The Editors of Blue Mass. Group — Bob, Charley, and David — enthusiastically endorse the remarkable candidacy of Deval Patrick for Governor:
- Most thoughtful, substantive, and consistent of the candidates on the issues;
- Most inspiring leader and speaker in Massachusetts in a generation;
- Most independent of the moneyed interests and hackocracy that make our party far less than it could be;
- Most likely to beat Kerry Healey and Reed Hillman in November.
[A quick digression about process. While other MA lefty blogs have gone about endorsing (and volunteering for) their chosen candidates, we have so far stayed on the sidelines. Why? We want to encourage a wide range of discourse. We are proud of the fact that supporters of all three candidates hold forth here. They make major contributions to our community. We will continue to recommend and promote substantive posts, regardless of which candidate is favored. And we acknowledge and respect the views of those who would prefer us to remain publicly neutral. But as each of our views has crystallized, the time has now come when it's only honest to lay our cards on the table and state our consensus position as the proprietors of the site. We do not purport to speak for any of you, but you need to know where we stand. Now back to our regularly scheduled editorializing].
When we started BMG, there was only one responsible candidate for governor: Tom Reilly. With no malice, but some skepticism, and with misgivings about coronations, we hoped for competition. When former Justice Department prosecutor and corporate lawyer Deval Patrick started making noises about a gubernatorial run in early 2005, we were intrigued: Who is this guy? What are his beliefs? Why is he going around asking people what
they think? When we heard him speak at ward meetings and the 2005 convention, we were impressed by his charisma and his determination to offer an alternative to conventional wisdom.
Still, we had doubts. Where’s the beef? Was it just a bunch of platitudes, however inspiring; or could he jump into policy,
take some bold stands, and get into the nitty gritty? Patrick answered that starting last fall (months before any other candidate), by making a slew of specific, well-researched and well-argued policy positions:
- He endorsed Cape Wind, going against the most powerful politicians in the state: Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney, and Tom Reilly. It was and is the right decision.
- He came out in support of the health care ballot initiative that became the basis of the more ambitious House proposal, which eventually became the core of the new health care law — the grandstanding of Governor Romney notwithstanding.
- He expressed unequivocal support for marriage — including same-sex unions — drawing on his exerience enforcing civil rights.
- He made a constructive proposal on merit pay in schools and skillfully navigated tricky political waters to do it.
- He proposed $735 million of possible savings in the state budget. He drew on his Fortune 50 corporate experience to suggest better enforcement of rules, leveraging the state’s buying power, and controlling earmarks, among other improvements.
- He has endorsed an independent investigation for the Big Dig.
In addition to being long on substance, Patrick is an electrifying speaker. In the tradition of JFK and FDR, he makes demands on his listeners: he asks that voters engage in civic life, cast off cynicism, and cultivate their best instincts for the community. People may like other candidates, or tolerate them, or hold their nose and vote for them anyway; but Patrick’s supporters love their guy. Those who downplay the importance of this candidate’s charisma — which comes through well on TV — ignore one of the most important aspects of a political winner.
It’s the “How”, not the “What” of the Patrick campaign, however, that most makes it stand out among the current gubernatorial campaigns. In early 2005, before he finally made the decision to run, Patrick went on a “listening tour” of the state (the term was coined, or at least made famous, by Hillary Clinton in her successful 2000 Senate race). The insiders and the consultant class were baffled:
“To send out letters asking five-year-old kids what they think about you running for governor? Its stupid!” complains one Democrat. “You dont know why youre going to run? Dont run.” “If you want to run for governor,” adds Scott Ferson, a political consultant with the Liberty Square Group, “its nice to know why you want to run, instead of saying youre going to figure it out.”
Baffled, because they didn’t get it. Patrick wasn’t out on some Romneyesque search for the positions that will win him the most votes. He was out to see whether the message he already knew he wanted to deliver was one that would resonate with actual voters. As he told the Phoenix in early 2005, “what Im trying to find is whether what I offer is what people need.” After spending a lot of time talking and — more importantly — listening to people around the state, he concluded that his message would indeed resonate. Turns out he was right. People 1, Consultants and Insiders 0.
Once up and running, the Patrick campaign stuck with that people-based approach, adopting a strategy that relies heavily on word-of-mouth, one-to-one contact, and personal persuasion. The approach has worked, as seen in Patrick’s performance at the 2005 Lowell convention, the caucus victories in February, and his endorsement at the state Democratic Convention in Worcester a couple of months ago. No other Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate has pursued this strategy with the commitment and skill of the Patrick team.
This emphasis on ordinary people — as opposed to an almost exclusive reliance on consultant-commissioned multi-million dollar electronic air barrages — is a gamble, but it is intriguing and exciting to see a campaign that actually seems to believe in it wholeheartedly, to the point of deferring major Big Media investments until the end of the voting cycle. The savvy folks who run Patrick’s campaign believe in the persuasive power of their volunteers and supporters, as well as their candidate. They believe that the same community-based, one-on-one approach that wins city council races can win the Governor’s office. The campaign is not romantic or delusional; they are carrying out this strategy in a crisp, professional manner and getting results. Patrick has led in several recent polls, despite significant media buys by his opponents. And the strategy is more than just an effective tool for a campaign: it’s profoundly reinvigorating to the political culture as a whole.
A people-powered political base carries real policy implications. The money chase, and the consultants who feed on it, have crippled the Democratic Party, and by extension the effectiveness of Massachusetts governme
nt, for years. Private profit can, even should, come from public good — think of the benefits from public education, and the drag from our inefficient health care system — but public servants cannot effectively serve the public good and private profit at the same time. The more popular enthusiasm a candidate musters, the more independent he will be from the Big Dig culture of Beacon Hill — and the better able to challenge it.
None of this, by the way, means that we think Patrick is right about everything — we don’t. For example, Bob thinks he’s wrong on the income tax rollback, and David thinks he’s wrong on whether the legislature should vote on the anti-marriage amendment. But we do agree with him on most of the “issues.” Furthermore, we all agree on bigger-picture factors that transcend individual disagreements (which will of course exist with any candidate). If Patrick wins, he will walk into the corner office with a people-powered mandate the likes of which has not been seen on Beacon Hill in a long time. That’s the best way to start curing what ails our government.
For all these reasons, we three have decided to back Deval Patrick. We hope the Democratic voters of Massachusetts agree with us on Tuesday, September 19. If they do, we are confident that Deval Patrick and the winner of the Lieutenant Governor primary will handily defeat Kerry Healey and Reed Hillman on November 7.