I rode up this morning with former Cambridge City Council candidateand all-around good guy John Pitkin. While looking for the AffordableHousing "breakout meeting" (i.e. a rap session with experts and pols)held at Lowell High School, John and I stumbled upon the Health Careroom, in which were sitting Mike Dukakis,
State Rep State Senator Mark Montigny andJohn McDonough of Health Care for All.We were only there for the last part, but some good ideas — and a lotof horror stories — were thrown around. The frustration on this issue ispalpable — is there anything that makes people feel more likeSisyphus, pushing the rock to the top of the hill, only to see it rolldown again? And yet, folks are still in there, plugging. And really,we’ve got an excellent chance this year to see some far-reaching legislation passed. (My bottom line is that improving health care is a political problem, even more than a policy problem. While the policy is always going to be complicated, the moral principle is simple: Everyone deserves to see a doctor when they’re sick. If we hammer the moral principle, I think we win. Eyes on the prize.)
But really, the main attraction is the speeches. It really is agreat wealth to have some political rockstars among our MA Dems: TeddyKennedy, Ed Markey, and — it must be said — Deval Patrick.
TK’s garrulous speaking style sometimes lacks focus. Well, todayproved he’s still got his fastball: this was a scorching speech thatdemolished the idea of a Republican mandate to enact policies that mostpeople don’t want. There was the old Democratic tendency toward thelaundry list of issues (education, environment, health care), but itwas framed by a fiery appeal to justice and compassion. The honorific "Liberal Lion" has never sounded so apt. Rowrrrr.
The gubernatorial candidates came next, and by the reaction of thecrowd, I suspect that one got a good idea of where this thing is goingthe next twelve months to eighteen months.
Flashback to first thing this morning: As we drove in, the drivewayto the Tsongas Center was a wall of signs, many for Patrick, Reillycertainly with his fair share … and a mere handful for Sec. of StateBill Galvin. I wondered aloud, "What is the Bill Galvin magic? Where’sthe romance?"
Well, after hearing him speak … I still haven’t seenhide nor hair of Bill Galvin stardust. His stump speech, frankly,sounds like a small-market truck commercial. Paraphrasing:
Towin, like the Patriots, we need teamwork. And teamwork means a greatQB. We’ve got to get our state moving again. What happened toMassachusetts? We used to be a leader. We will be again with the rightleadership. I know the problems of this state, and I know how to fixthem.
Oh, thank goodness, it’s all settled then!The response to Galvin’s speech was as wooden as its conception andexecution. Sorry to get all Simon Cowell on him, but he really needs alot more City on the Hill, and tell us why he wants to be governor.
You want contrast? Next up was Deval Patrick.
This is straight from my scrawled notes: "BIG APPLAUSE. PARTIALSTANDING O. Enthusiasm!" If he has name recognition problems in thestatewide polls right now, that sure wasn’t evident in Lowell thismorning. His signs were everywhere, and his people were very visible,wearing neon-chartreuse t-shirts. And despite his mildly adenoidalspeaking voice (hey, I know people who can help him with that), Patrickcommands the room. Today’s speech had more fire than his appearancesthat we’ve covered — a bit more withering sarcasm directed at Romney:The Governor bashes teachers, and says MCAS is all we need to fixschools. The Governor calls for the death penalty, but cuts local aidthat pays for cops.
Patrick is also clearly running on his bio: he has lived theAmerican dream because of opportunity afforded him in Massachusetts(i.e. his scholarship to Milton Academy). He has been both a corporatelawyer and a family lawyer; counseled a President in the Oval Officeand then had trouble hailing a cab home.
He engaged in some slightly hokey call-and-response (on the phrase,"Yes We Can"); and ended with what I would call an artistic risk: anextended metaphor of his grandmother’s rosebush, which, with care, grewtall even in an unfavorable environment; we must also tend our garden.In the moment they both worked — although at the end, I was reminded, perhapsunfortunately, of Bernstein’s Candide.
Bottom line: Patrick’s got plenty of time to get that namerecognition up. And for my money, he’s absolutely got the highestceiling of any of the declared candidates in the race — includingRomney.
Reilly was last, and I don’t envy him for having to follow Patrick. He was greeted with warm but not fervent applause.
He seems to be positioning himself as the candidate of theacceptable, electable middle: We will not waste tax money, we will grow the economy and jobs. Especially striking was his emphasis onreaching out to independents — that they need to be listened to, notlectured to. People who are struggling to send their kids to college,young people who are considering moving away because of the high costof housing — these folks used to be Democrats. These are our friendsand neighbors.
Reilly’s bottom line: "Pay attention to the middle, i.e. where I am." I think it’s a valid approach, but it comes a bit short of presenting a vision of what you want government to do for people. There is a nugget of real compassion in Reilly’s speech that could be expanded — I hope he does so. If he finds his inner Bill Clinton, he could actually be a decent candidate.
I may have more later from my notes, but I’m going to hang it up for tonight.