Patrick's permanent revolution?

Throughout his campaign for governor, Deval Patrick made a point of saying that his candidacy transcended mere politics. Thanks to you, he told audiences again and again, a political campaign became a movement for change.

Last night, as he celebrated his landslide win over Republican Kerry Healey at the Hynes Convention Center, Patrick upped the ante: the existential revolution (my words) his campaign started could continue--would continue--when he takes over as governor. Here's the key passage, which bears quoting at length:

What I expect from you is that you keep this renewed sense of community alive, that you see your stake in each other every day, that you ask what you can do to make Massachusetts stronger and do it, that you don't let cynicism win, ever--even when I make mistakes. We didn't build up the grassroots just to win the election. I need you to govern in a new way, too, to make change real. That means both refusing the politics of fear and division "out there." But it also means some changes "in here," within the Democratic Party. We will learn to listen to those who want to help with what's wrong with Democrats just as openly as we do those who tell us what's wrong with Republicans. The grassroots is a power of citizenship all his own. It does not end with this election.

At the risk of being one of those cynics Patrick likes to rail against, here's the problem with this argument: campaigning and governing are two different beasts. As a candidate, Patrick didn't actually have to implement his vision for Massachusetts; he just had to share it with voters around the commonwealth, something he did with remarkable skill. (With this win, Patrick staked his claim as one of Massachusetts' great retail politicians.) But now comes the tough part. Can Patrick satisfy the infinite dreams of his supporters with the finite resources he'll have at his disposal? Which Patrick supporters will be gravely disappointed when Patrick submits his first budget--and will their support hold? How long will his various honeymoons (legislators, press, voters) last?

Of course, it's also possible to read the quote above as a bit of tough gamesmanship masquerading as New Age-y rhetoric. Maybe Patrick's words are really a warning to the Democrat-dominated Massachusetts House and Senate: Don't expect to run the show, guys, because I have a mandate--and I plan to use it. Interpret Patrick's remarks this way, though, and they still point up a fundamental paradox. As a candidate, Patrick inspired the public to dream big; as a governor, he can't make all those dreams come true.

I've been impressed by Patrick since I first interviewed him early last year, and I sincerely hope he's a terrific governor. Even if he is, though, making his revolution permament might be something even Patrick can't pull off.

| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Talking Politics Archives