Feldman: Vote Coakley to keep change

Calling home Sunday night, I found that the otherwise-serene politics of Boston suburbia had been transformed into a frenzied state. My parents’ home phone had been ringing constantly with recorded messages from President Obama and dozens of calls from campaign volunteers. My inbox has filed with e-mails from Joe Biden and John Kerry, and my phone chimes occasionally with a friendly text informing me that Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate for senate, will raise my taxes.

As Coakley’s quiet shuffle to victory has degenerated into a dramatic tossup, Democrats around the country have been left scratching their heads. What could possibly have gone wrong? After all, this is a state where, to a great extent, saying that you are a Democratic politician is to repeat yourself.

Scott Brown has surged in the polls, even though he does not represent the citizens of Massachusetts. He opposes gay marriage, which is out of step with Massachusetts’ progressive views on the topic. He opposes national health care reform, even though it resembles the Massachusetts reform he supported and is desperately needed. Brown is running in the state that, as Bill Clinton noted yesterday, “gave birth to accountable government and stood up against the abuse of power,” but opposes holding banks accountable. Most strikingly, his policies are at odds with the progressive advocacy for the voiceless featured prominently by the late Ted Kennedy, whose seat he is fighting for.

Much of the blame lies with the Coakley campaign, whose strategy of acting like the race was already won was ill-suited to the real campaign at hand. The complacency that came from not taking the race seriously, along with a number of avoidable gaffes, did much to damage her support.

But besides campaign missteps, the race reveals some changing electoral dynamics. Democrats, anxious for quick victories, are less enthusiastic after observing the roadblocks President Obama has faced in implementing his agenda. Unaffiliated voters, who initially supported Obama or gave him the benefit of the doubt, are wondering whether he is really on their side.

What the cacophony of the campaign has failed to make clear is that Obama has only been in office a short while. As he pointed out yesterday, “We have had one year to make up for eight. It hasn’t been quick, it hasn’t been easy, but we’ve begun to deliver on the change you voted for.”

When President Obama took office, he inherited many problems: two foreign wars, the legacy of Guantánamo and torture, an economy in recession, a budget unbalanced by President Bush’s reckless spending, a health care system that leaves 15 percent of Americans with no coverage and many more with insufficient care, among others. The magnitude and scope the of problems he’s had to face this year has meant that, no matter how much he does to solve them, there will still be a way to call some programs a failure.

In addition, the president has received no help from Congressional Republicans, who are determined to obstruct any progress in order to do political damage to the Democratic Party. This is why, one year into his presidency, 177 of President Obama’s nominees for federal office, including many nominated for offices related to national security, remain unconfirmed. It is why, after pretending to bargain over the details of health care reform, Senate Republicans, like Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, admitted this was only a tactic to block any meaningful legislation. In this atmosphere, bipartisanship and meaningful action have become mutually exclusive.

And though President Obama’s campaign was funded with many small contributions from ordinary people, Congress has been as susceptible as always to the lobbying efforts of moneyed interests. In 2009, 2.5 billion dollars were spent on federal lobbying efforts on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to candidates by corporate political action committees. Unsurprisingly, there has been an underwhelming amount of Congressional enthusiasm for major overhaul of the financial industry.

The dismal state of the economy and the resistance in Washington to major change has given voters the right to be impatient. Democrats must remind voters that we, not the pro-status quo, obstructionist Republicans, are the party fighting for that change.

Andrew Feldman is a junior in Morse College and the Vice President of the Yale College Democrats.


  • Steve

    “Vote Coakley to keep change”.
    Uhhhmmm… oxymorons for the win!

  • Y’11

    It’s funny to think this all wouldn’t happen if only Ted Kennedy didn’t push for the law to be changed at the Dem’s convenience… you know… so that Romney wouldn’t be able to fill in John Kerry’s seat because he was “White House-bound”
    Oh the irony! Well, you win some, you lose some.

    As an independent, I think a long-lasting supermajority by any party sets a terrible precedent. How would you feel if the roles were reversed in the future and the Republicans would be able to shove any bill they want down your throat? To put it into perspective, the Republicans never had a supermajority under Bush… and I don’t think anyone wants to imagine what would’ve happened if they did.

    It’s simply irresponsible to encourage people to sustain a supermajority just because it suits your goals for the moment. Long-term thinking people! If Coakley gets elected, everyone knows it won’t be because of her glowing credentials. Dem leaders’ appeals have so far consisted of: “PLEASE elect her! We really really need her as a pawn.” If they are so concerned about passing the health care bill, maybe they should concentrate on making it less crappy. I firmly believe our health care system needs reform, but that >2000 page monstrosity is anything but. It’s just a complicated system with many more loopholes for lawyers to find. Doctors will still make a lot of money because there’s a shortage as it is; pharmaceutical companies will find a way to benefit; insurance companies will raise premiums and continue to profit; and the lawyers… well yea. At the end of the day, the only people who suffer from this mess are the taxpayers. Woot.

    I have yet to hear anyone investigate where all the waste is going in our current health system. Are we performing too many tests or are we performing too few (thus why tests are so expensive)? Maybe we should find ways to bring costs down before throwing more money at a broken system.

  • yalemom

    100% in agreement with Y’11. You are a thinker! If only more liberals and dems would used their noggins?!

  • Yale 08

    Andrew — that this election will be so competitive in Massachusetts of all places merely indicates that the Democratic party has, as of late, been out-of-touch with the average voter even in a New England state.

  • 1Y1

    Andrew, your article sums up the PRECISE reason why Coakley is about to lose: you didn’t have anything positive to say about her– literally, nothing– and instead pushed for her election merely on the coattails of Obama frenzy. You don’t support her as a politician (neither does MA!). You only support her as an Obama supporter/pawn. MA and America deserve senators who can play a bigger role than that; who can think for themselves and form their own platforms and be accepted or denied on that basis. A year ago, riding Obama’s coattails would have ensured victory. Clearly, not so anymore. That’s all Coakley did– Brown ran the far better campaign, and his election in the bluest of blue states gives hope that a politician’s ideas and campaign can have more power than mindless partisan politics of the type you advocate.

  • a

    go fhs