the President’s agenda is dead, is a sad comment about the state of this country.

3. The President – Make no mistake about it.  This was a loss for President Obama and is another reminder that the American public is extremely anxious and impatient.  Obama has only been in office for a year – not nearly enough time to fix the problems he inherited – but people are hurting and they want and need real results.  In some ways this loss is a good thing for him.  It drives home the challenges the administration is facing and gives them 11 months to right the ship before the all-important mid-term elections.  They must find a way to make people feel better about the direction of the country and focus on important issues like job creation.  In a recent poll, 75% of Americans said that they like Obama personally.  That provides an exceptional opportunity for him to get out there and rebuild public confidence in his administration.

4. 2010 and beyond – In Massachusetts, the Democrats lost the mantle of the being the party of the people.  Scott Brown was engaging and convinced people he was an everyman who would look out for their interests.  On the other hand, Martha Coakley, until the end, came off as aloof and entitled.  There is a lesson here about how to run campaigns, even if you are the front-runner.  Going forward, Democrats have to get back to the populist message that made them so successful in 2006 and 2008 and remind voters of who got us into the mess we are in now.  All is not lost – far from it – but there are important lessons to be learned from Massachusetts (and VA and NJ) and how well those lessons are learned will affect what happens later this year.  It remains to be seen if MA, VA and NJ are accurate measurements of the mood of the country or it is simply an example of less than stellar candidates running poor campaigns.

5. Remember who elected you – I would encourage Senator-elect Brown to remember that it was largely on the backs of independent voters that he sailed into office.  You can bet the people of Massachusetts will be watching very closely and, in 2012, will not think twice about casting him aside should he prove to be more focused on the President failing than on making the country better.

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Link for 1/19 – Martha Coakley for Senate

Do you live in Massachusetts? Please please vote today!!! And, this is why I think you should vote for Martha Coakley.

Martha Coakley for Senate

Scott Brown is correct that this is “the people’s seat, and “not “Teddy’s seat.”  The Democratic party is not entitled to win the election.  Neither is the Republican party.  The person who should follow Senator Kennedy is the person best suited to improve the lives of those he or she represents.  In this election, that person is Martha Coakley.

This is a critical race for the nation as well as the commonwealth. The results will impact federal health care legislation and have far-reaching consequences for all of us.  With so much misinformation out there, what’s a voter to do?

If you look past the campaign rhetoric and examine the policies, accomplishments and tactics of each candidate, the choice is easy. Scott Brown, despite his claims to be an independent thinker, has accomplished little legislatively to support this claim.  On Beacon Hill, Brown has made a name for himself as a staunchly conservative voice.  He has consistently used his voice to discredit solutions proposed by other legislators, rather than to be constructive and improve proposals and initiatives.  He has proved that he would take the same approach to Washington saying that he would be “proud to be the 41st vote” against the health care bill – he did not say that he will work to improve the bill, but that he will block the bill.  It seems clear that, should he win, he will be a Jeff Sessions Republican, always voting with his party, not independently like a Susan Collins Republican or even a Lindsey Graham Republican.

As a strong believer in a woman’s right to choose, I also cannot get past the fact that, in 2005, Brown sponsored an amendment that would have allowed medical personnel to deny emergency contraceptives to rape victims.  The fact that he now has his daughter attack Coakley for reminding voters of that is insulting.

Brown wants us to take a chance on him and, while he is correct that we can kick him out in three years if we don’t like him, the fact remains that three years is plenty of time for him to ensure that Republicans can block progress for the sake of politics.

Martha Coakley, despite running a less-than-inspired campaign, has demonstrated throughout her career intellectual chops and a willingness to stand firm in the face of opposition.  In Washington, she will be an independent thinker who does not automatically vote along party lines.  She has significant experience and has shown a strong commitment to going after those who violate the public trust in her role as Attorney General.   She has worked to coordinate plans for public safety and has gone after those who seek to harm Americans. Her range of experiences will benefit her well in Washington and her commitment to progress will benefit all of us.

I understand that many Brown votes are coming from people trying to send a message to Washington.  However, I submit that the best way to send a message of discontent is to elect someone who will be focused on getting things done and making the country better.  Throughout this campaign, Scott Brown has shown a willingness to lie, exaggerate and distort to get your vote.  And his career has given us every indication he would carry that willingness to Washington.  A vote for Scott Brown is a vote against progress and shows support for the partisan gridlock that has defined Washington for too long.

