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April 14, 2005

Deval wows 'em in Lexington

This evening I attended what was likely one of the more popular meetings of the Lexington Democratic Town Committee, at which Deval Patrick gave one of his first public speeches since officially declaring that he is running for Governor of Massachusetts.  The standing-room-only audience was enthusiastic and clearly enjoyed hearing what Patrick had to say.  I took a few notes during his twenty-minute speech and ten-minute Q&A session (after which he had to rush off to another engagement), and I'll try to give you what struck me as the highlights.

General impressions.  Patrick is a very good public speaker.  He is not bombastic or preachy, but he speaks with eloquence and with a sort of understated yet deeply-felt passion that is nice to hear.  He's also genuinely funny. 

We heard a fair amount about Patrick's personal story - Chicago's south side to Milton Academy to Harvard, etc.  Expect to hear a lot more of this, both from Patrick himself and from the media, at least in the near future.  It's a great story, of course.  It's also not enough to run on (Democrats need only refer to 2004 to recall that personal stories do not win campaigns), but it seems clear that Patrick knows that.

The "politics of hope."  Patrick's motto, at least so far, is "the politics of hope."  He said that being a Democrat used to be about the politics of hope, but in his view politics has become an insiders' game.  He said that he no longer describes Massachusetts as a "liberal" or "conservative" state, but rather as one in which the people have become disaffected and alienated from the political process.  Patrick expressed "a confidence in believing in what is possible," including what may be out of reach at the moment but is something to which we should be aspiring.  And, to his credit, Patrick is already trying to translate "the politics of hope" into specific policy proposals (see below).

"No needless taxes."  Patrick stated that he would not take a "no new taxes" pledge.  Instead, he took a "no needless taxes" pledge.  And what he says here makes a lot of sense - it is an excellent example of how Democrats should recast (or "reframe," for the Lakoffians among us) the debate.  He said that talking about taxes is really putting the cart before the horse.  We first need to agree on what we want government to do.  Once we have done that, then we must agree on how to pay for it.  Exactly right, in my view.  Don't talk about how low you will cut people's taxes (among other things, tax-cutting rhetoric tends to be dishonest because it usually focuses on one type of tax without acknowledging that the need for revenue simply shifts elsewhere, such as to property tax).  Instead, have a discussion about police, fire departments, schools, and all the rest of the stuff that everyone - everyone - wants government to do a good job of providing.  And then talk about how much that costs, and come up with a responsible way of paying for it.

"Don't put me in a box."  In response to a questioner who wanted to know whether Patrick was "a progressive who can win," Patrick objected to being labeled in that way.  He described himself as an independent thinker who is generally a "pro-growth progressive," but he clearly was not comfortable with a label of any sort.  He said he believes in an active and engaged government, but not in a government program for every problem. 

"This cannot be about whose turn it is."  On a related note, Patrick (without mentioning Tom Reilly) urged strenuously that the right to represent the Democratic party in the race for Governor should not be about whose "turn" it is, or who has raised the most money or lined up the most endorsements.  He said that every vote must be earned, and that he is hoping to do that via retail politics (he also used the phrases "grass roots" and "shoe leather").  Of course, as Patrick acknowledged, he does in fact need to raise a lot of money and line up endorsements, but he clearly wants this race to be about more than that.  Here's hoping he is successful in moving the discussion away from money and endorsements.

Some policy pronouncements.  This was a brief speech, and it's obviously early in the game, so Patrick did not get into many specific policy proposals.  But he floated a few that I thought were worthy of note:

  • Education
    • An education renaissance.  Patrick wants to move beyond "education reform" to the creation of a second-to-none public education system from pre-K through college.
    • More early education, and all-day kindergarten.
    • Longer school days, and longer school years.  Patrick noted that our current school calendar is based on the needs of farmers who wanted their kids around to help with the harvest, and suggested that it might be time to rethink that.  Makes sense to me.
    • Any graduate of a MA public high school should be assured of a spot in a MA public college.  I was too busy scribbling to get exactly what Patrick said here, but I think that's basically it.  Obviously there are lots of details (2-year? 4-year? which one? etc.), and there wasn't time for Patrick to spell all of that out (and, like I said, I may have missed part of what he did say).
  • Health care - this is obviously a hot topic right now, with both Romney and Senate President Travaglini floating proposals, and Patrick sees this is a unique moment in Massachusetts history to really do something about the health care system.  He didn't float any specific proposals (that I can recall), but he's clearly going to talk about it a lot.
  • Jobs - Patrick said that the "politics of hope" means "better jobs and more of 'em."
    • He gave Romney credit for seeing the value in a Governor serving as a state's "salesman or cheerleader-in-chief" when talking to businesses and others who can bring jobs to Massachusetts.  But he drew on his corporate experience to say that when a Governor is playing that role, the Governor will be evaluated for credibility, just like any other salesman.  And if a Governor has been making his state the butt of jokes while campaigning for the votes of Republicans who will vote in the 2008 primaries, his credibility is likely to be, shall we say, impaired.  Patrick said that he can sell Massachusetts because he believes in the people of Massachusetts.

"A rebirth of citizenship."  Patrick finished up his remarks by saying that he thinks this race is an opportunity to see Massachusetts in terms not only of our own concerns, but of those of our neighbors as well.  He called this a rebirth of citizenship. 

Snazzy stickers.  Patrick's staff came fully equipped with party favors.  They've got nice-looking stickers for your lapel: Devalsticker

and for your car: Devalbumper

Good color scheme, and good choice of font, IMHO.  Nice work by the designers.

