Coakley ignored black voters at her own peril
Martha Coakley only has herself to blame
How is it possible for a Democratic candidate running to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in the most liberal state in the nation lose to a Republican? When complacency and arrogance are mixed together, you end up with Martha Coakley’s train wreck of a campaign. When the Massachusetts attorney general entered the race months ago, it was believed that she would easily win.
But something happened on the way to the Senate.
After winning the Democratic primary last month, Coakley disappeared from sight—literally. She hardly did any public events, didn’t shake hands with potential supporters, and tried to dodge debates with her opponent Scott Brown. It didn’t even seem like she cared about doing credible TV campaign commercials either. (Can you spell Massachusetts?) Coakley lead in the polls began to shrink quickly as Brown took advantage of her political stumbling.
What was most disturbing was that Coakley took for granted the base of Democratic voters—African-Americans. Even before her bid for the Senate seat, she never had any relationship with the black community. Presumably believing that Ted Kennedy’s strong support in the black community was going to carry over to her campaign, Coakley didn’t bother reach out to us, not even on getting our support for health care reform, the last issue Kennedy championed in office.
It was only this week as her campaign continued to implode that she finally realized our vote was needed. She brings in President Obama for a very sad, last minute political rally to rouse a few more voters. The next day Coakley attended Boston’s annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast, only to stay long enough to get photo ops of herself shaking hands with black attendees and give an uninspired speech about her campaign and King’s legacy.
In her speech, she said that “if Dr. King was here, he would stand with us on health care as a right.” While I agree King would stand for health care reform, I highly doubt he would want to stand with Coakley on anything. The rest of the black community decided to not stand with her either, as there were low turnouts in predominately black precincts yesterday. Those black votes could have made a difference for Coakley in the tight race.
On the other hand, Scott Brown, the likable, handsome, truck driving Republican, was actually welcomed by some attendees at this same breakfast and even smiling and taking pictures with them.
I don’t agree with much of his political agenda, but I have to admit that he ran a solid campaign. My only hope is that he will be willing to create some middle ground with Senate Democrats on many of the issues in the pipeline, especially on health reform. It is too soon to really tell how Brown’s election will affect black Massachusetts residents, but clearly not only are many of the landmark bills which have benefited people of color during Ted Kennedy’s life now at risk of being compromised, but now with a lost super-majority in the Senate, Obama will have a harder time pushing his own agenda. Also, with the congressional elections just ten months away, there could be a lot more Scott Browns coming down the pike.
However, the real conversation is not about what Republicans are doing, but what the Democrats are not doing. Specifically, there is an urgency to discuss why we in the black community continue to allow white Democrats that take us for granted. The recent “light skinned with no Negro dialect” comments made by Sen. Harry Reid don’t help the situation either. Hopefully Coakley’s loss will be a wake-up call for the Democratic party because black folks are certainly starting to wake-up to them.