If we are sick of Senators who are more interested in holding press conferences than affecting progress, let’s elect someone who has proven she will ask the tough questions, work proactively in the legislature and hold people accountable for their actions.  That is what Martha Coakley has done throughout her career and that is what I am convinced she will do as our next Senator.

Please vote next Tuesday and please cast your ballot for Martha Coakley.

If you are unsure of where you should go to vote, you can find out by residential location, at the Election Division website, here:

http://www.wheredoivotema.com/bal/myelectioninfo.php

Link for 1/12 – Palin on Fox (shock!) and some passion in Mass.

Yesterday was a day of news that NO ONE could have seen coming.  To begin with Mark McGwire admitted he took steriods…but only in very low doses and they didn’t make him a better player.  Umm?  Yes, they did.  Sorry Mark, that part of your ‘confession’ really hurts your credibility…not that you had much of it to begin with.  But, shocker as that was, it wasn’t the biggest unexpected story of the day.  Nope.  That honor goes to Sarah Palin and Fox News who, in a marriage too strange for even a made-for-TV movie starring Tori Spelling, have agreed on a contract that will have Palin appearing on the network….oooh what a shocker!

Now, I do not agree with the theories put forth in this article and by others that this move means it is less likely she will run for President in 2012.  If anything, this only makes her a more viable candidate.  Working for Fox is a great chance for her to refine her views on issues/learn about them and stay visible to the American public.  As for it being a multi-year deal…well, I think we all know how reliable Governor Palin (and many in politics are) at fulfilling the full length of their commitments.   In addition, a recent poll of party insiders show that many of them do not do not believe she will be the nominee – in fact, they ranked her 5th out of their five choices, behind such notable names as Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels in terms of likelihood to win the nomination.  Going on TV on a regular basis (a place where she is very comfortable) is her opportunity to show them that she has the intellectual chops one should have to be a successful elected official and may help more of them get behind her.  Finally, I’m sure this is a very lucrative deal and, since money=power in politics, that can only help her as she launches her campaign.  Sarah Palin will be a candidate in 2012 and this move only helps her become a more viable candidate. 

Switching gears to Massachusetts now, I am happy to report that Scott Brown DOES have an opponent.  In the last week, we have finally seen Martha Coakley out on the trail and showing some passion during the debates.  For a recap of last night’s debate (which Coakley won handily), check out this article.  She was able to clearly articulate differences between Brown and herself and effectively tie him to failed policies of the past.  In a race where Brown is trying so hard to be both conservative and moderate (see Romney, Mitt) she held him accountable for his past stances on issues and refused to let him play both sides.  In addition, she successfully branded him a barrier to progress (he didn’t say he would work to make the healthcare bill better…he said that he would be “proud” to vote against it.)  

Coakley clearly had the best line of the night when she said to Brown “You cant distort my record and not be accurate about your own.”   For his part, Brown had one of the stupidest lines I’ve ever heard in a debate when he said, in response to Coakley comparing him to Bush, “You can run against Bush-Cheney, but I’m Scott Brown. I live in Wrentham. I drive a truck.”  Couple of problems with this line.  To begin with, she can’t run against Bush – Cheney…they are not running for anything.  She is running against you, Mr. Brown, and your policies do resemble those of Bush.  In addition, I have a piece of advice for you…if you are trying to distance yourself from President Bush, you might want to do your research about what kind of car he drives…  oops

Link for 1/8 – What was the point Paul?

Martha Coakley held an event yesterday where the only story should have been the very vocal support she is receiving from members of the Kennedy family.  However, due to a really poor decision by interim US Senator Paul Kirk and the Coakley campaign, another (and more damaging) story came out of the event.  When the legislature reversed state law to allow Governor Patrick to appoint a temporary successor to the late Senator Kennedy, one of the agreements was that that person, whomever it should turn out to be, would stay neutral in the special election – specifically the replacement was blocked from “endorsing any candidate in the special election.”  It is not legally binding, but Kirk’s decision shows an utter disregard for the agreement that made his service possible and helps further the impression that we can not trust our elected representatives.  While Mr. Kirk is right that “as a former Democratic chairman, it’s probably no surprise what side I’d be on” leaving it at that misses the real point.  It is  really unfortunate that Kirk “did not think twice” before agreeing to violate the resolution passed by our state government.  The fact that this endorsement, by his own admission, won’t make a huge difference in the race makes the story even worse and is a black mark on the Coakley team.  Why risk the negative publicity and further sow the seeds of mistrust, that are already such a part of politics, by making a move that won’t have much impact?  How

The larger point, of course, is what this does to Martha Coakley and her campaign.  There is already concern amongst the electorate that we are going to be electing someone, essentially for life, who we do not really know.  Between her refusal to debate, one on one, her only “real” opponent (sorry Joe Kennedy), her incredible lack of campaign events and the scarcity of her ads, we are left to guess about who we will likely be electing to represent us.  And accepting the endorsement of someone who should not be endorsing doesn’t say good things about her willingness to honor agreements or her ability to recognize and stand up for what is right (even if it might put her at odds with powerful people).  Maybe that’s harsh.  But, with little other evidence to go on, voters are forced to draw conclusions from what we can see.  And, in this case, I don’t like what I’m seeing.

