OPED: Evans: In Defense of Martha
As a Main Street lawyer, I rise in defense of Martha Coakley, who is not to blame for her inglorious defeat. Instead, blame belongs to Mike Capuano, the progressive and likeable congressman from Somerville who lost to her in the Democratic primary. But for a gross political miscalculation, he might well have been the Democratic nominee, with dramatically different results for Massachusetts and the nation.
-- In November of 2008, slightly over a year ago, Massachusetts voters elected Barrack Obama by 62%, and passed an initiative to decriminalize marijuana by 65%. (Yes, 65%!
-- Martha Coakley, long-resistant to marijuana reform, led a phalanx of prosecutors and law enforcement officials in opposition to the initiative.
After the landslide victory for decriminalization, she resolutely stood her ground and encouraged cities and towns to pass new anti-pot ordinances, usually at the behest of local police, confident that her judgment was superior to that of the voters.
-- As a congressman, Rep. Capuano co-sponsored a federal marijuana decriminalization bill, but hardly mentioned it in the campaign. Not once did he question Marthaís support for prohibition.
Not once did he challenge her to explain why otherwise law-abiding people ought to be arrested and have their lives ruined for a small amount of pot. He totally failed to mention (or perhaps notice) that he and 65% of the voters opposed Martha on this issue.
Why didnít Mike Capuano reach out to the voters who already agreed with him? Why didnít he press Martha on an issue where she was already proven to be on the losing side?
Why did he ignore the huge body of voters who shared his support for decriminalization? In short, why didnít he seize the low-hanging fruit?
Whatever the explanation, you canít blame Martha. She did the safe and prudent thing by remaining silent,
which enabled her to take the primary election comfortably without ever having to explain her defense of prohibition laws that only cops seem to like.
As for why Mike didnít challenge her, Iíd suggest, to put it politely, that heís clueless about the huge disconnect between what voters think about the marijuana prohibition laws and what they tell pollsters and focus group leaders, and write letters to their congressmen about, which is to say, nothing. Except in the privacy of a voting booth, good people have the good sense to remain silent about the marijuana laws, lest their boss take notice, or their scholarship be canceled, or agricultural financing be put in jeopardy, or they risk custody of their children in a divorce case.
People are rationally and justifiably fearful about having their name on a mailing list, or signing a petition, or candidly answering any questions from strangers about marijuana. (I know. They stop me on the sidewalk and applaud my work for repeal, but politely decline an invitation to join the effort.)
Capuano naively misconstrued the publicís silence as rooted in satisfaction, not fear. As for the good people, their priorities are in perfect order.
Jobs and children come first.
One of these days a leader will come along with the political instinct to acknowledge the naked truths that marijuana is ubiquitous, and that it is ineradicable.
Recognizing that prohibition is a luxury we can no longer afford, and that legalization isnít just for stoners, he or she will lead the exploration, design and enactment of new policies aimed not only at better protecting the public health and safety, raising copious amounts of new revenue, creating new industries and thousands of new jobs in agricultural hemp, but most importantly fostering a sense of responsibility in people who choose to use marijuana.
Martha Coakleyís dedication to marijuana prohibition is unwavering. Donít knock her for only being Martha. Itís not her fault that Mike was being Martha too.
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Source: Daily News Tribune (Waltham, MA)
Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jan 2010
Author: Richard M. Evans practices law in Northampton, Mass., and maintains the Web site, www.cantaxreg.com.
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