Maybe this would have meant more if the Globe had endorsed Charlie Baker before the Republican gubernatorial candidate had opened up a 9-point lead over Martha Coakley. The latest Globe poll shows Baker as an inevitability, which gives this editorial endorsement more of a flavor of a bandwagon effect than a heartfelt choice. Even so, Baker’s team has to be as happy about this development as Coakley’s is despairing of it:
Coakley’s campaign up to now suggests an odd reluctance to seize the initiative. Even as a prohibitive favorite during the Democratic primary contest, she was unwilling to spell out an issue agenda — raising the possibility that, if she is elected, the public discussion might drift toward whichever priorities legislative leaders decided to emphasize. For instance, lawmakers seem to have cooled lately on education reform. Coakley’s positions in this area, such as on raising the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, appear to be a work in progress. Baker would provide full-throated support for the kind of high standards, accountability, and innovation that will give all children in Massachusetts the opportunities they deserve. …
One needn’t agree with every last one of Baker’s views to conclude that, at this time, the Republican nominee would provide the best counterpoint to the instincts of an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature. His candidacy opens up the possibility of creative tension. Facing veto-proof Democratic majorities in both houses, Baker would have no choice but to work constructively with the Legislature. Likewise, the Legislature would have to engage with Baker’s initiatives.
Perhaps ironically, in light of their differing partisan affiliations, Baker’s candidacy offers an opportunity to consolidate some of the advances made during the administration of Deval Patrick. Baker could be counted on to preserve and extend educational reforms, to ensure the rigorous administration of new funds for transportation, to knowledgeably oversee the cost-containment law now reshaping the state’s signature health care industry. At a difficult inflection point in state government, Massachusetts needs a governor who’s focused on steady management and demonstrable results.
The editorial curiously gives repeated kudos to Coakley’s competence and instincts, but never mentions the fact that Coakley’s record now includes two statewide races that she incompetently ran in one of the most Democrat-friendly states in the US. Massachusetts does tend to elect Republicans as governors; Baker will follow in the footsteps of Mitt Romney and William Weld, who won 71% of the vote in his 1994 re-election bid. However, Massachusetts hadn’t elected a Republican to the US Senate in 40 years when she lost the special election in January 2010 to Scott Brown.
More substantially, they never mention the Gerald Amirault case, which should disqualify Coakley from public office for life. Coakley demanded that then-Governor Jane Swift refuse to issue the commutation for Amirault’s ridiculous conviction for child abuse, part of a public moral panic and the result of prosecutorial misconduct so profound that the parole board cited it in their unanimous recommendation for immediate release. Thanks in part to Coakley’s activism, Swift rejected the parole board’s decision, and Amirault spent two more years in prison, as Dorothy Rabinowitz noted:
District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free. …
Attorney General Martha Coakley—who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case—has recently expressed her view of this episode. Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was “formidable” and that she was entirely convinced “those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants.”
What does this say about her candidacy? (Ms. Coakley declined to be interviewed.) If the current attorney general of Massachusetts actually believes, as no serious citizen does, the preposterous charges that caused the Amiraults to be thrown into prison—the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest—that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley’s concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.
If the sound of ghostly laughter is heard in Massachusetts these days as this campaign rolls on, with Martha Coakley self-portrayed as the guardian of justice and civil liberties, there is good reason.
It’s interesting too that the Globe’s case for Baker is that he will in essence be more Democrat in effect than Coakley. The Globe’s editors think that having a Republican governor with a Democratic legislature will “consolidate some of the advances” of Deval Patrick. That also seems to speak to Coakley’s incompetence, because as a Democrat she would usually be considered to be more sympathetic to Patrick’s “advances,” whatever those might be. When an editorial board concludes that a Republican is more likely to advance a Democratic agenda than a Democrat, it usually means that they are (a) engaging in wishful thinking, (b) utterly despairing of the quality of the Democrat, or (c) both.
Whatever the reason, this editorial mostly just reflects the reality of Coakley’s position. In a poll run by the Boston Globe for the state of Massachusetts, a Democrat can’t get to 40% in a statewide race in the last two weeks of an election. They may as well jump on the bandwagon now, because not even their best effort could possibly save Coakley’s campaign, or Democrats from themselves for making this awful choice … twice.