Coakley Can Win Massachusetts...If It is Not Too Late

01/15/2010 03:43 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Summary: Coakley is struggling because she is perceived to be running to join the "establishment". She has allowed Brown and the Republicans, who actually represent the elite, to escape that perception because they are not in control,and so Brown appears to be the anti-elitist despite his 5 homes, and support by major monied interests. She needs to change that perceptions ASAP. She does that by fighting the establishment. Specifically: 1) Breaking up the big banks so they cannot hurt everyone, only themselves; 2) Call for Tim Geithner to be fired;3) Support a tiny tax on financial transactions that will tax speculators but raise $100 Billion to help our budget deficit; and 4) Proclaim that, after this healthcare reform is passed, she will fight on for 'medicare for all', or a public option.

Martha Coakley is not the world's most charismatic candidate--compared to Ted Kennedy, who is? And, Scott Brown's Cosmopolitan centerfold provides him a bit of notoriety that raises his profile.

But, neither is the reason Coakley is struggling. The psychology is simple--times are bad. When they are bad, people direct their animosity, even if not blame, at those in charge. Coakley is trying to become one of those in charge.

"Preserve the 60th vote" is not a very compelling story when the 60 are perceived to be dysfunctional at best, and beholden to the elite at the worst.

More bluntly, Coakley is perceived as part of the Establishment, and it is the Establishment (or "elite" or "insiders") that are responsible for the mess. Although the Republicans are hardly populists, and could not give a damn about the general population, and indeed are the definition of the "elite", nonetheless when a person is not running to join the rulers, he can appear to be on the side of the people against the elite.

Rationally, it makes no sense. Bush and the Establishment got us here. Obama and the Democrats are trying to stem the downslide and reverse it. If the Republicans had remained in charge, deficits would be larger, the downturn would be worse, the time to recovery would be prolonged, and there would be even more taxcuts for the wealthy and more inequality.

But "rational" does not matter. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of our decisions as humans are not rational. We think they are, but they are not. A quick reaction occurs emotionally, and then people "rationalize" it.

So, what could Coakley do? She has to run against Washington DC, she has to run against the elite. She should not be emphasizing that she will be the 60th vote, because that puts her as part of the elite.

She should position herself as fighting for the people against the elites and she should link Brown--5 homes, Republican money, and the Republican record--to the elite, and stop allowing him to fool people by trying to flip the truth upside down.

But, she needs to demonstrate her mettle on these matters.

Supporting the tax on banks helps, but it does not stir the juices. The best case for Coakley, today, is to indicate that she will go to Washington and work to break up the big banks. That gets peoples blood pumping. Why? Because the bankers just testified that they made mistakes, and, even if one accepts that it was only 'mistakes', the well-being of the American people should not depend on bankers getting everything right all the time. They never will. No mortal could. And, so their banks have to be small enough, so that their mistakes cannot hurt the rest of us. As Sarah Palin says, "it's just common sense".

Geithner has become a lightning rod, in part because of what he did before joining the Obama Administration, as President of the New York Federal Reserve. But, those (again rational) distinctions in timing do not resonate. Geithner has become Obama's Rumsfeld. Coakley should call for his dismissal, and replacement by the former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

Peoples' insecurity is fueled by the concern about deficits (strange, that the Republicans never cared about deficits when they funded tax cuts for the wealthy!). She should demonstrate her fealty to reducing the deficit by support a financial transactions tax on speculators.

On healthcare, she should also say that she is going to fight on, after this bill, to get a public option, or to open medicare for everyone.

That is, she is not going to be someone who just goes along--she is going to take it to the Establishment, and fight.

All the appeals to help Martha Coakley are based upon the (very real) need for the 60th vote, and the unseamliness of handing Ted Kennedy's seat to a radical rightwing Republican who has pledged to undo the most important achievement of Senator Kennedy's life.

That won't cut it. The people of Massachusetts need someone, like Senator Kennedy, who will fight for them against the establishment/elite for whom the cards seem to be stacked in their favor.

The people of Massachusetts want a New Deal. They need to hear it loud and clear from Martha Coakley if she wants that Senate seat.