The civil liberties issue is going to be crucial - as will be the issue of whether our Senator is truly, gut-level, on the side of the working people or is just with us on a collection of issues and ways of doing things.
In case you haven't been paying attention lately, let me remind you that we are in the midst of a profound, world-historical economic, social, political and environmental crisis, and for the people it is continuing to get worse. The American people turned out in '08, in what by US standards (but not by world standards) was large numbers, to elect a Democratic President and Congress running on the promise of change. And they are not seeing it. There are many signs that the "Obama voters" are fed up with the entire political process, and with the failure of Obama and the Democratic Congress to deliver, and that they may not turn out in '10 and '12 to vote at all.
See for example: http://trueslant.com/allisonkilkenny/2009/11/29/new-poll-paints-ugly-2010-picture/
In Hondouras a few days ago, 70% of the adult population failed to show up at the polls, almost al observers agreed that it was a decisive repudiation of the dictatorship that was running the elections. But few here saw it that way when 70% of the voters of Worcester didn't vote last month in City elections, but the meaning is the same. in District 4 only 8% of the adult population participated in a hotly-contested City Council race.
I've been at a lot of doors and in a lot of living rooms recently, talking to people about politics, government and their lives. I couldn't get many out to vote, but I can tell you they are paying attention, and they are getting angrier and more desperate. People stay home as a vote of no confidence - a massive, ongoing vote of no confidence in our whole electoral system, one that has been going on for generations, but no one is paying attention. People are very clear about that. If you doubt it, go out and ask them!
The only thing that can save the Democrats - and perhaps our democracy itself, such as it is - in '10 and '12 will be people taking to the streets and taking other direct action to demand the change we voted for in '08; and then only if the Democratic representatives, the President and the Democratic governors respond to that pressure - and take credit for that - the way Roosevelt did!
And it's going to happen. (The street heat, that is.) The pot is coming to a boil.
The question to ask about the Senator we nominate is: does he or she get it? Will he or she be on the side of the people in the crunch? Or will they side with the "law and order first" crowd and support the impulse to beat the people back with clubs and gas, injunctions, jails and detention camps?
Any sign of anti-union bias is a warning flag. The unions, such as they are, are the only organized voice the working people have right now, and their support for the Democratic Party is critical to our future.
I think Capuano gets this. My best guess is that at a gut level he is - and will be - on the side of the people, the side of democracy.
I have doubts about Khazei, and serious doubts about Coakley.
Ask about Martha: where would she have stood on the Flint sitdown strike, or the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement?
Where would she have stood on Sept. 6, 1774, when 4,722 militia members from 37 towns gathered in the streets of Worcester and stopped the courts from meeting?
If - or rather when - she is forced to choose between the law and the people, between the law and democracy, what does her record show about where she would stand?