Moving toward the cliff

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend, a federal employee, who is not working because of the shutdown.  She can’t check her work email or phone messages and fears the backlog of problems that awaits her when she does get back to work.  She said the only way she was fortunate was that she was not one of the essential employees who had to work anyway.  We speculated on how people will get to work if October moves to November and people’s monthly transit passes run out.  Will they be expected to shell out money they don’t have to get to a job they aren’t paid for?  All her friends can do is to buy her lunch.  Fast forward 24 hours and we still have no deal.  Even if the Senate comes up with a solution it is not clear if 1) the House will even vote on it and 2) if they do, if this is just another short term postponement.  All my friend hopes is that the next deadline is past the holidays and that there is back pay.

I was trying to find some humor in the whole situation, but find that I actually feel very sorry for John Boehner.  John Cassidy posted this for the New Yorker.

Give the Republicans on Capitol Hill one thing: they don’t leave a job half done. Evidently disturbed by polls showing Congress with a single-digit approval rating, they appear intent on driving it to zero.

What other explanation can there be for Tuesday’s farcical maneuvers, which saw the House Republican leadership try and fail to seize the initiative in the debt-ceiling standoff from the Senate, in the process humiliating Speaker Boehner yet again. By the end of the day, facing renewed opposition from some of his own members, Boehner had dropped his efforts to pass a bill that would have ended the shutdown and raised the debt ceiling until February, but one with more riders than an agreement that Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, and Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, have been working on.

From the point of view of the country, that’s good news. Overnight, officials representing McConnell and Reid were rushing to complete their negotiations, which were called off on Tuesday after Boehner’s unwise intervention. As it stands now, the Senate agreement would reportedly fund the government until January 15th and raise the debt ceiling until February 7th, with the only concession from the Democrats being an agreement to toughen up the policing of eligibility requirements for obtaining federal subsidies to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Boehner is in a box.  He can’t control his own party caucus and can’t turn to Democratic votes because then he would lose his Speakership.  If the country goes into default, he will likely lose it anyway.

Once the Senate passes a bill and sends it to the House, the Speaker will face the unenviable choice of allowing it to pass with Democratic support or exercising the nuclear option of forcing a default. Having already ruled out this second option in public comments, there were reports on Tuesday night that Boehner was prepared to bring the Senate bill to the floor, which would probably insure its passage. That wouldn’t end the budget crisis—it’s never-ending—but it would put off the next showdown until the new year, whilst ensuring that the Republican ultras had gained almost precisely nothing for their willingness to shut down the government and raise the prospect of a debt default. (In another development on Tuesday, Fitch, one of the big ratings agencies, placed U.S. government debt on watch for a potential downgrade, saying that “the prolonged negotiations over raising the debt ceiling (following the episode in August 2011), risks undermining confidence in the role of the U.S. dollar as the preeminent global reserve currency by casting doubt over the full faith and credit of the U.S.”)

From the point of view of the Republican Party, things have been going from bad to worse. With the party divided, its poll ratings tanking fast, and its leadership unwilling to risk an actual default, it has been clear for some time that it was in a losing position. The discussions in the past few days have been about the terms of surrender, with the White House and Reid pressing for something close to an unconditional capitulation.

So here are a few cartoons to weep at as we proceed at a Senate’s slow pace, to the edge.

From Tony Auth

From Tony Auth

Tom Toles

Tom Toles

Signe Wilkerson

Signe Wilkerson

And Wilkerson, again.


Can we hope that there are still some adults who won’t drive us over the edge?

How to get a functioning government

Winning Progressive had a very interesting and thoughtful post this morning by NChrissie B.

We need political fringes because that’s where most new ideas begin. Many will be bad ideas, like the House Republican Budget’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Others will be good ideas, like the financial transactions tax in the Congressional Progressive Caucus “Back to Work” Budget. As the Economic Policy Institute report noted, that tax would “raise significant revenue while dampening speculative trading and encouraging more productive investment.” It would also discourage individual investors from day-trading and other mistakes that churn their savings into brokers’ profits.

New ideas tend to start on the fringes – right and left – because the fringes don’t have to govern. Think tanks, academics, pundits, and bloggers can kick around ideas without worrying about whether the ideas are politically viable. We did that at BPI when we discussed a Guaranteed Basic Income, an idea from and still on the political fringe. We didn’t talk about whether it could pass in the House or Senate. It couldn’t, at least not soon. But it might gain traction in some form, at some point, and such discussions open our eyes to other perspectives on work, wages, and the social safety net.

