What If Coakley Had Followed Our Lead?

Once upon a time... Martha Coakley said she would not have voted for the House health care bill with Stupak in it.

Now, after ignoring her own initial instincts, a decision that is taking her over a cliff. Martha Coakley's campaign is pushing back on White House CYA that started long before the polls closed, putting the blame squarely on "national Democrats," via Ben Smith.

But seriously, if the Democratic leadership and Martha Coakley had followed the lead of many liberals and progressives in the party we wouldn't be in this mess in Massachusetts. Democratic arrogance in not listening has compounded the problem. It's especially infuriating when the people pushing back on the Democratic health care bill as it currently stands represent the majority of this country.

"...I believe that I would not. ... I think that particular amendment that was put in really is a poison pill for this bill. It's taking two steps back... Health care reform was to provide more care for people. A health care reform bill that takes steps backward on women's constitutional right to choose is a mistake. I do not believe that we have to take a step backward on women's rights. - candidate Martha Coakley, November 9, 2009

If the outcome is like the foreshadowing, critical mass against Democrats has been reached in Massachusetts. What came before in Virginia, New Jersey, but also NY-23, will have finally exploded in the Coakley-Brown race. But even if Coakley pulls this out, which is a long shot right now with Coakley seeing herself as the underdog at this stage, something that is truly astounding in blue Mass. Democrats better understand the collective rage against the Democratic leadership, which is floundering badly. Rape flier ads just reveal the desperation, as do racist and sexist squeals during a campaign flame out, with the whole thing sparking an MSBNC pundit battle.

Barack Obama has also failed when it comes to an effective message Democrats can run on, whether we're talking about health care, economy or jobs, not understanding that Democratic candidates can't simply run on being part of Obama's orbit, which so far is leading Dems into a 2010 ditch.

Candidates also need to follow their own instincts, as Coakley's candidacy proves. Not what the party, a famous family or what the widow of the past Kennedy patriarch wants. It's tough stuff, but I found Vicki Kennedy's presence in this race horribly out of place and even in bad taste; that it was ineffective makes it worse. Though who can blame Mrs. Kennedy for trying? But besides Martha Coakley deciding to "go dark" after she won the primary, with a campaign operation less than stellar, the elite Democratic establishment is part of this loss, too.

As for instincts, Coakley had the right ones a few months ago.

Where was the Martha Coakley who said what's above about the health care bill once she won the primary and began running against Scott Brown, but also as another term for Teddy? The quote above was on the Boston Globe website under the heading: Coakley decries health care bill. This is the Martha Coakley I met when I interviewed her before she won the primary.

In fact, where was the Martha Coakley who said this about the Hyde amendment on "Hardball"?

MATTHEWS: If the subsidies include (INAUDIBLE) even though the Hyde Amendment says the federal government cannot spend a dollar on abortion. How do you square that?

COAKLEY: Well, Chris, look, this is the first day I've announced this. This health care bill has so many pieces that are critical and complicated.


COAKLEY: On that particular issue, that's where I am. I know there are going to be a lot of ways that those pieces will fit together. But I can't really answer you right now how we square that with the Hyde amendment, but...

MATTHEWS: Well, just a general principle--as a general principle, Madam Attorney General, do you think the federal government should be, as part of the health care reform, subsidizing abortion? Yes or no.

COAKLEY: Yes. And I think--yes.


COAKLEY: The short answer is yes, and I think they will have to change other laws to make them consistent. I've always felt that way.

There is no way a hail Mary, fly in, here's the star visit from Pres. Barack Obama was going to turn around this race. What's alarming is if the White House or anyone else actually thought it would. More likely Obama found himself in a position that if he hadn't he would have been pilloried, so it was an opportunity to take his new talking points out for a spin. They need work. Action on tangibles that voters can feel would be better.

And maybe Martha Coakley was doomed to lose anyway. But if she'd run on her own terms, sticking to her own beliefs, ignoring the ploys of the aggrieved Vicki Kennedy and the Democratic leadership who wanted to drape her in Ted Kennedy's political shroud, because Coakley was not anything like Teddy, even if she'd lost she'd have done it her way.

Other than that, here's the view from the Massachusetts right. It says the rest.

Regardless of the outcome, it won't change the analysis above.

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst, with podcasts available on iTunes.