Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Return of the "angry" liberal Democrat

Little to surprise one in last night's Senatorial debate. Would-be and could-be Senators Mike Capuano and Martha Coakley staked out similar policy ground and different approaches while chasing Democratic Bay Staters' votes. Coakley was clipped as is her wont, and Capuano was bombastic as is his.

A lot of commentary saw the debate as largely a draw, doing nothing to alter Coakley's comfortable lead. What did catch me unawares last night was the decision of many commentators to recycle a favorite epithet for an honest, liberal Democrat: "angry". Joan Vennochi used it in a phrase of punditry quintessence: "Why is Representative Michael Capuano so angry?" No proof offered, just a wild stab masquerading as an opinion. Politico joins in, labeling Capuano as a "borderline angry personality". With synchronicity, supporters of Coakley's rival rush in -- the blogosphere is littered with Coakley boosters who labeled Capuano as "angry".

After all, what is there to be angry about in the Senate? Afghanistan? Iraq? An economy that fails anybody who isn't a millionaire? The current strategy of dealing with education through ignorant platitudes and energy with...well, nothing? Joe "Filibuster" Lieberman?

This ridiculous name-calling bugged me for a few hours until it found its mate in memory -- the attacks on Howard Dean for being angry, by watery pundits and Kerry-lovers back in 2004. This 2003 Time article is a perfect representation of the media' pearl-clutching -- are Democrats ready for an angry nominee??!? Kerry jumped on his opportunity, salting his primary stump speech with the phrase "don't just send people a message...send them a President". Kerry doesn't indulge in anger...he's presidential according to everyone but the voters. I wrote back in 2004:

I'm tired of Democrats being 'concerned' about the economy being run by the rich for the rich. I'm tired of them being 'troubled' about the rape of our Constitution. I'm sick of them being 'bothered' by the needless killing fields in Iraq. I am tired of the leaders of my party being 'worried' about what's happening to our country. I am way past 'concerned' or 'troubled' -- I'm pissed and I'm glad to see that somebody running for president is pissed too.

Here we are, five years later. We're still in Iraq. Our economy is still being run by the rich, if not for the rich. Harry Reid had to be bullied by "angry" Democrats such as Chuck Schumer to put a public option in his health care bill. John Kerry isn't president. Howard Dean was right about pretty much everything.

Another thing that hasn't changed are these faint-hearted observers and name-callers. Take honest liberal values, and combine them with a well-built male. This progressive big guy (Dean was a high school wrestler) starts talking plainly about the state of our union, and the delicates whimper at their "anger". They prefer the dispassion coolness that handed Kerry a loss and handed Patrick a 34% re-elect (true, this works for Obama, but everything works for that guy...Coakley and Kerry are not Obama).

And frankly, what Capuano and Dean offer isn't even anger but righteous passion. Perhaps some sheltered folks find passion scary if it comes from a tall guy with broad shoulders, I don't know. Heaven knows how they'd react if the tall, broad-shouldered guy were African-American as well (no chance of getting their vote). There are plenty of good reasons to dislike a politician, but the fact that he's squarely built and cares about the country is not one of them at all. Sure, Dean and Capuano are unafraid of a fight...but that's only a problem if you plan on being on the other side.

And if you plan on standing opposite Mike Capuano on a regular basis, you shouldn't even be voting in a Democratic primary.

Hey, you know who doesn't show any real passion about injustice? Charlie Baker. Vote for him, maybe he's more your speed.


Judy Meredith said...

Yes!! It's anger at injustice that moves me into political activity and it's anger at cool measured moderate politicians that keep me focused on getting and keeping passionate, committed folk like Mike Capauano into public office.

James Patrick Conway said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Patrick Conway said...

Gotta agree. If conventional wisdom of the punditry was right then in 1948 the voters would have wanted timid, quiet, shrewd leadership but they didnt pick Dewey the picked 'Give em Hell Harry!'. Patrick and Obama are in the Dewey mold, so is Coakley. Much like his, their speeches are full of platitudes and 'dont rock the boat' empty rhetoric. I think Capuano wants to get elected because he wants to fight for us in the Senate. I think Coakley just wants another ladder to climb, another position on the resume, another legacy acquired merely by breaking a ceiling. Its what you do after that that counts, and I just don't think she wants the actual job as much as Capuano does or for the altruistic reasons he does either