A Deval Patrick Presidential Run in 2020 A Gift for the GOP 

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/03/10/a-deval-patrick-presidential-run-in-2020-a-gift-for-the-gop/

More than anyone else, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick would bring much more harmony to Republicans than to the masses should he formally announce a 2020 presidential candidacy. And more so than Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Patrick is still today’s marquee progressive. A gift for the GOP.

Patrick recently told a Kansas City public radio station that a presidential run is “on my radar screen.” He was in Missouri for an event whimsically billed “An Evening with Deval Patrick:  Reinvesting in America.” There, a panel discussion waxed on today’s “political moment.” To wax off these days of discord (certainly and entirely President Donald Trump’s fault) Patrick believes we need to “model an alternative.”

Fractured Republicans hope he is that Democrat model.

In 2014, David Axelrod, a former White House senior adviser, a chief architect of both of former President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, and a longtime friend of Patrick’s, thought about the 2016 presidential campaign. After many years of one type of president there is usually strong desire by the electorate to radically change that type of president in the next election, he concluded. (Think Kennedy after Eisenhower, Obama after Bush.)

“Even when a president is popular, people tend to seek the remedy and not the replica. They want someone who has the qualities that they miss in the president,” Axelrod said at the time. So, proving his point, the country elected the antithesis to the Obama persona in 2016:  Donald Trump.

Axelrod’s theory will be put through a new stress test in 2020. Were Patrick to enter the race he indeed would be — in tone and temperament — a remedy to Trump but he is unquestionably a replica of Obama, too. A carbon-copy, in fact.

From savvy prodigies to seasoned professionals, the lives of Deval Patrick and Barack Obama bear remarkable parallels with recurring intersections.

Both were raised by a single mother and experienced strained relationships with a distant father. Both are married to attorneys and have two daughters. Both attended Harvard Law School and were civil rights lawyers. Both are well-versed in Chicago-style politics. Both have had a family member ordered deported then granted legal status.

Both have enigmatic relationships with the Clintons:  In the 1980s, as counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Patrick sued Arkansas, led by then-Governor Bill Clinton, over voting rights; later, in 1994 then-President Clinton appointed him as a U.S. assistant attorney general. Obama selected Hillary Clinton as U.S. Secretary of State after he defeated her in the 2008 presidential race.

And both will be remembered for electoral firsts:  Obama as the first African-American president elected; Patrick as the first African-American governor to be re-elected.

There is an undeniable similarity, if not synchronicity, in their style and substance. As Obama confirmed in 2008, “Deval and I do trade ideas all of the time.”

For a decade, Obama-Patrick were the political equivalent of Lennon-McCartney, authors and architects of liberalism’s lyrical chorus and progressive arpeggios. The hit-makers.

They gained national exposure for soaring speeches at Democrat national conventions. (Obama in Boston, 2004; Patrick in Charlotte, North Carolina, 2012.) Their oratory and orthodoxy seemed orchestrated at times. (Patrick’s 2006 campaign slogan:  “Together we can.” Obama’s in 2008:  “Yes we can.”) They both paraphrased Exodus 23 in remarks on immigration policy in 2014. (That July, Patrick said:  “My faith teaches that, if a stranger dwells …” That November, Obama read:  “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger …”)

Fundamentally, their core beliefs illustrate perfectly the prurience of progressivism:  Omnipresent government as monopolizer of wisdom, allocator of capital, liquidator of competition, juror of diversity, dispenser of fairness, and enforcer of selective laws. Remarkably, though, while in power, they were never exemplars of competence.

In fact, little was exempt from intervention.

Like 2010’s sweeping Affordable Care Act. After the disastrous launch in 2013, Patrick said the law was not a website but a “values statement.” Obama defended what he called a “progressive vision of health care for all …” He also bizarrely claimed that federal health care connected “some ideas about markets and competition that had been championed by conservatives.” Shortly thereafter, the “Mass Connector” site crashed, unable to conform to ACA’s myriad rules and regulations.

In many respects, for these reasons, Patrick is the rightful heir to Obama. In 2014, Obama said his friend would make “a great president” and “could be very successful at the federal level.”

But is America ready for the remedy to Trump being the replica of Obama — especially since the 2016 election was, arguably, a repudiation of Obama?

Patrick’s record as governor of Massachusetts will be Republican fodder in 2020.

