Monday, November 16, 2009

Capuano for Kennedy's seat

I have decided to support Michael Capuano as the Democratic nominee for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

The main reason for this decision is that he has a great deal of executive and legislative experience; he also has a law degree. He was an alderman and mayor of Somerville before becoming congressman from Cambridge and environs. As congressman he voted against the Patriot Act and against the Iraq war. You can't ask for better, more independent stands.

I have said on more than one occasion that liberals must learn that change comes only when you have the power that comes from having the votes. Lawyering can be helpful, but basically, unless you have passed the correct laws, trying to do the right thing by using the courts will generally be frustrating, especially when the judges are appointed by the winning political party. Thus, while Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is a good and progressive-minded person, her lack of experience outside the legal field is simply not adequate for the job of U.S. senator. This is not to say that other senators aren't even less qualified, but that is hardly an argument to support her candidacy.

I heard Capuano in person yesterday, and was impressed by both his progressive grounding and his realistic understanding of what is possible in today's Congress. For example, when asked what he would do to advance gun control, he pointed out sadly that advocates such as he simply did not have nearly enough votes, and that previous attempts to register all guns had led to even worse laws. On the other hand, he seems ready to push hard for healthcare reform with a strong public option. He is aware of the problems -- with Republicans and Lieberman -- and suggested that real Democrats call the bluff of the "virtual" filibuster and make opponents actually stage a marathon talk session -- which I have suggested submitting to YouTube. He even raised the possibility of reconciliation to force through a bill with 51 votes.

As I said a few blogs ago , I don't like Coakley's claim that she would have voted against the House healthcare bill because of its anti-abortion provision -- the "Stupak Amendment". This would probably have killed the healthcare bill before it could even be debated and further altered in the Senate and reconfigured in House-Senate conference committee (if it passed the Senate). Both she and Capuano claim they would vote against any final bill which contains the House anti-abortion language, but I'm not sure exactly what this means. I believe that, given the intransigence of the anti-abortion people as well as anti-healthcare legislators in general, it is necessary for progressives to put pressure on House and Senate leadership by also at least seeming intransigent themselves. There may be a way for true supporters of healthcare reform to compromise on abortion language somewhat less harmful than Stupak -- though click here to see a description of this amendment from the LA Times. I am more inclined to think that Capuano will take this more flexible approach than will Coakley.

The Boston Globe ran a subtly negative piece on Capuano today, constantly describing him as "angry" but without emphasizing that the things he is angry about are the things that many of us are angry about, and with good reason. These range from large unleashed dogs intimidating small children in playgrounds to the criminal wrongs of the Bush administration (not mentioned by the Globe) to the Globe's extensive ink on his campaign contributions -- none of which have led to any accusation of wrongdoing. But read the article for yourself . Anyone with a chip on his shoulder about these things will get my vote.

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