Deval Patrick's Running for President and, Don't Laugh, He Could Win

Friday, November 30, 2018

You and I will never have a credible pathway to the presidency of the United States, but if we did, we would take it.

That's why former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (2007-15) will be a candidate for president in 2020.   He probably won't win, but he could win; therefore, he'd be crazy not to give it a shot..

Here's how a successful candidacy could unroll for the man I call, admiringly, the Buddha of America politics:

A naturally gifted, superb one-on-one campaigner, Patrick goes to Iowa early and often.  He connects exceptionally well with small audiences everywhere he goes, and, after weeks of  quietly going about the business of retail campaigning in small towns and at rural farm crossroads, his candidacy catches fire.  One day the sun comes up in Iowa and everyone's talking about this guy from Massachusetts by way of Chicago.

In the state caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020, he manages a strong second-place finish.

The wind in his sails, the campaign moves to New Hampshire, where a smitten national media covers every move of the Patrick campaign and every word on the stump of Patrick himself.  A legion of Deval loyalists from Massachusetts pours into the state to volunteer in the campaign and testify to the goodness of their man.

Patrick wins the February 11, 2020, New Hampshire primary and is now a legitimate presidential contender.  Several prominent Democratic governors and senators join his campaign. 

The first truly huge day of the 2020 race for the nomination, Super Tuesday, is coming up fast, on March 3. There will likely be primaries in 10 states that day: Alabama, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Vermont. Patrick, as the Democratic frontrunner coming out of New Hampshire, wins six of them: California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Vermont.

Then he picks up victories in Florida and Illinois, which will be holding their primaries on Tuesday, March 17.

From there, he's virtually a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination for president.  He's too smart, and too good a campaigner to blow it at that point.

In November, he goes up against a beleaguered Donald Trump, presuming the president is not indicted or impeached by then.  With the economy in recession and the Make America Great Again vow looking increasingly ridiculous, Patrick wins by 50 electoral votes, 294 to 244.

Writing in a recent edition of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin said, "Patrick would enter the (presidential) race with one significant distinction: he is a kind of political heir to Barack Obama, and enjoys broad support from people close to the former President."

Toobin quoted David Axelrod, one of the few true masterminds of Obama's political ascent, who later worked in Patrick's 2006 gubernatorial campaign, as saying about Patrick, "He is a guy who makes people feel comfortable.  He's very principled, you can see that -- just like Obama."

I don't think Patrick can win the nomination in 2020.   But he has a chance.  If he did capture the nomination, he'd have a good chance of beating Trump and a decent chance of beating some other Republican.  The man has to run.

Post-Script, 12/6/18:  My crystal ball is broken: Deval Patrick announced today that he will not be a candidate for president in 2020.

You Don't Need a Study to Figure Out Declining T Ridership

Monday, November 26, 2018

The economy of metropolitan Boston is booming, employment is near historic highs, and more young people than ever want to live and work in Boston, so one would think that ridership on the MBTA would be increasing.  One would think wrong.

According to a report delivered during a meeting of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board today in Boston, overall subway ridership is down 1.6 percent for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2019 (July 1-September 30, 2018).

Things are worse on the subway line I frequent. The board was informed that, over the past five years, ridership has declined 2.5 percent on the Orange Line, which runs from Oak Grove Station in Malden, at the Melrose line, to Forest Hills Station in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston.

I hope they won't spend on a marketing study to determine why riders are shunning the T. The reasons are obvious to anyone who has to use the T: on the Orange and Red subway lines, for example, service is generally slow, equipment breakdowns and "signal problems" are common, and the cars are packed tighter than a carry-on bag on an airplane.

During rush hours, you often can't get on a train when one finally arrives, and if you are able to squeeze in one of the fully functioning doors, you have an involuntary up-close-and-personal experience with total strangers for next 15 or 20 minutes.  The strangers love it as much as you.

We ride the Orange and Red lines because we have no other way of getting to or from work.  Captive audiences are us. 

If you can opt out of the T, you have.

A few minutes after I read the State House News Service account of today's control board session, I happened upon Globe reporter Adam Vaccaro's article on, "Old Orange Line cars gear up for their final rides."The first cars of what will be a new fleet of 150 Orange Line cars are expected to be put into service late this year or early next, the article said.  Hallelujah!

I'm not going out on a limb when I predict Orange Line ridership will be up at least a couple of points by this time next year.

Here's another discouraging number that emerged at the control board:  since the FY 19 T budget was adopted several months ago, the projected overall cost of paying pensions to T employees this fiscal year has risen from $97 million to $103 million.

T pension cost are "entirely unsustainable" if you look at the trend line, said board member Brian Shortsleeve.  Will he please give us his sleeve to cry on?

A metro area taxpayer may have a choice of whether to ride the T but no choice on supporting its retirees.  Ouch.

