Vennochi Still Doesn’t Get Deval

Joan Vennochi wrote a pretty scathing editorial of how the Patrick administration isn’t “selling” his budget. As far as I could tell, in the entire editorial she did not once critique Deval’s budget (she let the business leaders do that), but rather criticized how he was selling it. At the end she writes:

The land of the status quo is cold, stubborn, and treacherous. It is inhabited by business executives who don’t want to give up tax breaks and legislators who don’t want to give up anything. They understand political hardball, not the politics of hope.

But she doesn’t get it.


You don’t change politics as usual by making the business community your adversary. Playing hardball doesn’t mean you blast the business community for not living up to the standards of the community, you work with them and explain how his budget is good for business.

Second, yes, Patrick would need to do a better job at mobilizing the grassroots to fight for his budget — if there was a fight to be made. To me it’s clear there’s a fight brewing, but mostly the details need to be hammered out. In addition, there’s mixed reviews from the business community, as she acknowledges that some are holding out a “wait and see” policy on the Governor’s budget.

Vennochi writes that, Patrick should have “challenged the audience to let Beacon Hill power brokers know where the people stand – behind Deval Patrick.” But harnessing the grassroots ought to be done responsibly. Before he can make the ask–that we mobilize–Patrick has to first let the budget get digested. We have to know the facts of the budget before we go writing the legislature to support it. And by all accounts I think we still need to digest. That’s what a reality based grassroots movement is about. I for one am not writing my representative to support the budget until more comes out about it and we’re beyond preliminary analyses. Am I alone?

But I think more than that she misses the bigger point about his campaign and Patrick the person. Patrick has spent a good amount of his career in large organizations building a consensus, trying to find innovative solutions to problems, and dealing with conflicting interests. But more, his campaign was about engaging the community to do away with bare-knuckled “hardball.” If he went to the business community in the way she suggested — “us vs. them” to actually quote her — it would be counter to the very core of his message that we’re all in this together.

Am I alone in thinking that she’s missed the point? Sure, I’d like to see him put on more pressure to the business community to close the loopholes, but we’ve just begun the fight. As has been noted by AmberPaw this is just round one.

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  1. $quot;Consensus?$quot;

    This is the Massachusetts legislature, not the Council of Elrond. Reps face real pressure groups, real donors and real lobbyists who want their interests represented aggressively, not graciously bargained away to bring harmony to the Vortex.

    This is telling, I think:

    And by all accounts I think we still need to digest. That's what a reality based grassroots movement is about. I for one am not writing my representative to support the budget until more comes out about it and we're beyond preliminary analyses

    I don't think FDR, Ronald Reagan, Bill Weld or GW Bush, for that matter, got their agendas passed by patiently waiting for amateur policy wonks to spontaneously rise up in support upon discovering three collapsed accounts on page 419.

    I think Venocchi is trying to give Patrick some good advice. I think she succeeded.

    • Maybe.

      Personally, I think Vennochi commented on the way Patrick is selling his budget instead of the budget itself because it just takes time to go through it all. I'm not suggesting that politics is like an episode of the Care Bears, but I'd like to think that Deval will mobilize his grassroots forces when we know exactly why we're being mobilized--that we're more than just his tool or a group of knee-jerk Deval supporters. And educating the grassroots takes time. Also, "patiently waiting" is a strawman. Deval is informing the public, making his budget transparent, and sending Murray out to sell it too.

      • i'm going to give the $quot;Council of Elrond$quot; reference the edge over

        the "Care Bears" reference. 

        We're just evaluating the sell, not the actual argument, right? 

        • Yes, and if we're going to debate who $quot;doesn't get it$quot;

          Let's focus on the Globe's page 1 above the fold headline today:

          "BUDGET RELIES ON ONE-TIME FIXES"

          The first quotation is from Michael Widmer, always available to carp: "These are not gimmicks, but they're dubious policy initiatives." Since the Globe started quoting Widmer every third sentence in its budget articles, he has yet to suggest anything the governor should have done instead.

          And, in the fine print at the end of the article, comes the inevitable: Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

          The Globe's coverage may persuade me to become a Patrick supporter yet. The prospects for a continued subscription to the paper, however, are much less encouraging.