I wrote in my unpublished dissertation that social movements need racial fringes to make the movement look mainstream.  NChrissie B.  is arguing that the same is true of  legislating.  The danger, however, is that the Democrats ignore their progressive or left wing while the Republicans are ruled by their right or Tea Party wing.  This is where we seem to be right now and nothing is functioning.  We need to get back to a place where there is a middle ground.  NChrissie B. uses the Overton Window as an illustration.

overton window

I’d like to see the window moved a little more to the left and I think that could happen if Harry Reid would just fix the damn filibuster rules.  I also think the Democrats (and President Obama) need to take the Progressive Caucus budget a little more seriously than they do.  It would also help if Mitch McConnell grew a backbone.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama and the State of the Union

At the 41st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast in Boston, Melissa Harris-Perry asked us to remember the picture of King with President Lyndon Johnson and to superimpose President Obama on one of the men.  After a brief pause to let us think about it, she said that if we had made King Obama we had picked the wrong person, that Obama was President just as Johnson had been. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Marti...

Image via Wikipedia

While, as Harris-Perry pointed out there are a number of parallels that can be drawn between King and Obama.   “Both men are brilliant orators, both had a unique ability to capture the American political imagination … and both endured harsh criticism.”  And I will add, both are Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Using King’s book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, she pointed out

It was a period of backlash,” she said. “We were being told it was all moving too fast.

It is easy to behave as if Martin King was beloved in a bipartisan manner across races and communities — but that is not the reality of Dr. King..

But the primary difference is the King was an activist seeking change from the outside while Obama is the President who has to govern the country as a whole while still trying to move us toward a more progressive society and trying stay above the chaos.

Meanwhile we have the shootings in Arizona, Michelle Bachman giving a Tea Party response to the State of the Union Address (in addition to the Republican resonse), and new Tea Party Republicans pushing the more moderate Republicans in Congress into taking up legislation that I feel certain that Speaker Boehner does not view as in the parties best interest.  We can only hope that the chaos remains in the Republican Party and that incidents like Arizona do not spread.  Maybe the Republicans will lose the Tea Party Republicans to a third party.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Nate Silver posted a response to the recent polls the other day on Fivethirtyeight,

With the Democrats still in control of the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House, there is little that the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives can do before 2013 to enact legislation. The health care overhaul will not be repealed, and social welfare programs will not be cut — at least, not unless Mr. Obama wants them to be, or until a Republican occupies the White House.

What the Republicans can do now, though, is use their leverage over the budget process. On spending matters, Congress is compelled to act every year merely to maintain the status quo. Sooner or later — perhaps over raising the federal debt ceiling, perhaps over authorizing funds to put Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul into effect — there is likely to be a showdown between the House Republican leaders and the president.

The most recent precedent is a favorable one for Mr. Obama: the 1995 government shutdown. The public largely blamed Republicans for the mess rather than Bill Clinton, whose standing rose as a result; he went on to win re-election the following year.

He goes on the point out the parallels in the polls while remaining cautious about 2012.

Mr. Obama’s approval rating has risen a few points in recent weeks, and is now at roughly 50 percent in the average poll. Mr. Clinton’s approval rating was at 54 percent in November 1995, just before the shutdown began, according to both Gallup and Washington Post surveys.

A Pew poll conducted in October 1995, meanwhile, found that 36 percent of respondents approved of the job that Republican leaders in Congress were doing. The figure right now is the same, according to an AP-GfK poll, or a bit lower at 30 percent, according to Quinnipiac; both surveys were released last week.

Surveys conducted before the 1995 shutdown found that the public largely viewed Mr. Clinton as capable of compromise, but not the Republicans. Similarly, in this week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 55 percent said they expected the Republicans to be too inflexible in negotiations with President Obama, but only 26 percent said they expected that of Mr. Obama.

We have to remember, however, that President Obama is not Bill Clinton.  While we may have chacterized President Clinton as “the first Black President”, he was still a white man.  His alleged crimes were sexual, not racial.  We have to remember that a segment of the country will never accept Barack Obama as president because of his skin color.

President Obama’s recent moves have been toward the center, toward business, with the hope of creating enough jobs to win re-election.  I understand why he is not pushing more of a social agenda right now.  I think he did that, and did it well during the recent lame duck session.  He needs to put himself and the Democratic Party in a position to keep the Senate and the Presidency and to take back the House.  We need to remember, as Melissa Harris-Perry reminded us that the man in the picture is the President and not the activist.

