The first conversation you have with people in Massachusetts these days is about what phone calls they've gotten. "I was home today," my father told me on Friday, "and the bulk of the phone calls we got were about the election: Bill Clinton, the DNC, a Coakley volunteer, the Brown campaign, my union president..." Saturday, it was a robocall from Scott Brown's daughter complaining about the negative attacks against her father. (That is, against disclosure of his record and positions.) Today, my mother answered the phone and was asked if she believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. When she replied no, the National Organization for Marriage thanked her and signed off. Moments later, the phone rang. It was MassEquality calling to let people know NOM was making calls.
At Coakley campaign headquarters, and nearby at the Massachusetts Democratic Party, volunteer phonebankers often apologize for the volume of calls people are getting. But they keep calling, and the stacks of completed call sheets are added to as fast as they can be entered in the computers. The complacency that plagued us just a week ago has been thoroughly punctured and volunteers have flooded in.
No, Massachusetts is not accustomed to this kind of campaign.
Massachusetts is also not accustomed to a candidate as low-down and scum-sucking as Scott Brown, and once again the compressed schedule of what you might call the real campaign is an issue, forcing voters to absorb the rapid-fire succession of stories only now coming out about Brown, after he's spent months defining himself as that telegenic guy who never says the word "Republican."
Brown's supporters are on board with the low-down scum-sucking bit, though. Today, at a rally,
"I'll tell you what," Brown said, using a megaphone to address the crowd. "There's negative campaigning, and then there's malicious campaigning."
"She's malicious!" a man in the crowd cried out. "She's a phony!" shouted another. "Shove a curling iron up her butt!" a third man interjected a few moments later.
Though Brown had, under pressure, conceded that President Obama's parents were indeed married, he apparently had no objection to his supporters advocating the misogynist and sexualized violence of "shoving a curling iron up [Coakley's] butt." Contrast that with his outrage a few years ago when some teenagers wrote negative things about his family on Facebook -- he went to their school and threw the obscene words of a few back at all the students:
The lawmaker held captive to his outrage many KP students who were innocent of the name-calling and foul language, and did so in a manner unbecoming to his roles as caring parent and respected lawmaker. Who among us would not be prepared to do battle against anyone disparaging and dishonoring our loved ones?
But there is a time, a tone and a context for retort and for demanding vindication.
While we empathize with Brown's wish to redress the postings, his decision to use an appearance on legislative issues to scold everyone came across as inappropriate, unjust and seemingly out of character.
Replying in kind diminished, for the moment, his stature as a grownup who should have known better.
That was in 2007. We know now that Scott Brown is all about diminishing stature.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, is more about raising people up, and he was in the state to do that today.
"Where we don't want to go now is backwards," Obama told supporters at a Northeastern University gymnasium. "We've got so much work left to do. ... I can't do it alone. I need leaders like Martha by my side so we can kick it into high gear, so we can finish what we've started."
We're working on it.