Give Matt Patrick Credit for an Unusual Farewell Address

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Matt Patrick was the picture of honesty -- and of disillusionment -- when he delivered his farewell address in the grand and historic chamber of the Massachusetts House of Representatives on December 17th. A decent and principled man, Patrick had been defeated in November when he stood for re-election to the House from a Falmouth-centered district on Cape Cod.

Now the farewell address is a venerable tradition in the Massachusetts legislature. Every retiring or defeated rep or senator gets a final turn at the podium to say whatever is on his mind.

Usually, the speeches amount to a platitudinous plunge down memory lane while wearing rose-tinted glasses. ("I will never forget the great moments and the great friendships that I had the privilege to enjoy in this building.")

Matt Patrick's was definitely not what you would call a "usual" farewell, however.

Kyle Cheney, the estimable State House News Service reporter, wrote that Patrick "shirked the ceremonial niceties to decry what, from his view, is the decline of the Massachusetts House of Representatives..."

Cheney then quoted Patrick:

"If you play your cards right, vote the right way, keep your criticisms to yourself, you have a chance of becoming a chairperson of a committee" (and eventually) "you find yourself not participating in debates, not even listening, because you and everyone else know what the outcome will be. It's preordained. You continue to play the game until one day you find out that some lobbyists have more influence than you, and you ask yourself, 'Is that right?' Or you find out that your bill has been sidelined by someone quietly without explanation, or you are asked to vote for something you oppose...It's a system that has evolved over the decades and it is all that we know."

You don't have to buy Patrick's argument about legislative decline to appreciate him for providing a frank reminder of the essentially bruising nature of legislating.

We have all these smiling, empathetic, always helpful extroverts that we elect, and re-elect, to the legislature.

Then we have the power politicians, the deal makers, the ladder climbers, the shape shifters, the favor traders, the score settlers -- complex human beings all -- who grind out the day-to-day work of enacting bills and crafting the crazy quilt that is the annual state budget.

Those beings are one and the same -- yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Fare thee well, Matt Patrick, picture of honesty, disillusionment, and nobility.

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