Let's be clear: Coakley is a mediocre politician, and her political handlers should be shot. Her campaign has been damned near as incompetent as Healey's flaming disaster a few years ago, and for many of the same reasons -- it's been consistently politically tone-deaf, crude, overly nasty, and generally unpleasant. Brown, by contrast, has played the body politic like a violin, with a good upbeat (if content-free) campaign for the first half, and smoothly sliding past all the hard questions in latter weeks with a patronizing "tsk, tsk" about anything that lands a blow on him.
But when I actually look at the candidates, rather than their political ads, I find it going pretty much the other way. Coakley may be a rotten campaigner, but as far as I can tell she's a pretty decent public servant. I've certainly disagreed with some of her views, but by and large I think she's saying the right things about the current issues. She has a tendency to get herself into trouble by getting a bit nuanced -- but I *like* my politicians to understand nuance. The fact is that the Senate, in particular, really only functions if the people in it can understand the messy, nuanced compromises that serious legislation requires.
By contrast again, Brown is an absolutely identikit Republican, far as I can tell. When he says *anything* of substance, it dead-consistently echoes the Republican party line -- essentially a consistent set of rationalizations for opposing absolutely anything that the Administration might suggest. As I mentioned the other day, I find this astonishingly irresponsible: the line they have wound up pushing is one that historically has tended to lead to major economic disasters. Basically, they're arguing that, now that we're a hundred feet from the iceberg, we should now begin steering back in the original direction again. After all, there couldn't possibly be anything more under the surface, could there?
Yes, yes -- there's the old argument that the opposition's job is to oppose. I call bullshit. A *responsible* opposition knows how to compromise, precisely because they're more effective that way. If the opposition dangles a decent willingness to compromise in front of the party in power, they have leverage, and can actually moderate policy. But when they simply insist on party purity, and march in lockstep, they remove that leverage, and force the prevailing party to say, "Okay, fine -- fuck you, we'll do it our own way". That's what we have today. Yes, the Republicans claim that both parties work the same way; again, I say bullshit. The Democratic leadership has demonstrated, time and again, that they carry centrism almost to the point of being a sin: that's why the progressive wing of the party hate them so much. If the Republicans were even remotely willing to be reasonable, they would make a big difference. But they aren't, and don't -- instead, they are focused on absolute purity and absolute power, and thus accomplish nothing except to pour a deep stream of sand into the gears of government.
(And *please* don't try the old saw about wanting government to do nothing. We have serious issues, that are *not* going to simply fix themselves. I find the market a useful tool when used properly, but IMO it takes delusion to believe that it's a cure-all after the past few years.)
So I'll say it plainly: if you are a resident of Massachusetts, I encourage you to vote tomorrow -- the primary price of citizenship is voting. And I'm not going to pretend to neutrality: in this election between essentially a stereotypical Democrat and Republican, it is fundamentally irresponsible to vote for the Republican, because the Senate Republicans are, more or less to a man, currently irresponsible as a matter of policy. I don't love the Democrats, but they are at least *trying* to govern. The Republicans aren't: they have demonstrated that they care about power so solely and completely that they have abdicated the moral high ground that the opposition *should* have. The idea of MA being represented by yet another of these -- of having to watch six years of Brown parroting the party leadership's "NoNoNoNoNoNoNo" line instead of actually trying to get things done -- appalls me more than I can say...