In conclusion, I was impressed.  I've been saying for a long time that we cannot just hand this nomination to Tom Reilly (or to anyone else, for that matter) - the nomination must be earned.  That's exactly what Patrick is saying, and it's what he hopes to do.  I have also said before that an "outsider" challenger like Patrick will be good for the process, good for the party, and good for whichever candidate ends up winning the nomination.  Having now heard Patrick in person, I think he is easily up to the task of mounting an impressive campaign that will force each of the other candidates to put forth the best case for why he or she should be Governor.  We should demand no less.

And so it begins.  Good luck to all, and may the best candidate win.

Posted by David at 10:38 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink


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David referred to this above, but the real quote is absolutely choice, from today's Globe:

"We have to stop being sold this bit from the Republicans, that you can have something for nothing," he said. ''If we all want to agree to shut down all the public schools, have everyone dig their own latrine, build their own roads, put out their own fire, then we can have a big tax cut. The first thing we have to do is agree on what we want government to do."

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Apr 15, 2005 9:02:51 AM

That is an outstanding quote.

Personally, I think that MA state government ought to think about limiting the bredth of gov't function, but increase it's depth. That is, quit doing a lot of things half-assedly, and do a few really well.

In my opinion, increasing on ifrastructure is essential for the short and long term health, economy, and quality of Massachusetts. So, I'm a fan of the "Three Es." That's:
* Education: K-Univ. Get more kids going to college, or to a trade school, so that when every person in MA finishes his education, he's qualified for a good job.
* Energy. Massachusetts has the opportunity to really get some quality green-e in the state. This (a) ensures cleaner air and water, (b) helps to reduce the chance of local brownouts should an energy spike occur, (c) demonstrates to the USA that reducing consumption of foreign oil can be done without drilling, and (d) stimulates jobs throughout the economy, from research to union.
* Emergency Services. Massachusetts is clearly a bigger target for terrorism than most of America, and due to the naval and air ports, the large fuel shipments, and the population density, Boston is a particular target. Massachusetts needs a comprehensive, clear plan to improve overall safety within the state, instead of a hodge-podge of pork barrel projects and overcompensation in an attempt to sure up the holes. Spending money in a holistic effort is essential to spending money effectively when it comes to emergency management.

Posted by: stomv | Apr 15, 2005 9:27:20 AM

Sorry I am such a downer. What I read in newspapers and this blog have not connvinced me one bit that Patrick is the messiah the progressives in this state so desperately want. He still does not bring specifics that show he at least has a working knowledge of the issues. And does his jesse jacksonesque "politics of hope" have any meaning? Seriously.
A black tom birmingham relying too much on his "tough poor background" is already tiresome. And to cast Tom Reilly as an outsider can backfire. Patrick is an ivyleague educated lawyer who is close to "the Clintons" and and had a high profile job in the justice department. He tyhen wanderd the halls of washington and put out fires for large international corporations. The state dem party under insider Phil Johnston is in love with him. Reilly has a longstanding reputation of being an outsider. If anything, Patrick is in the elite ivy league boys club. Could backfire.
Also, I find it interesting that Patrick says the race will get national exposure if he is nominated. Big deal.

Posted by: The troll | Apr 15, 2005 11:51:50 AM

one more thing..
I am not sure this sudden infusion of cash passes the smell test.
see above ..."wanderd the halls of washington and put out fires for large international corporations."

Posted by: The troll | Apr 15, 2005 11:55:20 AM


So, you're looking for more policy specifics. That's entirely fair, and we're all waiting for them.

Patrick's got a lot to prove in the big leagues, but for now he's a heckuva prospect.

Posted by: Charley on the MTA | Apr 15, 2005 12:48:54 PM

On some level, though, people don't want to hear about specifics. In the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, polls showed that people -- in large numbers -- got President Bush and Senator Kerry's positions on issues completely wrong.

Part of that is the fault of the media, which tends not to talk about issues. Part of it, though, is also the fault of the electorate who tune out wonky talk of policy and tend to vote for the person they identify with, projecting their own positions upon him.

That said, I'm already on the record saying that Patrick needs to talk about issues, but I'm also cynical enough to think that issues are ultimately not what win elections. I wish it were otherwise.

Posted by: sco | Apr 15, 2005 1:47:21 PM

The MA govs race should not be compared to presidential race. Gov race is different from presidential and us senate. Govs race is like big state rep race. It is not lack of specifics which is Patrick's problem as much as he is saying the same ole crap with no particular specifics, insight or experience which examplifies what he is talking about. This makes it tough for voters to identify with him. With romney voters identified with his frustrations with inefficient state govt. and Shannon was a "bitch".
Deval is packageing himself like a coke product. But after all the sizzle where is the steak? May work for coke, but for mass gov candidate? time will tell. But to me reilly has more steak then Patrick right now.
But we want to fall in love so bad we ignore the flaws, won't we?

Posted by: The troll | Apr 15, 2005 5:59:16 PM

I am supporting Deval exactly because I believe he has the vision we need and because I believe his values and principles are closely aligned with mine.

I have heard him say enough about specific issues to convince me that he will take a progressive stance on most, if not all, issues. He is bright and eager to do the right thing, and he admits he needs to be educated about many issues. I'm sure that over the next year, he will listen to feedback from his supporters and will refine his positions and learn to articulate his beliefs in a way that will resonate with voters.

The fact that he doesn't have his patter down to slick sound bites -- I find that to be refreshing. He'll have to do so, of course, but between now and then we'll have a chance to learn about the real person.

He has some rough edges, and I'm sure I won't agree with everything he stands for, but he's way better than anything else I've seen in a long time!

Posted by: Lord Alford | Apr 17, 2005 6:21:33 AM

Isn't "Politics of Hope" a slick sound bite? And what is progressive stance when he has not demonstrated a knowledge of the issues? Needs to show this this before he can tell us his positions or lack there of.

Posted by: The troll | Apr 17, 2005 11:33:30 AM

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