Link for 1/5 – A debate

With election day rapidly approaching the three candidates vying to replace the late Senator Kennedy are facing off this morning at 9:00 AM in a radio debate.  If you are somewhere where you can watch/listen just click here  

If you can’t watch at 9, the station will be making a podcast available shortly after the debate concludes.  State Senator Brown comes in to the debate with some momentum (having picked up the endorsements of Senator John McCain and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling).  His best chance, though, to close the lead currently enjoyed by Attorney General Coakley is to go on the attack and try to force her into making a mistake.  In some ways, making her beat herself is the only way he has a shot of beating her.  Two high-profile endorsements mean that people are paying attention…now the question becomes can he take advantage of that?

Link for 12/7 – A BIG endorsement

We are one day away from the primary and Attorney General Martha Coakley has received quite the gift.  Former President Bill Clinton (who remains extremely popular in Massachusetts) has recorded a telephone message that will be blasted to about 500,000 people during the day today.  Designed to remind people to vote and encourage them to support Coakley it is hard to imagine that such a powerful endorsement won’t have a strong impact on undecided voters. 

Late today I will post my endorsements (easily as important as President Clinton’s) and please don’t forget to vote tomorrow!

Candidate Tuesday #10 – Endorsements (Updated 12/7 to reflect President Clinton)

Endorsements are a funny thing.  When they come from unions or other large organizations they provide foot solidiers to help the campaign in the final days.  When they come from individuals they get the candidate’s name in the news in a (usually) positive light – always a good thing.  For undecided voters they can be that final tipping point for or against a particular candidate.  If you are between two candidates and three people you really respect endorse one of the two…well, that can help push you to a final choice.  By the same token if someone you generally disagree with makes an endorsement that can swing you to someone else.  So, while they are not a substitute for really learning as much as you can about your options, they are a good way to make or confirm your final choice.    Coming on Monday, some of our fellow citizens will share who they are supporting and why  – I encourage all of you to consider posting your choice and reasoning in the comments section of that post. Together we can help any undecided voters make up their mind! 

In the meantime, however, here are some of the notable endorsements of this primary season.

Martha Coakley – Click here for a full list
Former President Bill Clinton
Former Lt. Governor Evelyn Murphy
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas
Many mayors including Kim Driscoll (Salem) and Setti Warren (Newton)
Many members of the State Senate and State House of Reps including Senate President Therese Murray and Senate Majority Leader Frederick Berry
Emily’s List
Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus
Massachusetts Chiefs of Police
National Association of Police Organizations
More than 50 different unions and professional organizations

Mike Capuano – Click here for a full list
Former Governor Mike Dukakis
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Congressmen Ed Markey, Barney Frank, Stephen Lynch, Jim McGovern, Richard E. Neal, John Olver, John Tierney
First Lady Diane Patrick
Former First Lady Kitty Dukakis
Many members of the State Senate and State House of Reps including Marian Walsh and Stephen Buoniconti
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Massachusetts, AFL-CIO AND Massachusetts Teachers Association
Veterans and Military Families for Progress (VMFP)
Boston Herald

Steve Pagliuca – Click here for more on Steve Pagliuca
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge, Ray Allen and many other prominent members of the Celtics have appeared at Pagliuca events
A Pagliuca spokesman, when asked by the Boston Globe to identify any major endorsements responded “endorsements are not a focus of our campaign.” His website touts the fact that they are “winning the endorsements of thousands of Democrats across the state.”

Alan Khazei – Click here for more on Alan Khazei
General Wesley Clark
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Max Kennedy
Blue Mass Group
Boston Globe

Scott Brown – Click here for more on Scott Brown
ALL GOP members of the Massachusetts State Senate and State House of Representatives
Boston Globe
Boston Herald

Jack E. Robinson – Click here for more on Jack E. Robinson
No notable endorsements…yet

Link for 11/12/09 – Oh Mike, Mike, Mike

Well that was quick.  Just days after voting for a healthcare bill that included a provision restricting the use of federal funds to pay for abortions AND strongly criticizing Martha Coakley for her “foolish” opposition, Congressman Capuano has reversed course.  Now he says that he will not vote for the bill when it returns to the house if it has the abortion clause in it.  

