Editorial: Red Meat rhetoric from Capuano

Mike Capuano is well known in his Eighth Congressional district for his blunt style. Whether he’s in front of a crowd of union protestors or a church basement packed with senior citizens, the congressman calls it like he sees it.

On Tuesday, he raised eyebrows when his speech during a rally in support of Wisconsin union workers turned a bit graphic.

“I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an e-mail to get you going,” Capuano said, according to the State House News Service. “Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.”

Capuano also lobbed an insult at the Tea Party “nuts” who were holding a counter-protest across the street from the rally on the State House steps. Already, some on the right are attacking Capuano for being too aggressive in his speech. One Republican operative tried to link Capuano’s rhetoric with the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Such hyperbole is ridiculous: Bostonians know the difference between a feisty standout or demonstration and a gun-toting madman.

In fact, what they heard was vintage Capuano and it’s precisely what Democrats need right now: Someone who won’t shrink away from what is clearly a deliberate assault on their core principles and constituents. And it’s high time that progressives get passionate about defending their hard-fought gains— whether that means workers’ rights, a woman’s right to choose, or voting rights— all of which are under assault right now from a right-leaning Congress and state governments like Wisconsin.

The former Somerville mayor — who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for US Senate in 2009— is considered a likely candidate to challenge Scott Brown next year. Whoever emerges as the Dems’ pick for the seat had better be prepared for a scrappy, bare-knuckled political fight. Brown has deep pockets and the promise of the full weight of the national party to back him up for re-election.

Capuano fits the challenger role well— as does his fellow Congressman Steve Lynch, who was also a featured speaker at Tuesday’s rally. “There’s a difference between compromise and surrender, and the governor of Wisconsin wants us to surrender….,” Lynch said. “There are two visions of America here. There’s the Tea Party vision and the vision of the American worker.”

The GOP and its Tea Party wing would love for Democrats to turn on each other, wallow in self-doubt, and then serve up another non-threatening policy wonk who won’t offend a soul on either side. Democrats need to avoid such a scenario at all cost. It’s time for tough-talk and quick action — and good for Mike Capuano and his colleagues for jumping into the fray.
– Bill Forry