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News :: Politics
objects in rear view mirror
28 Mar 2006
who's making it happen in massachusetts?
objects in rear view mirror….
-jeffery mcnary

“It’s time for a new way in politics: leadership that is both candid and hopeful, that looks toward our best long-term interests, that takes the best ideas and the best people from all comers – no matter their party, that is less focused on the left and the right and more focused on right and wrong.”
- Deval Patrick

“I’m right where I wanna be.”
- Attorney General Tom Reilly

(Cambridge, MA) Deval Patrick had just shared the news of his youngest daughter’s enrollment in a new secondary school with a couple of well wishing parents when he turned, chuckled “never a dull moment”, and without missing a beat responded to a comment by his Democratic primary opponent for Governor of Massachusetts. “We do need independent judgment in the Governor’s Office. I don’t think that discontent with the Republicans is going to be enough to insure a Democratic victory, nor do I think it should be,” continuing to the media scrum soon surrounding him. “This ought to be about creative leadership and vision.”

With that Patrick took a seat to await his “turn” to address members of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MBC), a not-for-profit organization providing support for the Commonwealth’s biotechnology community who’d gathered for a candidates luncheon forum. Waiting his “turn”, in the political genre, is not something Citizen Patrick necessarily views as a requisite in that world…anymore.

A few short minutes later, Patrick wove his vision to a rapt audience of technocrats. “I’m glad to participate today and I look forward to working with all of you in building on what is an extraordinary potential that you see, that the MBC sees, frankly that I think that all of the candidates see. I want to start about investing in Massachusetts generally. Not because it serves our economic interest, but because Massachusetts invested in me, thirty-six years ago.”

Today, Deval Patrick holds the potential to be the “modernizer” of Massachusetts politics. Should you think he’s illuminating, he’d most probably govern effectively, he’d oversee an administration tacking and learning and designing solutions to the Commonwealth’s problems, you’d be right on that.

The results of an early Suffolk University poll, if one is to follow those things, showed Patrick at 3%, and his rival in the Democrat primary, State Attorney General Thomas Reilly at 41%. That was March of 2005. By June of that year a KRC poll had Patrick at 6%, Reilly at 33%. Those numbers came ahead of the series of the two term Attorney General’s tepid and laughable campaign’s blunders, e.g. his alternating positions on same sex marriage; his intervention in an on-going investigation of a fatal traffic accident; his selection of an un-vetted running mate with a history of personal fiscal bugaboos, etc., etc., etc. Unprepared for a formidable challenge to his perceived elevation, he has refused to debate Patrick on the issues, saying they agree on most, which is hardly the case.

Massachusetts voters are meta-political, if nothing else. There is a co-presence shared between the elected and the electorate, an unusual intangible that differs from the otherness or dualism of other places. Campaigns occur yearly in the Commonwealth for one office or the other. Last year’s mayor’s “fight” rolled into this years gubernatorial and congressional and rep’s races. Those meld into next years selectman’s and assorted dog-catcher engagements. The “fights” often form the grid by which and when business is conducted.

The most educated state in the Union, with 33% of eligible voters holding a Bachelor’s degree or above, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently 36% Democrat, 13% Republican, and 50% independent, or “un-enrolled”, as the party regulars cynically refer to them. For those who’ve made the “fights” a cottage industry, the ones having knocked on enough doors or hoisted enough placards, a ticket to Iowa or a van ride to the snows of New Hampshire for close-up engagements await them. There, to seduce or intimidate those locals into delivering for one presidential candidate or the other. In August of 2005, less than a year after the conclusion of the last, and arguably one of the ugliest, national elections, a Boston Globe poll found Deval Patrick at 8%, and Thomas Reilly at 31% had the gubernatorial primary election been held at that time.