There is no doubt that this is an extremely difficult issue and, as a good friend of mine points out, “An inflexible politician is more dangerous than one who changes their opinions.”  However, such a major shift so soon after a vote and some strong statements is concerning.  This sure smacks of doing the right thing politically, rather than doing the right thing for the community.  Look, I’ve gone back and forth on where I stand on this question and have thought a lot about whether or not I’d vote for the bill in the current form.  However, before you make this important societal issue a part of your political game, it would be nice if you were comfortable with your position. 

Congressman Capuano, stick with what you believe in and, if you are going to change your mind, you better make sure you don’t call your opponent’s position “manna from heaven.”  I’ll tell you what manna from heaven would be – a politician who votes a certain way because it is the right thing to do and not because it is what will get them a promotion.

Candidate Tuesday #7 – Jack E. Robinson

We have a new player.  Apparently there is more than one Republican in this state and now Scott Brown has some opposition in his path to being his party’s nominee.  But, before we meet Mr. Robinson, the past few days have been quite interesting in Democratic primary world.  The front-runner, Attorney General Martha Coakley, announced the she could not support a health care bill that included any language restricting access to abortions.  (For those who haven’t heard, the house bill includes a provision that essentially extends a previously passed stipulation that government money can not be used to pay for abortions.  What this means now is that, if you have the ‘public option’ as your provider or any government subsidized insurance, abortions will not be covered…except under extraordinary circumstances).  I agree with Coakley that the amendment is unfair and unreasonable but I have hard time with denying any coverage to millions of Americans because the coverage they will get isn’t perfect. 

All three of her opponents quickly pounced on this policy disagreement (finally, we have one!) with Capuano saying “I find it interesting and amazing, and she would have stood alone among all the pro-choice members of Congress, all the members of the Massachusetts delegation…She claims she wants to honor Ted Kennedy’s legacy on health care. It’s pretty clear that a major portion of this was his bill…If she’s not going to vote for any bill that’s not perfect, she wouldn’t vote for any bill in history. She would have voted against Medicare, the Civil Rights bill. . . . Realism is something you have to deal with in Washington.’’

Alan Khazei added that ““If the House Democrats listened to Martha Coakley instead of [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, health care would be dead right now…She’s going to be the person that prevents universal health care for every person in this country. This is a big deal. This was the cause of Senator Kennedy’s life.’’  Pagliuca said that ““casting a no vote would be to side with [Senator] Joe Lieberman and the insurance companies that want to kill health care reform.”

So now we have a substantial difference, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the waning days of the campaign.

Ok, with that out-of-the-way, let’s learn about Jack Robinson.  This election marks the third time Robinson has run for state-wide office and, so far, he is 0 for 2.  He lost to Senator Kennedy in 2000 and Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin in 2002.  In that race he did garner about 25% of the vote (which is much better than his showing against Kennedy).  In addition he ran against Congressman Lynch for his US Congress seat in 2006 and lost. 

Robinson is a lawyer and business man who is a former executive at Eastern Airlines (and was the youngest airline president in modern US aviation history), before leaving to start his own cell phone company.  Robinson calls himself a progressive Republican (and, unlike many others, seems to actually be one) who supports same-sex marriage and full rights for the LGBT community.  In addition, he professes to be an expert on job creation and business management from his many years in the private sector.  He supports expanding charter schools and merit pay for teachers and wants to provide full scholarships to all college students who commit to serving America for four years.  Finally, he has come out with a 12-point plan to solve the healthcare crisis in this country and is opposed to the bill that just passed the house.

Robinson is perhaps best known for a dossier he released during his 2000 Senate run where he owned up to anything and everything in his background that might provide fodder for negative campaigning.  The release of this information (including restraining orders, drunken driving and other citations and the like) caused the Republican establishment in the state (including then-Governor Paul Cellucci) to disown him as their candidate.  A spokesperson for his campaign said, about the “Robinson Report” that this is “an issue that has been addressed years ago and we’re looking forward to moving forward with a positive campaign and addressing today’s issues like bringing jobs to Massachusetts.”

 You can visit his campaign website here (NOTE: I have received word from the Robinson campaign that the original site I posted is not the correct site.  So, for those of you who have already clicked the link, please visit this new (and much better) site)