The Coakley Hangover

The Massachusetts special election feels like the sorority parties we used to have in college. It's 1 a.m. and the party is in full swing. The music is thumping and the crowd is building up steam. We pause for a moment to get a drink and all that's left is coffee brandy (generic, not Kahlua) and ginger ale. And the question is whether we say what the heck, let's mix it and chug-a-lug. Or pause for a moment and think, hmm, how will we will feel in the morning?

Before we imbibe this Tuesday, can we take a moment to look at what's at stake in Massachusetts? It might feel like the voters there are deciding on Obama's health care reform, but they are not. This is a special election to select a senator that will represent Massachusetts voters for the next three years.

Let's face it: voters are very angry. Make that VERY angry about health care reform. The blogosphere is chock-full of folks who are exasperated that their voices are being ignored by Obama, Reid and Pelosi.

And so folks want to make a statement and there is a way to do this: put a Republican into a seat that has been held by Democrats since the 1950s. That will show Obama, Reid and Pelosi. Or will it?

The answer is no. If they cared about the public opinion, we wouldn't be here to begin with. Let's face it: electing Scott Brown will not stop Obama's health care reform. If there aren't 60 votes in the Senate, they'll find a way to do it with 51. Or they'll rush it through before Scott Brown can be seated. The special election is not going to single-handedly stop them. The special election will, however, select an individual that will be representing Massachusetts for three years.

The Coakley campaign has been caught flat footed by the populist outrage over health care reform. Her advisors thought they were running a campaign to represent Massachusetts. They were wrong. And they have realized all too late what has been building on independent blogs for weeks.

Much like Hillary Clinton's advisors misread sentiment in the weeks leading up to Iowa. The sure thing not so certain. The inability of Hillary's campaign to right itself. Hillary finally stabilizing things herself in New Hampshire and finding her voice. Coakley, unfortunately, does not have the luxury of time.

There's another similarity to Hillary and Coakley: our country's unconscious bias that female candidates must be perfect. We hold women politicians to a higher standard. If they can't be everything we want them to be, it's a no go. For Hillary, her Scarlet Letter was a vote for W. Bush's war. For Coakley, her support of Obama's health care reform.

But not so fast Democratic and Independent voters. This Tuesday, you're not voting against Obama's health care reform, or even against Obama. You're voting for Martha Coakley. A woman who showed loyalty, a trait so rare these days, to Hillary until the end. A woman who has an impeccable list of credentials and experience. A woman who would be an advocate for so many issues important to women and our daughters.

After all, do we really need another male senator? Our country is 51% women, yet only 17% of our senators are women? Has this imbalance been working for our country? Or have we created one big fraternity that is leading our financial system and our country generally down a dangerous path?

So please give some thought to what is at stake here beyond a single issue -- granted that issue looms overwhelmingly large at present. Yes, Coakley might not today be 100% of what we want her to be. But I'm giving my word here to do my part as President of The New Agenda to hold Coakley's feet to the fire on issues impacting women and our daughters. And we can hardly afford to squander the chance to get a qualified woman to the senate.