The carnival of carnage under his administration (2007-2015) would have dismantled the career of any other public servant in a state not controlled by a single party. But in Massachusetts his performance was deemed worthy of re-election, not recall.

Competence be damned.

Patrick acted with disdainful contempt for managing the more mundane, if untidy, aspects of governance. He was a disengaged observer — not a leader or a manager — of a large, blameless bureaucracy and a corrupt system of institutional patronage. These are accusations that some Democrats on Beacon Hill would confirm, but only off-the-record.

Patrick was all too willing to act as state government’s emotional proxy, not trailblazing reformer. He frequently substituted feeling for function. A favorite phrase, honed for maximum impact but of no consequential effect:  “We must turn to one another not on one another.”

National media might soon learn of Justina Pelletier, whose family turned to the courts after a lengthy battle with Department of Children and Families, an agency of such severe managerial incompetence it should have been shuttered when Charlie Baker became governor in 2015.

The Boston Globe reported in 2014 that the death rate among children under DCF supervision probably averaged 9 to 10 per year during Patrick’s two terms. At one point, Patrick praised the then-DCF commissioner for doing “a terrific job.” Well into his second term funding for DCF had been cut by over $100 million. And had Patrick succeeded in his plan to assist 1,000 unaccompanied refugee children that summer, the dysfunctional and overwhelmed DCF would have been tasked with their care.

In a state where too much government is never enough, the utter lack of proficient government became apparent during the Patrick years, where both houses of the Massachusetts legislature were (and still are) controlled overwhelmingly by Democrats.

The New England Compound Center, the state-regulated specialty pharmacy, was responsible for 76 deaths and 800 infections nationwide, due to a meningitis outbreak in 2012. The Hinton State Laboratory’s malfeasance likely tainted tens of thousands of criminal convictions, it was revealed in 2012. The non-functioning Health Connector website (remember, it was a “values statement,” not a website) affected hundreds of thousands of residents and untold cost in dollars and anxiety between 2013 and 2014. And massive waste, fraud, and abuse besieged the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance (1,160 dead recipients received aid; 30,000 DTA benefit cards went unaccounted for).

Patrick’s eloquent, elegant speech, affirming soaring ideals, was a form of distraction from poor executive oversight. Much of it was mixed with rhetorical nonsense. A trip to Israel in 2014 was an “innovation mission.” His attendance at the swearing-in of Panama’s president in 2014 was “a great honor for the commonwealth.” And, with regular hilarity, “if we get clean energy right, the whole word will be our customer.” (He could not convince his green-energy constituents to build Cape Wind, the now-abandoned proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound.)

A self-described “pro-growth progressive,” Patrick embodied the incurable progressive urge:  If you can’t fix it, expand it. Instead of rebuilding existing infrastructure, he sought its extension.

During his tenure one in seven residents received “Transitional Assistance” welfare aid; the number of households that received food stamps increased 57 percent from 2009 to 2012. State expenditures increased by 24 percent (over $1 billion a year) during that same period, far outpacing the rate of inflation. Unfunded pension liabilities increased from $11.7 billion in fiscal year 2007 to over $21 billion in fiscal year 2012. Property taxes increased by 25 percent. From 2009 to 2013 child poverty rates rose in the Commonwealth but fell on a national level. And the state unemployment rate was higher when he left office in January 2015 (5.2 percent) than it was when he began in January 2007 (4.6 percent).

If his form of pro-growth was confusing, it was also contradictory. Patrick called for a “progressive income tax” in 2010; he also supported a reduction in sales tax (deemed too “regressive”) but he signed into law a regressive gas tax in 2013 (later repealed by the voters).

Most of the interest in a potential Patrick candidacy is from fawning local media and adoring former aides who are quick to forget that his then-potential successor, former MassachusettsAttorney General Martha Coakley, barely mentioned the governor’s work during the 2014 race for governor against Baker (who won). Such silence may portend that meager achievement coupled with faux popularity will not lead to electoral victory in 2020.

Patrick is now a Managing Director at Bain Capital (fittingly, in socially conscious investing), where, ironically, he discovered capitalism in 2015, after eight years as governor, where he distilled progressivism. This late footnote is the only defensible line on an otherwise indefensible resume.


James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. His work has also appeared in The Providence JournalThe Cape Coddernewenglanddiary.com and nationalreview.com.