Coakley and the Gender Gap


Today is the special election in MA to fill the late Senator Kennedy’s seat and we need Martha Coakley to win. But while women’s groups have thrown down support for her, it seems that she is not getting the support she needs from women voters. Dana Goldstein looks at why this might be so,

Coakley did not go out of her way, especially during the general-election campaign, to play up her feminist credentials. She never filmed a general-election ad that presented a positive image of herself as a defender of reproductive rights and civil liberties, as opposed to just attacking Brown on those issues. She also never fully embraced the message that her ascension to the Senate would be historic, putting the number of women serving in the upper chamber at 18, an all-time high. She has called her gender “secondary,” eschewing the more emotional feminist appeal that Hillary Clinton made in the final months of her presidential campaign.

It is so hard to predict which is the most effective tactic, hiding your feminism or making it blatant, but Dana continues with the shifting mood of the country against repro rights after the health care debates, which has re-centralized value voter issues. Go read the rest of the article to get a clear picture of how gender is playing out in this race.

And sadly Brown’s people are using
sexist tactics and intimidating voters.
Today is a very important election. If you are interested in supporting getting the vote out but are not in MA, you can always phone bank.

Join the Conversation

  • Jadelyn

    Or it could be because she has a problematic record of a “The State Is Always Right” attitude when it comes to criminal justice issues, refusing to allow investigations into the real innocence of prisoners who may have been unfairly convicted. Or it could be because she’s perfectly willing to sell us out by voting for the health care bill as-is, including its anti-woman provisions.
    She may be the lesser of two evils, but honestly, I don’t know that if I were in MA I could bring myself to vote for her either.

  • cattrack2

    Coakley’s poor performance has less to do with her expressed (or unexpressed) feminism than with the fact that she’s run a lackluster campaign amidst an anti-incumbent electorate. Further I think its unfair to contrast her with Hillary. Though Hillary certainly ran an identity based campaign, she didn’t run as a feminist. Second, Coakley has something of a tin ear while Hillary certainly does not. And finally its hard to argue that being the 18th female Senator is remotely as historic as being the 1st female President. Even for voters who would like to see another woman in the Senate, jobs, jobs, and jobs are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd question they’ll ask. Just ask Sen. Gillenbrand.
    The fact of the matter is that voters tend to vote against things more than they vote for things. Given our economic climate & the Wall Street bailouts that means voting against everyone who enabled it, and that means voting against incumbents and insiders, which unfortunately is the type of campaign Coakley has run. Unfortunate timing.

  • Comrade Kevin

    With all due respect, I disagree with NOW. In Massachusetts, for God’s sake, one of the bluest of the blue, people are not overwhelmingly incensed with the outcome of the 2008 Presidential Election.
    Rather, they are frustrated by what seems like a completely toothless government response to a wide variety of different issues. They are feeling disillusioned after having had their hopes set on change that they believed in. Maybe in more red states there is a backlash against Obama’s policies or his election, but not in liberal Massachusetts. People don’t know when the economy will turn around, or when the job market will return, and their uncertainty drives their vote.

  • drahill

    I’m inclined to wonder whether part of Coakley’s problem with female voters stems from some her past handling of molestation and sexual assault cases. Coakley fought to keep the Amirault family in jail when it was fairly clear that they should have been released. She also looked horrible when she declined to prosecute a case in which a man sodomized his toddler neice with a curling iron. I am not saying that these cases make her deeply unfit to be a senator, but they sure are disconcerting.
    I can totally understand why women would hesitate to vote for Coakley. She seems to not have a record of taking sex crimes very seriously. But I live in California, so I suppose it’s not really up to me to say.

  • Toongrrl

    I’ve heard of Brown: he is a idiot!!!! Attacking President Obama for being an apparant illegetimate child, because his mom (God rest her soul)was barely 19 when she had him

  • LalaReina

    It was her race to lose and she found a way to lose it–he didn’t win, she lost. Her campaign was abysmal and she carries that fatal Democrat trait of believing “I am above Republic mudslinging, the people will see through this foolishness”. The party leaders will come on shows like Rachel Maddow and say this and I, like her, just cringe. She wasn’t the best candidate but damn do people not remember how we got in this mess to begin with?

  • lovelyliz

    I was NOT rooting for Coakley. Just because someone is a liberal who may hold on to some feminist beliefs does not make them worthy of my vote. She’s a horrible person with a bad voting record, in my opinion. I’m actually very disappointed that your site is supportive of her. :/

  • Brianna G

    Coakley ran a very bad campaign. That’s all there was to it. The only campaign element I saw of hers that wasn’t either offensive, negative, or completely dull was when Ted Kennedy’s wife came out in favor of her, and she wasn’t IN that ad.
    Scott Brown’s ads were bad too. But Coakley’s were worse, and they hurt her significantly.