Coakley vs. Brown in Massachusetts: How Did We Get Here?

BlogHer Original Post

A conservative Republican (didn’t want to give rape victims access to emergency contraception, questions whether global warming is man-made; called a local gay family with children “not normal”) in Massachusetts is threatening to win the seat that the late Senator Ted Kennedy, “the Liberal Lion” of the Senate, inhabited so powerfully until he died. And, this seat would have huge sway in the passing of health care reform, which was Kennedy’s dream (although I hope this version, big wet kiss that it is to the insurance companies, wasn’t his dream). How did we get here? Like many Massachusetts residents and voters nationwide, I’m surprised, angry, and nervous. Election Day is this Tuesday, January 20 and the TV air wars here are insane: attack ad after attack ad. Republican Scott Brown is challenging Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley, and the race is tight. And people are freaking out. However, while I see a lot of Conservative energy online and on talk radio, I don't see the same from moderates and Progressives. Why oh why??

On WBUR yesterday, I heard this analysis, roughly: “Scott Brown is handsome (he was actually Cosmopolitan’s “Sexiest Man” nude centerfold in 1982), he’s friendly and charming, his wife is a local TV anchor and his daughter was on American Idol. Coakley—although those who know her say she is very warm—doesn’t come across that way….”

I had to pull over. I had violent flashbacks to the 2008 primary when people described Hillary Clinton in exactly that way…”People who know her say she is very warm.” In 2008, I felt that Clinton, the better candidate, lost because her opponent was more appealing than she, and because he ran a better campaign. And, I think, here we are again.

But the stakes are so high. Scott Brown would torpedo health care reform. He is anti-gay marriage. And in my opinion, he is very anti-woman. And the mega-conservatives love him, even though Brown is working hard to convince more mainstream Massachusetts voters that he is a moderate Republican a la Michael Bloomberg. It ain’t true. For example, extremist Catholic Families for America endorsed Scott Brown for Massachusetts Senate, saying "Scott would be such an upgrade on every major issue from the late Teddy Kennedy," Roberts said. "Furthermore, his opponent, who espouses the same anti-life, anti-family, anti-values agenda that made Kennedy such a tragic figure to the Church, should give Catholic, Christian, and values voters an easy choice next Tuesday." I find that statement abhorrent: tragic?

In truth, Liz O’Donnell put it well:

The passage of a healthcare bill that eliminates gender-biased practices and offers equal coverage for equal premiums is critical. The current bill mandates that insurance companies cannot deny coverage based on preexisting conditions like rape and domestic violence. It also includes provisions that restrict abortion coverage.  The next senator from Massachusetts will have to protect the gains the bill makes and work to improve its weaknesses.

As I wrote elsewhere:

Let's just look at these facts when it comes to Brown's record on women's health:

• Brown was the lead sponsor of a legislative amendment in 2005 that would have allowed hospital emergency rooms to deny emergency contraception to victims of rape.

• Brown has co-sponsored the so-called Women's Right to Know Bill, legislation that would impose a mandatory delay before a woman can obtain an abortion. This legislation is supported by Massachusetts Citizens for Life, an organization that has endorsed Brown for United States Senate.

• Brown recently filed legislation that, if enacted, would allow the removal of previously mandated insurance coverage for a wide array of health services, including critical health care for women. Among the women's health services that his bill would allow to be removed as mandated coverage are mammograms, minimum maternity stays for new mothers, and screenings (pap smears) to detect, among other possible conditions, cervical cancer at an early, treatable stage.

• Brown opposes national health care reform that includes many benefits for women, such as ending denials by insurance companies to women who have had a Caesarean section or who suffered domestic abuse under the premise that they were "pre-existing conditions."

So, even if you don’t live in Massachusetts, here's what you can do to help Martha Coakley win:

Adopt a Massachusetts voter. Turnout in the primary was very low. If it's low again and the right wing is mobilized, that bodes badly for Martha.If you have friends who can vote in Mass. call them and make sure they turnout January 19!

- Email or call your friends in MA and ask them to cast a vote on Tuesday
- If you live in Massachusetts, email and see what you can do
- Organizing for America has a phone bank so you can make calls from anywhere in the US
- Blog, Facebook, Twitter and raise awareness so voters in Massachusetts turn out.

Morra Aarons-Mele


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