Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Well, last night, the Republican candidate in Massachusetts, a historically Democratic state, took the Senate seat; Martha Coakley conceded at the end of the night.

So, what does this mean for America? Well, one of two things: either jack or shit.

The Republicans are wetting themselves with pleasure, and blathering on about how this is a "referendum" for them. The Democrats are whipping themselves into a sweaty lather trying to point fingers and place blame. And the media (really, as they have for weeks) is asking if this is the end of the Democratic party.

They are all, of course, idiots.

The Massachusetts election has provided only one change: the nude centerfold for the Party of Family Values has taken that all-important 60th seat away from the Democrats. "Oh, God!" you might wail, "Why hast thou foresaken me? The Democrats have lost their 'supermajority,' and now the forces of evil will spread across the earth!"

Sit down, shut up and listen for a minute. Yes, the Democratic party no longer has their indestructible supermajority. How does this change things? Somebody want to tell me what the Democrats did with it when they had it?

It was about a year ago when Obama had 58 votes in the Senate, and people were clutching their pearls and fanning themselves over how powerful and overwhelming the Democratic Party was. Now, with 59 Senators planting "D" after their names, Obama is suddenly on his way out?

And for that matter, here's a little trivia question for you: when did the Republicans ever have a "supermajority"? (I'll give you a hint: the answer is "never" - the GOP managed to run this country into the ground without ever having 60 seats in the Senate.)

In the end, this election means exactly one thing: the ebb and flow of politics continues to... well, ebb. And sometimes flow. This means exactly as much as the Teabagger candidate getting his ass handed to him in a historically-Republican district last November, despite the fact that Sarah Palin pretty much gave the New York candidate a hummer on national television. As I said at the time, it means nothing, and trying to pry a deeper meaning out of it is ridiculous. The best you're going to get is a shallow, surface-level assessment.

So instead of trying to cheer about what a great victory this is for the forces of torture and fascism, or weeping openly about the terrible GOP stranglehold on the people, let's just consider the two candidates for a moment.

The loser, Martha Coakley, was Assistant (and later full) District Attorney during the 80s and 90s, during the height of the "recovered memory" craze, when people were suddenly made to "recall" that they'd been molested as a child. One guy, Gerald Amirault, convicted of abusing eight children in his day care center, was prosecuted using the "recovered memories" of several children. As Pulitizer-winning reporter/editor Dorothy Rabinowitz put it:
Gerald, it was alleged, had plunged a wide-blade butcher knife into the rectum of a 4-year-old boy, which he then had trouble removing. When a teacher in the school saw him in action with the knife, she asked him what he was doing, and then told him not to do it again, a child said. On this testimony, Gerald was convicted of a rape which had, miraculously, left no mark or other injury...

Other than such testimony, the prosecutors had no shred of physical or other proof that could remotely pass as evidence of abuse. But they did have the power of their challenge to jurors: Convict the Amiraults to make sure the battle against child abuse went forward. Convict, so as not to reject the children who had bravely come forward with charges.
When Amirault was up for parole, the parole board voted unanimously to let him out, and it was DA Martha Coakley who successfully lobbied the governor to deny Amirault clemency.

But despite her hard stand on that man's child-molestation case, she appeared to go easy on a police officer accused of raping his 23-month-old niece (a case which a later DA would prosecute and win, earning the officer two consecutive life sentances).

Last year, Coakley argued that having forensic technicians present at trial where they could be questioned by the defense attorneys would make it hard for prosecutors to get convictions. (The Supreme Court disagreed.)

During the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" bomb scare, where Light-Brights advertising a cartoon were set up around Boston, and the police, ignoring the fact that they'd been there for 2 weeks, lost their collective minds and shut down the city for a day, Coakley, defending the police (as, really, she should, I guess) came out with the blatantly ignorant statement, "It had a very sinister appearance. It had a battery behind it, and wires." (So does my clock radio, but I haven't cordoned off my house yet.)

And when state District Attorney's office openly lied about the effect of legislation being promoted by the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, she refused to reprimand them.

All this stuff adds up. She wasn't very appealing to Democratic voters. But in a "safe" district, it's possible that she was just a little complacent. She certainly didn't run the most strategically sound campaign, by all accounts.
From winning the Democratic primary in December to holding a crucial rally with President Obama on Sunday, she had held only 19 public events. Brown had held 66. She made a series of baffling snafus and gaffes, from leaving the campaign trail right before the election for a Washington, D.C. fundraiser to telling the Boston Globe that she’d rather meet local machine leaders than “stand in the cold” and “shake hands” outside of Fenway Park. Even the campaign’s final press release, a pre-emptive warning of possible election tampering, was mistakenly backdated to January 18.
But is Scott Brown everything the Teabaggers think he is? He's been frequently described as a "liberal Republican."
He supports a woman's right to choose, for instance, though he opposes partial-birth abortion and federal funding for abortion and believes in strong parental notification laws. He opposes same-sex marriage but believes the decision should be left to states. He would not vote to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act but does not favor a federal constitutional amendment declaring marriage as between a man and a woman.
So the people trying to describe this as a Scott Brown riding "a wave of voter anger" are probably not really paying attention.

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