In the summer of 2004, just as pundits were pronouncing that political conventions had become irrelevant, a young senator from Illinois was making his national debut on center stage. As he spoke, he held the nation in his hand. His words painted a future of hope, built on a foundation of integrity, and crowned with the promise of a brand new day. And at the conclusion of his speech, my children watched in wonder as their mom stood on her feet and applauded the TV set.
The man with the unlikely name became the one to watch. I found myself hoping he’d run for president one day, that he wouldn’t have skeletons in his past or make incriminating sound bytes, and that he’d really turn out to be as good as he seemed.
I’d been waiting since 2004 to vote for Barack Obama.
And then, along came Deval.
He’d also inspired. Spoke of the high road, of dreams fulfilled, and hard work toward a common goal. Then, as soon as he got elected, he turned the tables, took the low road, and placed his best laid plans at the feet of the future of casino gambling.
Our newest governor had become the poster boy for political bait and switch.
And so, while Obama opened fire hydrants of hope and the nation danced in a shower of long-awaited optimism, here in the Bay State, we just stood back rolled our eyes.
Caroline Kennedy claims to have endorsed Obama because his ability to inspire people is so much like that of her father. A few years ago, I too felt strongly that what our country needed more than anything was a real leader. A person who could elevate our nation out of this depressing quagmire of war and debt and politics as usual.
I didn’t vote for Deval. But a lot of people in this State did. They placed their faith in his promises, and in return what they got was a governor who played games. Who bent arms and tried to bribe cities and towns with one-time gifts for transportation projects, imaginary jobs, and the myth of an easy way out of a tough spot. His term so far has been one big infomercial to get you to buy something you wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
Deval Patrick’s fiscal policy? Buy a scratch ticket. You’ll get rich. Build casinos. They’ll solve all our problems. It’s entertainment!
I can’t remember the era of Camelot that Caroline’s dad once created in this country. He was shot and killed when I was still a baby. But it always sounded like a nice place to live in TV documentaries and in the movies.
And I don’t know if the Deval Effect had anything to do with Hilary Clinton winning Massachusetts in yesterday’s primary. But I do know that people all across this State are expressing their frustration with a man who used our hopes for a brand new day, to usher in a self-serving term of the same old, same old. Once bitten, twice shy was how many Bay Staters saw Obama coming into this race – thanks, in part, to Deval Patrick.
Many of us want to see, in Barack, the promise of another JFK. But it’s hard to believe in Camelot while living in Deval’s Spamalot.
And is it even possible, in this age of prying Youtube eyes and instantaneous satellite feeds to sustain a country on hope when the hiccups of reality keep intruding?
There’s so much riding on the one person who will inherit George W. Bush’s America – and none of us want to screw it up.
I still don’t know who I’ll vote for in the national election, but yesterday, I walked into the voting booth, picked up the sharpie, and colored in the circle next to the name of the candidate who’s accepted less gambling money from their supporters. And who attempted to curtail gambling in their home state rather than expand it. Barack Obama seems to understand that when you bet your future on a scratch ticket, you’ll lose.
And for me, those actions spoke louder than words.