Reilly has evolved through such a system, though clearly un-groomed, where one waits in line to move up the ladder of political power, or at the rear of “the room”, back against the wall, waiting for his turn for a shot, for his night, for a Gestalt candidacy propped up as a “guy”, as “one of us”. He’s had it that way. Assistant District Attorney, District Attorney, two terms as Attorney General and a good “guy”, minus viable, visible, strong options driven by norm enforcers, has stumbled into the scalding light of a governor’s contest without thought or vision. “I know the people of Massachusetts. I know what they are going through”, he managed to utter at his campaign announcement. “I know what it means to live from paycheck to paycheck and struggle to pay the bills.” And? That same posture has spent and cost the Democrats the corner office for over sixteen years, leaving the state to a series of Dada-esque non-governors. The Commonwealth’s Legislative and Executive Branches frequently talk past each other, morphing into a toxic canard for it’s residents.

With the February 4th Democrat caucuses, the Patrick “grassroots” organization delivered a sound kick in the ass to the rudderless Reilly campaign, garnering 4 to 1 percent of the delegates statewide and 9 to 1 percent of the delegates in Middlesex county, Reilly’s home district. A University of Massachusetts, Lowell poll a few days later had Patrick and Reilly locked at 40 %.

Poll numbers have fluctuated since then, and will continue to do so. Yet nowhere in this writer’s observation, of more than 30 years, have expectations for a labeled “front-runner” been so low, and achievement so hollow. While the questions “can Deval win”, looms, in a sense he already has by his refreshing foray into the political operetta.

Shortly after Mr. Patrick’s stunning caucus performance, a crowd of over two-thousand enthusiastic supporters, yellow, black, white, and brown men and women, gay and straight, gathered at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall in a show of support for their candidate and their issues. Although the candidate has yet to fine tune his policies or how to implement them, Patrick has seized the high ground with his promise of ephemeral leadership sustained by a set of principles upon which he would govern. “It’s time for a new way in our Commonwealth: time for universal healthcare, world class public education, and a new chapter in our innovation economy that leaves no one behind”, he told his supporters. “We cannot fuel our future on the fumes of the past. But we can learn from the example of those who brought us to this point, and we can choose a different path to move Massachusetts forward.”

That same Saturday afternoon, the Attorney General found himself at the re-election campaign kick-off of Massachusetts’ senior senator, Edward M. Kennedy, at a union hall filled with primarily white, male,“guys”. “I’m right where I wanna be”, he replied when queried on the status of his campaign. Mr. Reilly’s public experience is firmly rooted in an environment where deals are cut on the sideline, where, as Ingrham and Romzek write, “managerial authority and flexibility has created a circumstance in which the underlying management systems must be repaired-, or more accurately, created-before other organizational changes can occur.” Perhaps, as Tom Reilly continues to nestle in near the back of the room, holding up the wall, he’ll take a glance in the rear view mirror of Massachusetts politics. Objects there may be closer than they appear.


jeffery mcnary is a cambridge, ma based writer, author of the soon to be released “fumbling through the terribly and terrifingly normal”, a series of essays relatives to American political culture since the oklahoma city bombing. he is also executive producer of “snapshot 2004”, a documentary of the 2004 election cycle.

Copyright by the author. All rights reserved.
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Comments

Re: objects in rear view mirror
30 Mar 2006
Whatever. Politics are boring and they're all a bunch of authoritarian assholes. Fuck 'em.
Re: objects in rear view mirror
30 Mar 2006
patrick's a cocacola apologist and a capitalist, but if i had to choose... we could always use a benevolent authoritarian in power rather than a mini-fascist like reilly.
Reilly Should Have Indicted Bectel
30 Mar 2006
Hundred of holes in the Big Dig. No indictments? Wonder if "kick backs" were the cause?
Reilly is another corporate whore. Time to oust his ass!
Deval Patrick has my vote.
Re: objects in rear view mirror
30 Mar 2006
Deval Patrick and his $3 million dollar second home in the Berkshires, yeah a real man of the people.