  2. Who doesn't $quot;get it?$quot;

    Joan Vennochi's column, like several others she has written on the Administration, are not easy reading for those of us who want the Patrick Administration to succeed. She makes sharp and cogent observations and pulls no punches.  The easiest thing to do is to say every critic "doesn't get it" and dismiss the points they make as unenlightened. But, that would be foolish. Vennochi has no personal axe to grind. She has seen more than a few Beacon Hill leaders come and go. She knows what works and what doesn't. Rather than spurn her advice, it should be seriously considered.

    Hope is a wonderful thing...but, it can only take you so far...now that the rhetoric is hitting the road, it's time to switch gears from campaign vagueries to the brass tacks of governing with an agenda...less pulpit and more bully may be required at times...we can forgive a few rookie mistakes if they speed up the learning curve but, time is not on anyone's side.

    Deval may be a political novice but he has a few people on his team, including his own Lt. Governor, who are not. They  will become increasingly critical to this Administration's chances for success...they understand the politcs of hope but also know how to play the politics of public perception and pure hardball.

    Rather than pummel Vennochi, let's give her something better to write about!

     

    • Joanie One-Note

      No, I don't think Vennochi necessarily speaks out of some long-held experience of how to deal with the legislature. Nor does Keller, or any of the other pundits. They don't know a damn thing more than any of us. They do know how to sell disappointment and cynicism, because that's what they do, professionally. That's their meal ticket.

      Sometimes I love Vennochi -- she nailed the whole Killer Coke thing, after all. But have you ever read a column by her that wasn't cynical? Does she know how not to be?

      I was there in Melrose on Tuesday night. I would not bet against Deval Patrick, politically. If and when he decides to put the pressure on, he can do so -- and I'll bet he doesn't even have to resort to the kind of bombast that Vennochi advocates.

      IOW, this all sounds like early 2005 to me: He's got no chance. He can't win. Well, we know how that turned out.

      • Charley nails it again.

      • Charley, You Kill Me. You are Adorable

        OK, this is what you just said

        "No, I don't think Vennochi necessarily speaks out of some long-held experience of how to deal with the legislature. Nor does Keller, or any of the other pundits. They don't know a damn thing more than any of us. They do know how to sell disappointment and cynicism, because that's what they do, professionally. That's their meal ticket."

        Charley my boy, these people have been around along time and seen many many many others in politics, business, and media come and go. They know from experience that there has to be some substance behind the fluff or you will eventually be outed.

        Deval's first political act as governor was to say to the Speaker and Senate President "You do everything I want and I will let the state pay you and key members $$$."

        Joan Vennochi and Jon Keller could describe the incompetence, stupidity, insult, condescending attitude, narcissism and arrogance in that move thousands of times better than I can.

        It is not about the drapes.

        Deval is turning into the empty suit that Joan Vennochi, and others whose job it was to notice, legitimately questioned during the campaign.

        Vennochi and Keller were not at the Melrose rally as "Deval Heads" like you, Charley,  and most others.

        (I have a bootleg tape of it. It is good, but not as good as the Jan. 15th speech in Chicopee when he said "Together we can" 27 times. Man I was so fucked up at that one)

        They were there as opinion writers looking for substance.

        And Deval's answer.... one time solutions so we can dig ourselves into a deeper hole.

        How dare they question Deval?

        eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
        • I applaud your ability

          to read a six-word headline in 96-point type.

          Unfortunately, most of the citizens of Massachusetts bring a similar skill set to the budget discussions. Which is precisely why Charley is wrong to dismiss the importance of getting the press and pundits on Deval's side.

      • Yes, they do

        No, I don't think Vennochi necessarily speaks out of some long-held experience of how to deal with the legislature. Nor does Keller, or any of the other pundits. They don't know a damn thing more than any of us. They do know how to sell disappointment and cynicism, because that's what they do, professionally. That's their meal ticket.

        Thats not what all of them do.  Look at the writing of Lisa Wagness in the Globe during the campaign.  Every article she wrote had an oh isn't Deval wonderful feel to it.  Her articles were not full of disappointment, unless it was about what an awful candidate Reilly turned out to be.

        More importantly, they do know more than us. They get paid to.  If they didn't know anything more then the Globe wouldn't be paying Vennochi, they would be paying you, Charley.  For you, punditry is a part time gig you have going.  I'll grant you its been a very successful one as an editor of BMG, but its not your job.  Jon Keller has made a career out of covering Massachusetts politics.  Hes in the building every day.  He talks to the playmakers.  He is able to read between the lines a lot better than you or I can.

