Keller on "Saint Patrick and his Devils"

First off, a big fat mea culpa--between wrapping up this week's Phoenix story on the logjam in the State House, putting together an item on Mitt Romney's Mormon P.R. campaign for Slate, and moving to lovely Lynn (or Ocean Park, as I like to call it) earlier this week, I've neglected this blog. Criminally, even.

Having said that, let me draw everyone's attention to Jon Keller's piece on Deval Patrick in the May issue of Boston Magazine. Like pretty much everything Jon writes, it's provocative and a great read--but I'm not not sure I buy some of the story's conclusions.

The story's titled "Saint Patrick and his Devils." In it, Keller argues that A) Patrick's been an staunch proponent of affirmative action over the years; B) Patrick's own impressive achievements were set in motion by an affirmative-action-esque program that brought him to Milton Academy; C) Patrick's positions on the issue could hurt him with white independents and conservative Democrats; and D) Patrick's usual grace vanishes when the subject comes up.

A) seems incontrovertible, and there may be something to B). But C) is another matter. Keller sums up his argument thusly:
In a University of Massachusetts poll eight years back, 40 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that "the government should not make any special effort to help minotiries because they should help themselves." Only 29 percent believed "government should make every effort to improve the social and economic position of minorities." [Emphasis added]
Couple things here. First, this is an eight-year-old poll. Second, look at the way the question's framed. I'm no pollster, but that's not exactly neutral wording--and despite this, the two totals aren't really that far off. Affirmative action may yet prove to be political Kryptonite for Patrick, but these numbers left me unconvinced.

As for D), I'll just quote the conclusion to Keller's article, note that Jon is an excellent provocateur, and let readers draw their own conclusions:
Deval Patrick has every right and reason to be especially invested in issues of race and affirmative action. Given the central role they've played in his extraordinary life story, he'd be a cipher to be emotionless about those subjects. But the million-dollar question for Patrick and his potentially history-making candidacy may well turn out to be this: Will his formidable cool burn off when blunt questions about his devotion to race-based remedies come up under the hot campaign lights, as it does over coffee in the muted confines of Rialto?

"Am I always gonna make the call in favor of the black person? That's ridiculous," he snaps, the brilliant smile suddenly gone. And without a trace of irony, Deval Patrick spits out the same angry question his harshes critics have been asking for years: "Why are we always talking about race?"
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