Congresswoman Giffords, violence, rhetoric and other thoughts

Happy 2011!  I had made a resolution to post at least once a week this year and am already behind.  I have had a difficult fall with lots of energy sapping family and work issues.  It also didn’t help that for someone like me, the political news was depressing.  There were a number of bright spots including the Massachusetts election, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t tell, and ratification of START.  But overall it was pretty bleak.

But watching the first week of the new House was most entertaining.  At least it was until Saturday.

Bob and I were driving back from western Mass after a day of packing up my mother’s old apartment and when we got to Worcester, I turned on the NPR station to see if there were any news.  That was how we heard about Congresswoman Giffords, Judge Roll and the others who were shot and wounded.  I think that the assassination or attempted assassination of any political figure regardless of party or political philosophy is horrendous.  But this shooting is the culmination of the violence advocated by the radical right of the Republican party and the Tea Party Movement.

The first official to put the blame squarely where it belongs was Clarence W. Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff.  Sheriff Dupnik was blunt.  He was quoted in the Washington Post

There’s reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue. And I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol,” he said during his televised remarks. “People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.

He went on to say

It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included,” Sheriff Dupnik said. “That’s the sad thing about what’s going on in America: pretty soon we’re not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people willing to subject themselves to serve in public office.

So let’s look at some actual facts since the Republicans and the Tea Party appear to be painting themselves as victims of the liberal media and claim no responsibility of what happened.

First it is a fact that Sarah Palin posted a map with cross-hairs over the Congressional Districts of 20 Democratic Congresspersons including Giffiords.  She remarked on the fact last year.

Ms. Giffords was also among a group of Democratic House candidates featured on the Web site of Sarah Palin’s political action committee with cross hairs over their districts, a fact that disturbed Ms. Giffords at the time.

“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” Ms. Giffords said last March. “But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.”

The image is no longer on the Web site, and Ms. Palin posted a statement saying “my sincere condolences are offered to the family of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.” (Late Saturday, the map was still on Ms. Palin’s Facebook page.)

Second, her office in Tuscon was vandalized after her vote in favor of Health Care Reform.  And both she and Judge Roll received threats. 

Third, her opponent in last November’s Congressional race held an event.  This information is from the blog, Firedoglake.

Kelly’s website has apparently scrubbed the event , but here is the account from the Arizona Daily Star:

Jesse Kelly, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be bothered in the least by the Sarah Palin controversy earlier this year, when she released a list of targeted races in crosshairs, urging followers to “reload” and “aim” for Democrats. Critics said she was inciting violence.

He seems to be embracing his fellow tea partier’s idea. Kelly’s campaign event website has a stern-looking photo of the former Marine in military garb holding his weapon. It includes the headline: “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

The event costs $50

I’m sure I will have much more to say on all of this as time goes on but I want to end with this from Paul Krugman’s column today.

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

And this sums it all up.

Dan Wasserman

Thoughts about Glenn Beck and the Lincoln Memorial Rally

I was sitting at dinner tonight and it occurred to me that for all of Glenn Beck’s call for all of us to return to church, I had no idea what church he attends.  Do you know? 

According to the Wikipedia entry about him, Beck was born Catholic and left the church.  He is now a member of The Church of the Latter Day Saints or Mormon.  No wonder he is so disparaging about President Obama’s religion calling him a follower of liberation theology.  If I am not mistaken, liberation theology began in the Catholic Church, the church that Beck left.  This obsession is not really new. 

In March 2010, Politics Daily reported on a segment of Beck’s show.

On his daily radio and television shows last week, Fox News personality Glenn Beck set out to convince his audience that “social justice,” the term many Christian churches use to describe their efforts to address poverty and human rights, is a “code word” for communism and Nazism. Beck urged Christians to discuss the term with their priests and to leave their churches if leaders would not reconsider their emphasis on social justice.

“I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

Later, Beck held up cards, one with a hammer and sickle and other with a swastika. “Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That’s what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. . . . But on each banner, read the words, here in America: ‘social justice.’ They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly, democracy.”

This is the man who invoked the name of Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th Anniversary of the March on Washington.  King was a minister and an advocate of all that Beck seems to find evil: economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth and democracy.

[Thispicture is the Beck Rally, not the King Rally]

It appears that Glenn Beck is not only ignorant, but also confused.

Today, Kathleen Parker, the conservative columnist for the Washington Post wrote a column titled “My Name is Glenn Beck and I need help” in which she argues that his behavior is clearly that of an addictive personality.

