Tomorrow morning I am going to hang door knockers on houses to remind people to get out and vote for Martha Coakley. Like many Democrats across the Commonwealth, I am going to do whatever I can in the next 24 hours to keep our party in the State House. It matters because when we elect a Governor, we elect a government and Martha Coakley’s government will be better for the people of this state than the government Charlie Baker will build.
In some ways, this election is a personal test of the strength of my political beliefs. For years, I have told my children that I would always choose the Democrat in a contested election — even if I thought (on a personal level) that I preferred the Republican. When asked why, I have talked to them about cabinet officials, about judges, and ultimately about the soul of the parties. At our core, Democrats believe in equality, opportunity, and freedom. We are a party of hope and togetherness. In our view, people do not face the challenges of life alone — they face them together and government is how we manage to do that. So, I tell them, voting for Republican leadership means voting against the protection of those less fortunate than we are and means also voting against the appointment of judges who will safeguard and expand the protection of civil rights. There simply isn’t a time when the essential nature of government isn’t on the ballot. It is never just about two people.
Which is a long way of saying that Martha Coakley is not my favorite candidate for public office. I continue to believe that she bears significant responsibility for making Scott Brown Senator the first time. And, if he wins in NH tomorrow, the second time. If he had lost the special election, Scott Brown would still be in the State Senate. I have a difficult time watching her debate — her answer on fees was shameful; not knowing the gas tax amount ridiculous; and her apparent notion that we should elect a Governor who will figure out where she stands after she is elected inconsistent with what I think electoral politics should be about. There is lots not to like about her — and lots of reasons to think that our party could have done better in the nomination process.
I say all that to say this: on her worst day, Martha Coakley is still a much better choice than Charlie Baker. In the last debate, Martha said that she stood on her record. She could do worse (and so could we). She has been a champion of equality. She has fought against banks that savaged vulnerable citizens of the Commonwealth. In the campaign, she has promised the same kind of advocacy as a Governor. If she wins, none of us need to worry about the causes that matter most or about whether the less fortunate will have a Governor who cares about what happens to them.
In contrast, if Charlie Baker wins, we will have succumbed to a deeply cynical campaign. Baker has spent 4 years trying to show that he is a nice guy. He went deep in the last debate to try to show us all how much he cared — crying at his own story of a fisherman who denied his children the opportunity to go to college that they had earned for themselves through athletic accomplishment. My friend Mara Dolan points out that, although Charlie claims that this story has brought him to tears for years, he never did anything to follow up with the fisherman or to try to help the boys in the story. It’s the opposite of what a leader does. Real leaders follow up. And people who really care remember the names of the people who have touched them. The story is Charlie in a nutshell; he wants you to believe he cares, it’s just that he really doesn’t (at least not that much).
And, of course, this is what makes clear that he is a Republican. In Charlie Baker’s world, people are not as important as numeric performance (this is what makes outsourcing seem like good business). In Charlie Baker’s world, government services are inherently suspect. In Charlie Baker’s world, a diverse room of people may look different, but they all share the same dream. The notion that there is one dream and that there are winners (like Charlie) and losers (those less fortunate) is the essential mistake of the Republican ideology. Electing Charlie Baker assures a government that cannot appreciate difference and that will not make the effort necessary to ensure that every one of us has the opportunity to succeed that should be our birthright.
All of this is to say that tomorrow matters. I will be up early to help Martha Coakley — and I will be up without reservation. Because tomorrow, in this Commonwealth, our soul is on the ballot. And that’s something worth fighting about.