        They know more than we do.  If they didn't, they would be out of a meal ticket.

        • partly fair

          First, I was talking pundits: two in particular. Wangsness is a reporter. And any of her sunny treatment has been more than made up for by the fabulous duo of Phillips n' Estes. And I wouldn't call her latest report particularly sunny, anyway.

          So anyway, you're right -- it sure isn't my job. And yes indeed, they've got a lot more experience and connections and sources and the whole 9 yards. No question. But I wasn't just talking about me; I was referring to anyone who follows this stuff; anyone who reads BMG regularly, or the Globe, or Herald, or what have you.

          When it comes to predicting how these things are going to shake out; when it comes to knowing how a newly elected governor -- the first Democrat since 1990, winning in a landslide -- should deal with the politics of a budget with a $1 billion deficit, I would indeed suggest that they don't know any more than any of us do. Like, say, Maureen Dowd, they have an attitude, a pose that they churn out day after day, column after column.

          "He is able to read between the lines a lot better than you or I can"? Maybe. But it depends on what lines you're looking at.

          • Paid to be better informed? Ha!

            My only encounter with Lisa W. was outside the Manning School in Ward 19 (right on the J.P./ W. Roxbury line, and one of the highest turn-out polls in the city) where I was volunteering for Gibran Rivera's council run.  She started to chat me up by saying, "So, is this the 'New Roxbury' I hear so much about?" (no, she wasn't trying to be ironic).  After I had explained the difference between Roxbury and West Roxbury, and pointed out or introduced her to the various players milling about and schmoozing by the door, she sidled up and begged for directions for driving back into town (!).

            Now, I have no axe to grind with Ms. Wangsness.  She seemed bright and pleasant enough.  But it is indicative of the Globe's contempt for it's base community that it would assign someone so clueless to cover local politics.

  3. Venocchi's advice is fine

    as a critique of Patrick's sales job, some 7 weeks into his 4 year term. Nothing wrong with pointing up the realities of dealing with Beacon Hill, and the importance of "framing" the debate, or imploring Patrick to spit a little more fire.

    But Patrick didn't just fall off the back of a turnip truck and win the Governorship. If he's not capable of fighting behind the scenes and strong arming opposition, he wouldn't have made it this far.

    As to whether or not he should be striking a more adversarial public pose now, I'll wait to see how he makes it across the finish line.

  4. ADD journalism

    The sad fact about Vennochi's column is that, had the governor taken the confrontational approach she recommends, we would have been treated to a column lecturing him that he is a political neophyte, someone indulging in stereotypical class warfare rhetoric that would never work, that more moderate, engaging language (the type that the Governor actually used) is what is called for.  This is classic, after the fact, you take one road and I'll say it was wrong journalism.  Remember, in a column right after the primary victory, Vennochi referenced the "kool aid" so many Patrick supporters were drinking?  Recently she also took Patrick to task for abandoning his "bully pulpit" because of one instance where he was not publicly visible.  Unfortunately, something darker than "just not getting it" is going on here.

  5. Perhaps Vennochi did not realize that DP was probably having a...

    ...George Lakoff "issue framing" moment  with his "politics of hope" speech.

    The post is entirely correct that "You don't change politics as usual by making the business community your adversary" (at least, not initially).  The Clintons essentially did that in 1993 in their health care financing initiative, by ignoring the fact that the insurance industry had--and continues to have--more than a bit of interest in the status quo, and by largely ignoring their interests in their proposed reform.  That was one of the things that led to the Democrats' loss of Congress in the 1994 elections.

    • No.

      Hillary's task force had more participants than a Moonie wedding, and the foundation of her Byzantine plan was actually inspired by an insurance company--Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Monroe County, New York. She tried to build consensus with insurers as well as Republicans.

      She got buy-in, put all her ducks in a row, had the choir singing off the same page, made all the strings play the same tune, lined up her soldiers, and then, just when she ran out of b-school cliches, Bob Dole turned to the insurance companies and said, "Hey, I don't want them getting credit for this. Let's fuck 'em. You in?" And the rest was history.

      • Sorry, this makes no sense...

        ...if the insurance industry (which, in the health care financing industry is really little more than a claims processing industry) was happy with the Clinton proposal, why would they suddenly turn around after some importuning from Bob Dole, whose party was then in the minority in Congress?

