Deval Is Always Ready to Road-TestThemes for His Friend Barack

Friday, February 3, 2012

You have to say this about our governor: he's a good man to have in your corner, loyal as hell. Just ask Barack Obama, for whom Deval Patrick travels the country as a surrogate in the president's re-election campaign.

Patrick raised almost $600,000 in 2011 for his "Together" political action committee (PAC), the vehicle he uses to pay for the political missions he goes on for his friend the president. On any given weekend, you may find our governor in California or the Carolinas as the keynote speaker at big campaign fundraising dinners for state Democratic organizations.

Patrick is a polished, warm and inspiring speaker, as the Republicans learned to their chagrin in 2010, so he's good at packing the house wherever he goes. He's a definite commodity for his party.

In a State House News Service report this week on "Together," the PAC's executive director, Alex Goldstein, was quoted as saying he is "extremely appreciative of the generous support we continue to receive. These resources will be critical in the days ahead as the governor continues to engage in the national debate about the future of our country, and the importance of governing with the values of generational responsibility and the politics of conviction as our compass."

Together. Generational responsibility. Politics of conviction as our compass. These are among the key words for Deval Patrick this year, and for Barack Obama as well. View them as foundation stones in the platform of a party preparing for battle with a Mitt Romney whose career was built on the economic principle of "creative destruction."

When you hear Deval Patrick speaking in these terms, as he artfully did in his annual State of the State address on January 23, he is simultaneously beating the drum for two administrations with deep Chicago roots, his own and Obama's. The notes Patrick plays now will be picked up later by Obama and amplified. When the economy is barely out of neutral, where else the can the Democrats take this campaign but "We're all in this together, we're doing our best, and why would you ever think those Republicans will do more for you than we will"? For the Obama political team, that approach has the added attraction of having worked quite well for Patrick in his rough-and-tumble reelection fight with Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill.

Now Patrick didn't write his State of the State address just to warm up the nation's living room for Obama, but it's hard to read excerpts from that speech like the following and not see how well they shore up the particular, difficult position the president now finds himself in:

  • "This is my sixth speech of this kind. In that time, the world has experienced dramatic change and even turmoil. A global economic collapse. Slow job growth. Crumbling infrastructure. Growing inequality. A public craving change. Periods of challenge and uncertainty are not new -- not in Massachusetts and not in history. What defines us is not the challenge, but how we meet it. We remember with gratitude the generations before ours who rose to the challenges of their time and left for us a better Commonwealth. Thanks to them, many of us in this room tonight sit where our parents and grandparents could hardly imagine."

  • "Now we face our test. It is a test for our time and for the future. And while others elsewhere in positions like yours and mine succumb to division and stalemate, we here pulled together and, for the good of the Commonwealth, made hard choices."

  • "We have risen to past challenges -- and we will rise to these -- if we stay true to our values and work together. When we stay true to our values, we make decisions for the good of our future, choices that transcend momentary political convenience. I still believe that our Commonwealth is a community and that we have a stake in each other."

  • "When we work together, when we put aside sound-bite politics and insider games, we can overcome any challenge. I have no doubt about it."

  • "The challenge facing people in doubt about the future of their American Dream and their place in the workforce is ours, too. The challenge facing small businesses and working families struggling with the cost of health care is ours, too. The challenge facing those who fear for their safety and those seeking a way back, successfully, into mainstream life is ours, too. We can meet those challenges if we work together. After all, we are here today because someone did the same for us."

You do not have to accept Mitt Romney's formulation (as I do not) that he is on a quest to "save the soul of America" to appreciate the grand scale of the coming Obama-Romney showdown, which will pit the urban ethos of a dense, immigrant, Democratic stronghold like that of Chicago against the pioneering, fend-for-ourselves, western homesteading ethos like that of Salt Lake City.

Who do you think is more likely to win: Chicago or Salt Lake City?

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