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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Be careful what you wish for

So much for the play-it-safe front runner strategy. But I have to ask: what were you thinking Martha?

Attorney General and Democratic US Senate front-runner Martha Coakley certainly cast off the label of risk aversive yesterday by declaring she would have voted against the US House version of the health care bill because of its abortion funding language.

That stance flies in the face of the entire Massachusetts delegation, which held its nose and voted for the greater accomplishment over a political compromise that may or may not see the light at the end of the day.

Coakley appears to be arguing for the perfect over the good.
“I refuse to acknowledge that this is the best we can do.’’
Mike Capuano, who has been grasping the liberal mantle with all his might, wasted little time -- or words:

“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."
Coakley's words are the voice of someone who came up the ropes in government on the black-white, right-wrong side, a prosecutor for whom there is little wiggle room in the law.

That's starkly different from legislators or executives who are forced to negotiate and compromise to achieve an end product that hopefully will advance a cause even if there are a few roadblocks to work around. Kennedy was one of the finest negotiators in Senate history.

And, to the best of my understanding, the abortion restrictions contained in the House version are standard stuff that have been the law for years. Do I like them? No.

It was a safe vote to reject that amendment to make a stand. But to throw away literally decades of effort to begin and rein in the health care monster? Not even close.

More perplexing is the question of what support this gets her. Women? She's already pretty strong there? Pro-choice voters? Interesting question and I haven't seen poll numbers that break out choice voters as a subset of liberals supporting health care reform.

Is this a move to the center or right, preparation for the general election against a Republican? Hardly. Should she win, many Democrats would now hold their noses and vote for her -- and look for someone to take up the mantle when the seat is up again in 2012.

One thing's for sure. She did shake up a dull race by deciding not to sit on her lead. It will be fascinating to watch the fallout.

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