Race for Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat Ignores Issues
A new poll on the Massachusetts Senate race has state Attorney General Martha Coakley dominating the field with 37 percent support from registered Democrats and unenrolled voters, who are eligible to vote in the primary. That is more than double her nearest challenger, with 14 percent backing Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca and 13 percent supporting Congressman Mike Capuano.
What are the stances of these candidates on issues? Amazingly, in a state where seven out of ten representatives have endorsed HR 676, the United States National Health Care Act, only one candidate out of four Democrats and one Republican supports Medicare for All, and that's Mike Capuano. Even his support is not the most avid, since he doesn't talk about it very often and has sometimes qualified it with "if I were emperor." But support is still support, and he's an HR 676 cosponsor.
In contrast, Martha Coakley supports a plan that is quite different: the so-called "strong public option," no doubt meaning the version that the CBO estimated in July would cover only about 10 million people after it was implemented. In the recent white paper released by her campaign, she says:
I agree with the basic elements in bills pending before Congress to achieve this goal: a mandate that individuals obtain coverage; an expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poorest people; new subsidies for those who are not eligible for Medicaid yet cannot afford the full cost of insurance; and employer shared responsibility to help extend coverage to all.
Quite simply, Coakley supports the current flawed legislation in Congress. Her only major caveat to this is not a caveat at all:
We cannot allow insurers to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or by making false marketing promises.
I would agree, but that's part of the current bill.
As Attorney General, I have stood up to unfair and deceptive conduct by insurers
This is the typical line from Coakley. I'm for the status quo, but I'm for it better because I've fought before with some companies engaging in outright fraud. Woo hoo!
This election provides a lesson in how the concentrated power of a statewide political apparatus can completely trump issues even in the most Democratic state in the country. The official platform of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts is support for single payer health care, but you would never know that from this campaign. Coakley began planning her campaign very early, well before Ted Kennedy actually passed away, and because of her position in a statewide office had the connections and name recognition to quickly rack up all the key endorsements. Consequently she was also able to amass considerably more funding than Capuano was. And it certainly also didn't hurt that Obama invited her to the White House three weeks ago.
One area where Coakley has not led is union endorsements: as would seem logical, Capuano has the lead here. But this is apparently not affecting the election much. (That Ted Kennedy's nephew has endorsed Capuano and questioned Coakley's "ambition" is another seemingly forgotten fact.)
Another strange feature of this campaign is the role of gender. While Coakley denies that her gender is the reason people should vote for her, she does acknowledge that it is "a plus." Coakley seems to be perceived as better on social issues than Capuano is, but examining their positions, they're hardly distinguishable. Both are strongly pro-choice, for gay marriage, and support repealing DOMA.
In summary, I think we should try to help Mike Capuano get elected to Ted Kennedy's former seat. This is a very important election; whoever wins may stay in the office for life. Please consider donating to Capuano's campaign: I gave him $25 last month, and the time is swiftly drawing to a close when he can ever become a viable candidate. If you can, you might even want to volunteer. This is a very short race, with the primary being not much more than a month away. There is no time to lose.