It Begins: NY Times Suggests Sexism a Factor in Martha Coakley's Mass. Loss

January 25th, 2010 2:54 PM

On Monday, the New York Times joined other media outlets in suddenly uncovering sexism in overwhelmingly liberal Massachusetts, after the shocking takeover by Republican Scott Brown of a seat held by Democrats for almost 60 years. Katie Zezima reported from Boston: "After Senate Race, Some Say Barrier for Women in Massachusetts Still Stands."

Not mentioned in the laundry list of accusations of "macho" politics: The womanizing and worse committed by the late liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The defeat of Martha Coakley in last week's special election to fill the Senate seat that was long held by Edward M. Kennedy has reignited the debate over whether there is a glass ceiling for women in Massachusetts politics.

"Welcome to liberal Massachusetts -- we're not," said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant. "And if you didn't believe it before, anyone who thinks that Massachusetts is liberal in light of Tuesday's results need only look at the record and lack of success women have had in Massachusetts politics. That should just put it away for good."

For decades, women have been unable to gain a solid political toehold in Massachusetts, a state long dominated by male political figures. Five women in Massachusetts's history -- including Ms. Coakley, the attorney general -- have been elected to statewide constitutional office, and four have been elected to the House of Representatives.

Coakley in fact beat three men in the Democratic primary, which enabled her to lose to Brown in the first place.

Part of the problem with Mass. voters? They didn't realize Coakley was a woman (so much for sophisticated liberals):

[Democratic strategist Dan] Payne said he believed women had given Ms. Coakley a late push in her primary victory against three male opponents. But he said Ms. Coakley never mentioned her gender or that she would have been the state's first female United States senator, while Scott Brown, her opponent, ran "a macho, testosterone campaign," driving around the state in a pickup. (No tallies of the vote by gender were available.)