Like Franklin Roosevelt, the Late Senator Berry, D-Peabody, Was Super-Abled

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Whenever I think of Freddie Berry, the late Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate who will be buried this weekend, God rest his magnificent soul, I can't help but smile because he was such a naturally funny and attractive human being, the kind of person who constantly surprised and delighted you with his slyly camouflaged wit and high intellectual voltage, and because every day that he ventured forth into this brutish world he was a walking, talking Exhibit A of how much a righteous person possessed of an unswerving, ferocious determination could achieve in the face of obstacles the nature of which normally crush 9,999 out of a 10,000 souls.  I doubt that Freddie's soul was ever seriously dented, so formidable was his inner strength. 

Berry died this past Tuesday at age 68 following a long period of declining health.  He was born with cerebral palsy, and though he bore the effects of that condition his entire life, he was defined, first and last, by his remarkable, soaring spirit and his innate, irrepressible sense of humor, and not by the condition that sometimes contorted his speech and limited his physical movements.

On the day of Berry's death, the State House News Service noted that he, as a member of the Peabody City Council, had won a five-way Democratic primary for an open Senate seat in 1982 "as the only candidate who said he was pro-choice."  Undoubtedly, this discomforted some at his alma mater, Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody.  The SHNS also reported that, right after his election to the Senate, Berry and his wife, Gayle, started and ran the Fred Berry Charitable Foundation out of their Peabody home, an organization that raised more than $1 million over three decades to help food pantries, homeless shelters, educational programs and various human services agencies. In the Senate, he was the tribune of the poor, the chronically ill, the physically and mentally challenged, the homeless, and every hard-luck, forgotten, friendless, family-less, invisible person who had no chance of surviving without a hand from our government.

The tributes to  Berry have been gushing forth from those who knew him and served with him at the State House.  Two of the most resonant remembrances were offered by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester and Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem.

Tarr said: "Former Majority Leader Fred Berry was an outstanding senator, a champion for the needs of his district and people across the state, and a dear friend.  He was an extraordinary public servant with a kind heart, and a sharp intellect.  Despite a lifetime impacted by cerebral palsy, Fred gave strength to those who needed a champion.  In the years that we spent together in the Senate, I knew of nobody more capable of being both uproariously humorous and profoundly poignant, the effect of which often better informed the thinking of those in the Senate Chamber.  Known not only for his abilities as a legislative leader, he was also acclaimed for his decades of civic engagement by helping those in need through his charitable work.  Word of his passing is truly saddening and I extend my sympathies to his family and friends.  I hope that they will be comforted by knowing that his legacy will live on through his lifetime of accomplishments, the close associations that he made, and the love that he shared with so many."

Driscoll said: "He was always the funniest guy in the far.  More importantly, he had an indefatigable zest for life and served Salem and nearby North Shore communities with distinction during his decades' long service as our state senator.  Underneath his outward humorous personality, Fred Berry was a force to be reckoned with -- a true champion who always stood up for those who didn't have a voice or political clout on Beacon Hill, in particular children in need."

When I think of Berry, there is one scene that almost always comes to mind.  One day, back around the turn of the century, I had set up a meeting for a then client of ours, the American Cancer Society , with him in his office at the State House.  A professional colleague of mine at the time was supposed to attend that meeting with me and three persons from the ACS.  That colleague, in fact, was supposed to lead our presentation because he had formerly served in the legislature and knew Berry well.  But, at the last moment, he was unable to attend and asked me to explain his absence and apologize to the senator for his being a no-show. 

Dutifully, I opened the meeting with an explanation of my colleague having to be somewhere else and an expression of his regard for the senator and his regrets at not attending. 

I had no history with Berry.  I had never met with him before on a piece of client business and was nervous about having to carry the ball at the meeting. I was sitting right next to him and Berry kept eye contact with me throughout my opening spiel and listened patiently to what I said; I could not tell how he was taking it.

When I was through, he paused for three or four seconds, silent, still fixing me with his eyes.  At last he responded.  "Your friend is a very busy man," he said, "a very busy man.  I'm just glad that, with everything he has to do, he would stop and think of me, and be sure to tell you to tell me that he is thinking of me.  He wishes he was here and is sorry he is not!  Well, I'm just glad that he, a busy man, such a very busy man, with big responsibilities, important things, is thinking of me.  He's thinking of me!  You tell your friend not to worry.  He's an important man.  You tell him, Thank you for thinking of me."

Given my limited perspicacity, I didn't realize until Berry was done offering reassurances that he was actually puncturing a pal who dared to have better things to do than meet at that moment with one of the Senate's top dogs -- and a widely beloved dog at that.  Had it not been out of line to do so, I would have burst out laughing at how well, how artfully, he had just pulled my pants down.  Instead, my face broke into a big, stupid grin, and a welcome sense of relaxation came over me.  "This guy has a wicked sense of humor," I said to myself. "Everything's going to be alright."  And so it was that day for me and the folks from the American Cancer Society

What a man, and what apiece of work, he was.