Beck’s “Restoring Honor” gathering on the Mall was right out of the Alcoholics Anonymous playbook. It was a 12-step program distilled to a few key words, all lifted from a prayer delivered from the Lincoln Memorial: healing, recovery and restoration.

Saturday’s Beckapalooza was yet another step in Beck’s own personal journey of recovery. He may as well have greeted the crowd of his fellow disaffected with:

“Hi. My name is Glenn, and I’m messed up.”

Beck’s history of alcoholism and addiction is familiar to any who follow him. He has made no secret of his past and is quick to make fun of himself. As he once said: “You can get rich making fun of me. I know. I’ve made a lot of money making fun of me.”

Parker continues

Covering all his bases, Beck invoked the ghost of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who stood in the same spot 47 years ago to deliver his most famous speech. Where King had a dream, Beck has a nightmare: “It seems as darkness begins to grow again, faith is in short supply.”

Really? When did that happen? Because it seems that people talk about God all the time these days. Even during the heyday of Billy Graham, most Americans could get through 16 or so waking hours without feeling compelled to declare where they stood on the deity.

And the darkness? Creeping communism brought to us by President you-know-who. Conspiracy theories and paranoia are not unfamiliar to those who have wrestled the demon alcohol.

So we have a former Catholic Mormon alcoholic leading the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.  As Parker concludes, “Let’s hope he gets well soon.”

Tea Party on Boston Common

Yesterday the Tea Party came to Boston.  About 5000 gathered to hear Sarah Palin give her talking points.  As I was going to work, I saw the booths being set up and the motorcycle police gathering.  The few black faces at that early point were Boston Police officers. We heard the helicopters circling all morning.  When I went for a walk at lunch the rally had ended and I saw a tea partier too busy trying to hang on to his sign to notice he was crossing a busy intersection against the walk light and in front of a bus pulling out from a stop.  The driver did see him and the man finally noticed, but to me it was emblematic of the tea party movement: oblivious to the reality of the world around them.

Yvonne Abraham had a great column in the Boston Globe this morning.

I was standing in the crowd at the tea party rally on the Common yesterday, enjoying Sarah Palin’s applause lines (Do you love your freedom? We’re not going to stand for it any more! Oh no ya don’t! Drill, baby, drill!), when a friendly woman asked me a question.

“We don’t look insane, do we, really?’’

Well, no, I had to allow. They didn’t. In fact, most in the excited crowd seemed pretty normal — unless you count Doug Bennett, the Boston City Council candidate whose giant grin and jolly handshake show up so often around town it’s kind of creepy.

In fact, most of the people I spoke to treated me as if I were the one who was soft in the head, unable to comprehend elementary concepts. They patiently dedicated themselves to my enlightenment.

“Here, have a copy of the Constitution, so you know what we’re talking about,’’ one kind man offered. They even engaged in civil debate with some counterprotesters.

Donna Tripp was thrilled with this development. Holding a sign that read “No Matter What I Write, I Will Still Be Called a ‘Racist, Nazi, Tea-bagger . . . ,’ ’’ the Avon resident had just been interviewed on camera by a young man who works for Palin.

“It gives me the willies!’’ she told her friend. “He’s shooting for Sarah!’’

She loves Palin because “the Constitution is her mantra, and that’s what I’m all about,’’ Tripp said. “She’s done what all those women wanted to do in the ’60s. She earned everything she has, all on her own.’’

Like everybody else at the rally yesterday, Tripp hates, hates, hates the health care overhaul recently signed into law.

“This country is taking a hard right turn for socialism,’’ she said. “I don’t want to be told to buy a service I don’t want. America is about freedom of choice.’’

Tripp, 55, already lives in a state that requires everybody to buy health insurance, but she refuses to do it.

“I’m healthy,’’ she said. When her husband went to Canada for prostate cancer treatment five years ago, they paid $25,000 out of pocket.

But what if she got really sick — if she needed, say, heart bypass surgery, which could cost more than $100,000?

“I’d mortgage my house,’’ she said. And if that wasn’t enough?

“I guess I’d die,’’ she said. “But under our Constitution, I should be able to take that risk.’’

More likely, Tripp would get her treatment, and if she couldn’t afford to pay for it, the rest of us would pick up the tab.

That’s how this country is set up: According to the preamble in the little Constitution the kind man gave me, we are all about promoting “the general Welfare.’’

Scott Brown, our new Senator, didn’t show up.  Neither did Charlie Baker who is running for Governor as a Republican.  Wonder why?

Today the New York Times and CBS released a new poll about the Tea Party.

