Noam Scheiber starts with a good idea in the New Republic today, and then meanders all over the map so the point becomes muddied. He starts by asserting that Deval Patrick’s win is an argument for not reinventing your political identity:
Of all the historical analogies urged on Obama following November’s drubbing-Truman in ’48, Reagan after ’82, Clinton after ’94-the one the White House has opted for is easily the most obscure. That would be Patrick in ’10-as in Deval Patrick, the recently re-elected governor of Massachusetts. Months after Patrick signed the state’s first sales-tax hike in 33 years, political chatterers gave him little chance of surviving to a second term. Not only did he face the same foul, anti-incumbent mood that elected Scott Brown, he’d drawn an attractive GOP candidate in businessman Charlie Baker.
Patrick’s handlers recommended that he distance himself from liberals in the state legislature-and, above all, downplay the tax increase. The governor overruled them. His first commercial highlighted the “combination of deep cuts and new revenue” he’d accepted to close the state’s budget shortfall. “He all but said, ‘I raised taxes.’ Jesus Christ,” recalls one still-traumatized adviser. “He thought the way to do it was to be true to what he ran on [in 2006]”-the belief that voters will support someone who levels with them, even if they don’t love every decision. In the end, Patrick and his “politics of conviction” won by a comfortable seven-point margin.
Scheiber then takes this to support Obama’s refusal to change any of his policies, tactics, or strategies. But this isn’t even half of the analogy Scheiber wants to draw. Sure, Patrick and Obama both ran as progressives and have governed as technocrats, but Patrick has never disappointed, criticized and alienated his supporters the way Obama seems bent on doing over and over. As a number of commentators have said today (for example here and here) the one thing it is always wrong for a politician to do is attack your own base. This is a political mistake of tectonic proportions. Just ask recently re-elected Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.