        • 2 groups

          The "insurance" industry is two groups:  1) the big guys 2)everyone else.

          Hillary got the big guys in line and they were to become the collective "single payer".  The "everyone else" got together and put out the TV ads that sunk Hillary-care.

          • P.S.

            I'm not sure that Bob Dole was the organizer of the smaller insurance companies.  No question though that he sang their praises.

          • Yes, in fact

            the BCBS of Monroe County was, largely by accident of history, a monopoly, or at least the leader of an oligopoly.

      • Gingrich too

        At the very least, the last sentence of this is absolutely true. The GOP realized that universal health care was a nest from which would hatch generations of Democrats.

    • Not a moment

      Having read bunches of Lakoff, he really doesn't think that framing is a magic wand you wave and presto-chango you win all your debates. There aren't framing moments.  One of his recent posts on Huffington ("Escalation of Truth") points out how disengenuous the word "surge" is and how successful Democrats have been at getting that replaced in the media with the word "escalation".

      That only happens after time and repetition.

      The politics of hope frame has been hammered at for a long time by Deval Patrick.

      • I can't claim to have read $quot;bunches$quot; of Lakoff, but...

        ...I did read the article about him that I cited, and I did read his comment at Huffington.

        But what he seems to be saying appears to be obvious.  You're in a public relations battle with the other side, and, in public relations, how you can get the argument framed in the public's mind is crucial. 

        The particular words that are used to further particular politicies have emotive values, and it is the emotive values that are important.  The Republicans settled on "surge" instead of "escalation" because of their experience with Nixon's "escalation" in Vietnam.  Republicans settled on "revenue enhancement" instead of "tax increases" in Reagan's time.  It isn't rocket science, it is public relations, as Lakoff appears to be saying.

  6. criticism never constructive?

    I think she was right on target. I really like what I've seen in the budget. Good balance between cuts, calling on corporations to pay what they should and doing a little juggling while times are tough. And I buy into the notion of using this budget as a stepping stone to larger changes.

    But he needs to get it passed. And where Healey, et al were unable to marshall effective opposition during the campaign, the business community is a lot more committed to their causes than the electorate was to those candidates.

    Ok, so the communications team hasn't been able to frame the issue to their liking. That's an important failure.

    But why aren't I--as a supporter who registered at his campaign website--being bombarded with emails asking me to read the budget and contact my legislator about it? Why aren't I being sent the talking points so that I know how to frame the discussion when talking to my coworkers or neighbors?

    • Not what I said. Criticism can be constructive, she just wasn't.

      Most of the criticisms of Deval sofar have all be stylistic. Some don't like how he hasn't proposed grand promises that he realistically cannot fulfill. They don't like that he spent some money redecorating (money that's less than a drop in the bucket in budgetary terms). This opinion article said that he isn't a brass-knuckled politician making budget issues an "us vs. them" theme, but is instead is a charmer.

      My point is this: please get to the substance. Throughout his campaign, critics wondered if Deval was all style and no substance. It seems to me that's more a problem for his critics during his administration.

      • I see your point, but...

        YOu can't deny that Deval's camapiagn had a lot to do with symbolism and stlye.

        Getting more people involved was many things. It was a way to challenge the status quo. It was a way to bring more Deval voters to the polls. It was a way to say yes, governing is important, but how you approach governing in the first place sets the tone for how governing is done.

        The criticisms during the campaign was that it was short on substance. Now the roles seem to have completely reversed.

        I think Deval should've focused more on details during the campaign. I'm not saying he didn't have them or provide them on websites and other places, but he certainly stayed away from the nuts and bolts in favor of the warm fuzzies. And that was fine because he could do that and win. It was smart for the campaign.

        And the press should've covered more of the spirit of the campaign and how it was different than others.

        It's surprising--and somewhat disappointing--that now that Deval is getting into detail and wonky stuff he seems to have forgotten the importance of framing the debate.

        And I don't think all of the criticisms have been just stylistic. There are substantative arguments going on about how much--and if ever--you can increase the tax collections/obligation/burden on businesses while protecting both the economy, state services and basic tax fairness. And if he wants to win those arguments he's got to not only frame the discussion before his opponents do, he needs to employ strategies to pass budgets and legislation.

        If he's not using the traditional methods to pass his budget, then what strategies is he using? I think that's what Vennochi, et al are trying to decipher.

  7. New Poll on the Matter

    Right here

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM

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