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

And I hate to burst Donna Tripp’s bubble, but the reason why she is perceived as racist is because many of her fellow tea partiers appear to be racist.  According to the poll, “Supporters of the Tea Party movement are more likely to be men, over the age of 45, white, married, and either employed or retired. Few are unemployed. They are more affluent and more educated than most Americans. Almost all said they are registered to vote, and most are Republicans.”

Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.

The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

So this well educated, overwhelmingly white group obviously feels threatened by the way the world is changing and afraid they will lose theirs.

When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes.

And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

It looks like the Tea Party is really the party of “I’ve got mine and I don’t want to share with anyone who is not like me.”

Is Massachusetts turning Purple?

Massachusetts, the proud commonwealth that voted for George McGovern, has voted for the first Tea Party senator.  I’ve been too busy (and depressed) to write about it, but I’m slowly becoming philosophical about it all.  As Brian McGrory wrote in the Boston Globe the day after

I’m going to need some Advil and a cold compress, please. I’m the Massachusetts Electorate, and I have what is bar none the absolute worst hangover of my entire voting life.

Seriously, I was so drunk on power, so caught up in the moment, so free of any of my usual inhibitions, I can’t remember what’s gone on these last two weeks. Think, Electorate, think. What did I do?

McGrory goes on to describe the Massachusetts electorate’s seduction by Scott Brown.

And now I’m vaguely recalling that stranger across the room, the one in the barn jacket who kept smiling at me and seemed to know my name. Martha vanished for a while, and – is it bad that I’m saying this? — I didn’t really care.

Suddenly, that tall, handsome man was standing at my side doing something that Martha rarely did – offering to pay for drinks, chatting me up, curious what was on my mind.

Every time I ever tried telling Martha about my day, my hopes, my dreams, she shushed me up and said she was preparing a legal brief or watching Law & Order. And now there’s a stranger telling me he could change my entire world.

I had been hoping that Coakley might pull out the race – even if it were by a few votes – until she spoke at the Martin Luther King Day breakfast.  Speaking before a friendly audience which loves it’s politicians, Martha did not get a standing ovation or a “you go, girl” shouted from the audience.  Martin Luther King, III was more eloquent on her behalf than she was and he lives in Atlanta.  That was when I began the process of resigning myself to the inevitable.

There were lots of reasons she lost.  She ran a very poor campaign and Martha has always seemed uncomfortable campaigning, pressing the flesh.  She always talks like a prosecutor.  I represented the Somerville Women’s Commission on her Violence Against Women Task Force and I know she believes all the right things.  She would have made a good, hard-working Senator but she never made the case.  Maybe she thought until the polls started to turn that she didn’t have to work hard for the seat.  Democrats appeared to have voted for her.  She lost the swing independents.

Where were her Emily’s List supporters that helped her defeat Mike Capuano in the Democratic Primary?  Why didn’t she have the money to advertise more?  (probably too many people like me who wanted to vote for her, but didn’t feel moved to give her money.) She never, that I recall, ran an ad that defined who she was as a person.  One that showed her with her dogs and husband walking on the Charles River or something.  We all learned about Brown’s truck.  Unions and other supporters didn’t seem do much.  Was it because they thought she was a shoe-in or because she didn’t find a role for them in her campaign?  (there are rumors to that effect)  Instead of reaching out to the independents and Republicans, I’m sure we were like every Democratic household  in the Commonwealth:  We got robocalls from everyone about her.  President Obama, Bill Clinton, and Angela Menino, the Mayor’s wife.   (We have to find a better way to get the word out and get people out to vote than all these endless calls.  I stopped answering the phone.)  But with all the calls, she never fired up her base.  She’s running for re-election for Attorney General now and maybe that will go better.  People may feel more comfortable with her as their lawyer and than with her as senator.

Meanwhile we have to face the reality that Scott Brown is our Senator for the next 3 years.  He once pointed out that it was 3 years, like a test drive, and we could vote him out if we didn’t like what he did.

I like Congressman Capuano’s take during an interview with one of the local public radio stations

Political watchers have already begun talk of Capuano mounting a challenge for Brown’s Senate seat in 2012, but Capuano laughed off that idea.

“I have never in my life had the luxury of planning my political career three years in advance. I think we need to let Mr. Brown have an opportunity to prove himself, to prove whether he is the independent he claims to be or whether he’s a lockstep Republican or something in between. I hope he’s a great senator for Massachusetts.”

I don’t know if Mike would have been able to beat Brown, but he would have gone down with a fight, not a whimper.