I hate to nit-pick, but is it possible that Martha Coakley lost her bid to become Senator of Massachussetts not because people knew her too little but because they just might have known her too well?

I didn’t follow the race super closely and I certainly haven’t studied the exit polls, but I have heard an awful lot about Coakley’s  failure to define herself. It’s certainly possible that the entire debacle turned only on national politics, Democratic arrogance, Massachusetts sexism, and Tea Party backlash, but just on the off chance it swayed some of those 100,000 voters who made the difference, is Coakley’s actual record worth a peek?

Described as a traditional liberal, Coakley was hardly a Ted Kennedy, especially in her chosen field of criminal justice. Here’s a state Attorney General who despite forensic mistakes, lies and evidence of crime lab incompetence, argued personally at the Supreme Court that it was too much of a burden on prosecutors to require crime lab technicians to submit to questioning by defense attorneys in court. That was too much for the Supremes– even Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia disagreed with Coakley on that one (and decided in favor of the defense.)

Maybe some voters remembered the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” hoax in which Boston police wildly overreacted to a stupid promotional stunt and Coakley defended the cops.

And let’s not forget, Coakley might never have built the profile to run for Attorney General if it hadn’t been for her prosecution of Louise Woodward, a young British nanny convicted of shaking an infant to death. As soon as legally possible, a judge reduced that conviction from murder to manslaughter but not before Woodward had been separated from her family and vilified around the globe.

As AG, Coakley defended bogus sex abuse charges against day care workers.  On the Fells Acres Day Care convictions Wall Street Journal reporter Dorothy Rabinowitz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage, told The Boston Globe, “Martha Coakley was a very, very good soldier who showed she would do anything to preserve this horrendous assault on justice.” Apparently learning nothing, she opposed a state innocence commission to review shaky convictions. The list goes on…

Sexism certainly played a part in the way Coakley was treated in the senate race, and in the media. Her cold-fish personal style came in for no end of abuse, but it’s sexist, too, to downplay her (barracuda) professional record. Before the President and the Dems take another dive to the right, it’s at least worth asking: If the Dems had backed a real live, living-and-breathing progressive in the primaries, might things have turned out differently?

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.

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