The Agenda

Jason Zengerle on Bay State Democrats

Jason Zengerle has written an excellent, informative Daily Intel post that is worth a look:

There’s no better illustration of the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s decrepitude than its state legislators. For most state parties, the legislature is an incubator for political talent and the place to develop a deep political bench, but for Massachusetts Democrats, it’s been a breeding ground for pathological behavior and corruption. The last three speakers of the Massachusetts House of Representatives — Democrats all in a legislative body their party has now controlled for 55 years — have had to resign because of scandals that resulted in their indictments. Meanwhile, over in the State Senate, in the last two years, one Democrat lost his job after being arrested for sexual assault; another was forced from office after FBI surveillance cameras caught her stuffing a $1,000 bribe into her bra; and a third (and my personal favorite) recently bid the Senate adieu after a three-month stretch during which he was involved in a hit-and-run car crash that injured a 13-year-old boy, failed a breathalyzer test he had to take as part of the house arrest he was under stemming from the hit-and-run, and then tried to blame the failed test onthe alcohol in his toothpaste — an explanation the judge rejected in sending him to jail, which finally led to his resignation.

It was from this talent pool that Martha Coakley emerged to become Massachusetts attorney general and now her party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate. So, while the second-guessing has already begun about how Massachusetts Democrats could nominate a candidate as lame as Coakley, it’s worth remembering that she actually bested three challengers in the Democratic primary last December. If those three couldn’t even beat Coakley, why does anyone think they could have beaten Brown?

I actually disagree with this pretty strongly. My guess is that Michael Capuano, a smart, apparently pretty unpretentious and likable strongly left-of-center Democrat who represents Cambridge, Somerville, and part of Boston, would have crushed Brown. Though Brown is a strong candidate, he needed room to maneuver. Coakley’s failure to campaign aggressively after winning the Democratic primary gave Brown the opening he badly needed. Capuano wouldn’t have made the same mistake. 

In re: the Zengerle thesis, it’s worth noting that Capuano served as Mayor of Somerville, a very different kind of office that presumably contributed to his talent for retail politics.

As for Massachusetts Democrats writ large, I remember the 2002 in which Shannon O’Brien, a staunchly pro-life Democrat, flipped to become pro-choice and then proceeded to attack Romney for being insufficiently pro-choice. Then, of course, Romney flipped a few years later. You can’t make this stuff up, my friends.  

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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