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November 28, 2005

More Patrick campaign tea leaves

.08 acres points to this Adrian Walker column about Deval Patrick, which makes this intriguing comment: "I had called after reading that one of his top consultants, Dan Payne, had left the campaign. Supposedly Payne had left because he didn't want to work with another of the top consultants." (That, of course, would go counter to Payne's parting shot that "When your opponent is taking on the gov over auto insurance rates and you're celebrating your 100th home-made web site, something's not right." Spin it how you want.) Well, it would be interesting to know who that is; and if Payne/Consultant X are mutually exclusive, is this a net positive or negative for the campaign?

Walker says that "too many people -- 80 percent, according to various polls -- still don't know who he is." But if that's true, how is he beating Healey in the polls? How is he a statistical dead heat with Romney, rising 11 points since the last poll, more than any other candidate? Did "Anyone But Romney" become that much more attractive as a candidate?

I have no idea what to make of any of this. Polls are weird.

However, ... it's been discussed in the comments of David's original Payne post that Patrick may want to "throw a few more elbows" in the campaign. Reilly calling Healey on 'RKO about illegal immigrants and education was a gutsy move -- or cheap shot, depending on how you see it; either way it certainly was effective as political theater.

The departure of Payne and RFK's would-have-been 80th birthday have made me wonder: How do polticians who tout compassion deal with the inherent nastiness of adversarial democracy? Josh Marshall recently got an email from a Republican reader which said: "Democratic politicians tend to be wimps. Anyone can see how easily they get pushed around by interest groups in their own party; when criticized aggressively, they tend to seek sympathy rather than hitting back." (My emphasis, natch.) Well, how do you advocate for better health care and caring for old people and poor people and the environment and kids and not being a dick in international affairs -- and be properly aggressive? How can compassion be the flag to rally around and fight tooth-and-nail for, as opposed to a soft underbelly to be exploited?

We gotta figure that one out. Right now Reilly's not doing a bad job of it ... but it could be done even better.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 06:16 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink


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Great post. I think it's a connundrum that a lot of progressives get stuck in. Talking to some friends who worked advance for then Senator Edwards, they all said the Senator and his closest aides were still talking about how "if they had only gone after Kerry once or twice" they would be at the top of the ticket.

Clinton did it, in a different manner though, to mixed reviews, when he took a shot at Sister Souljah (no idea if I spelled that right) during the 1992 campaign. Granted, Clinton took a punch from the Left, but he had increased credibility with the independents (the perot voters if you will) and many of the Clintonistas still point to that moment as the defining moment in their campaign.

As for the current race (disclaimer, as always, I'm a Reilly guy), I think the dynamics are a little different. Dems don't need to make the playing field bigger, so much as they need to show the ability to govern, despite (or in spite of) the perceived excess of their parties representatives on Beacon Hill. In this sense, the interest groups exert similair influence as they do on the national level. Everyone wants to make sure they're pet program (not meant to belittle) goes untouched, when the real message should be "Democratic nominee X, will do whatever is right for the commonwealth"

Posted by: Ben | Nov 28, 2005 8:29:58 PM


This image of the "Democrats as weak" has got to stop. It is a runaway talking point of the Republican party. Democrats are not weak. FDR was not weak. JFK was not weak. The perception is different, however.

Check out James Carville's, Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back for some ammunition. It isn't an elected officials main duty to be fighting off criticism all the time, but it is the duty of citizens like ourselves who care deeply about our country to fight back perception campaigns and misinformation.

As for political candidates, it is a sad fact that today, political struggles are about creation and destruction of credibility. Think "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth." That stuff is horrible. You won't see a guy like Deval Patrick fall into that dishonest plot. But when you eliminate under-the-belt crap like that, that leaves a wide arena to be "aggressive" and "compassionate" at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.

It's all about winning the battle of ideas, getting your message across to your target audience. Take the "war on terrorism" for example. We're completely losing that battle of ideas and it isn't for lack of "aggressiveness." Compassion, understanding the audience, listening to the Muslim World's cries are the tools that are much more effective than what you think of "throwing elbows."

There is no “yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S.” groundswell among Muslim societies – except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends. The perception of intimate U.S. support of tyrannies in the Muslim World is perhaps the critical vulnerability in American strategy. It strongly undercuts our message, while strongly promoting that of the enemy.

If we would just recognize that, we could then "throw elbows" more effectively: by stopping our ridiculous rhetoric about freedom. Saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World – but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.

Working to restore our credibility in the Middle East will take "aggressive" policy changes at the same time as "aggressive" information campaigns that are full of compassion and understanding and not patronizing rhetoric. The same is true in smaller issues with any politician or political movement: 1) don't get into a battle to destroy the other person's credibility because they will turn around and do the same to you. Once that credibility is lost (like in the U.S.'s case), it will take decades to build back up. 2) win the hearts and minds by listening to what the people are saying and translate that into compassionate policy.

That is what Patrick is doing. For what, 9 months, he has been touring the state, gathering feedback, and he credits those discussions with MA citizens as the basis of his policies that he has posted on his web site.

Posted by: Croaky | Nov 29, 2005 12:52:32 AM

Oh, and if you're interested in continuing the "compassionate" leader side to this discussion, I encourage you to check out my post on that topic from a few days ago... Liberia, Germany... America? Female leadership at the highest level

Posted by: Croaky | Nov 29, 2005 12:55:31 AM

Well, how do you advocate for better health care and caring for old people and poor people and the environment and kids and not being a dick in international affairs -- and be properly aggressive?

I'd take a page from the playbook of leaders in elderly communities. Think about the stern grandmother or preacher who demands that people do what is right, including taking care of those who are less fortunate.

You can be stern and harsh and pound your fist in your insistance that people do what is right. Everybody has a grandmother who did/still does this.

Posted by: stomv | Nov 29, 2005 9:18:54 AM

"How is he a statistical dead heat with Romney, rising 11 points since the last poll, more than any other candidate? Did "Anyone But Romney" become that much more attractive as a candidate?"

Romney isn't doing too badly at the moment.

Posted by: JRB | Nov 29, 2005 6:30:37 PM

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