While this election was something of a referendum on the current Democratic administration, the actions by Coakley to prevent an innocent man, Gerald Amirault, from being released from prison has a major bearing on this election.
Democrats are a strange amalgam of different groups, from the most abject poor to those of great wealth, but one quality is that we are in some way minorities. A question often asked is really why people vote against their economic self interests. What is the root of the identification that many have for the Democratic Party.
Here's my answer: We are largely those who have tasted, or feared, oppression. We are the Union Members, Gays, Jews, Blacks, Feminists all who over the course of history have been known the pain, the fear, the sting of the dominant society's hatred.
Personal innocence or guilt had little to do with the black who was lynched, or the Jews who were rounded up and incinerated, or the suffragettes who had their heads busted for daring to insist that they had the right to vote. We have a fear, a loathing of mob mentality since even if we are part of the mob for now, there is a fear that it could turn against us.
There is a smaller group that had the same experiences. It was those who ran day care centers in the 1980s, who if fate took a bad turn could have found themselves in a living nightmare, or social ostracism, ruination and imprisonment.
Wikipedia has a comprehensive article about "Day Care Sex Abuse Hysteria" that describes how these cases popped up throughout the country, and now are almost universally seen as a phenomenon of mass hysteria leading to systemic injustice against those who were convicted.
All it took to trigger the nightmare was a simple word of a child who was in daycare, perhaps uttered in play, that implied sexual improprieties. First the child, and all of the other children, were questioned, not in an open way to ascertain what may have happened, but with an assumption by the interviewer that sexual abuse had happened. Children want to please adults. And after a while, when they find out that the adult wants to hear stories about their private parts, they will comply. They don't know the meaning of the word, "testimony" or have any idea that their stories would end up hurting someone.
While those on this site don't have great respect for the Wall Street Journal, the article on this which I will cite here has been substantially confirmed in dozens of independent reports that you can find in this google search.
From the Wall Street Journal Dorothy Rabinowitz, who also wrote a book on these prosecutions:
The story of the Amiraults of Massachusetts, and of the prosecution that had turned the lives of this thriving American family to dust, was well known to the world by the year 2001. It was well known, especially, to District Attorney Martha Coakley, who had by then arrived to take a final, conspicuous, role in a case so notorious as to assure that the Amiraults' name would be known around the globe.
Yet, Martha Coakley, is one of the few true believers, who ignored jurists, psychologists, professionals of all levels who saw this for what it was. She made it her personal crusade to prevent the last victim of this hysteria from being released from jail, convincing the governor to ignore the unanimous pardon board to refuse his release for two additional years, making it a total of 18 years in prison.
To see how this attitude plays out across the continent, I have posted(towards the end) an OpEd by the D.A. of San Diego
I doubt that this issue came up during the primaries for the nomination, but by now, I would guess that most voters are aware of this. And if they are like me, they are angry, more even more than most political issue. If this man, Gerald Amirault, deserved to be in prison for 18 years, than so could anyone. If you want to hear him, you can in this phone interview to a radio program.
Here's the summation by the WSJ writer,
Attorney General Martha Coakley—who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case—has recently expressed her view of this episode. Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was "formidable" and that she was entirely convinced "those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants."
Here is some amazing spin by Boston Globe on this issue in this long biographical editorial.
She drew charges of overzealousness when she fought to keep former Malden day-care worker Gerard Amirault behind bars for sexually assaulting children. Coakley was not involved in the prosecution of Amirault, his sister, and mother in the 1980s. But she strenuously opposed the Parole Board’s 2001 recommendation that his sentence be commuted despite doubts about investigators’ tactics.
ignored is the vote of the parole board, 5-0 for release
"Martha Coakley was a very, very good soldier who showed she would do anything to preserve this horrendous assault on justice,’’ said Dorothy Rabinowitz, a Wall Street Journal columnist who championed the Amiraults’ innocence.
Coakley conceded that some prosecutions of the era were mishandled because of suggestive questioning of children but said the evidence against the Amiraults was formidable.
"I am as convinced [as I am of] anything that those children were abused at that day-care center by the three defendants, and if I weren’t, I would be the first to acknowledge that,’’ she said.
"Very good soldier" indeed. Rabinowitz, as her article, and her book, and the excerpt here clearly show, found Coakley's actions reprehensible. Those in Massachusetts who followed this case, had their own opinions, that were not to be turned by either ignoring this case or trying to distort it, as this article in the Boston Globe did.
It's one thing for her to have made a mistake, but she still claims that every conviction of Gerald and his family were legitimate, decided correctly. As a Senator she would have formulated laws and confirmed judges, from district court to the Supreme Court.
Would that alone have made the difference? Probably not. But it defined her in the minds of many as vindictive, uninformed and adamant in her misconceptions, one who abused her position to perpetuate, rather than rectify, an injustice. There were certainly many forces acting on this election, but this single incident, well known to Massachusetts voters, was certainly one of the factors.