A couple weeks ago I had the chance to see Deval Patrick, Democratic Primary Candidate for Governor in Massachusetts, speak at the Gloucester Stage Company on a remarkable Monday night.
I had been to the Patrick website to see the convention speech, it was a good one. I had read his op-ed in the Globe about the Big Dig and the Milena Delvalle tragedy. I had read about "The Deval Sweep" of the caucuses late last winter in Mass including the heir apparent's hometown of Watertown. My expectations were very high and I wasn't disappointed.
Follow me below the fold for the video, the q & a and some interviews I did on a warm and breezy Monday night in Gloucester at a Deval Patrick town hall meeting where many came out to hear the candidate and the candidate came out to hear us. Remarkable indeed.
Deval comes on and gives his gracious thanks to the event organizers for the evening, one of them you'll meet in the interviews. He tells us that he only wears the suit coat because his staff claims it "looks Gubernatorial." Big laugh line. Mr. Patrick throws the coat on a chair and gets right down to business, he's got a lot of work to do here and he doesn't waste a minute.
Why a Grassroots Campaign?
We run a grassroots campaign for both political and philosophical reasons. The political reason is that it's the only strategy that has worked for a Democratic candidate in twenty years in Massachusetts, but the philosophical reason is that it's the only way I know how to invite so many people who have checked out to check back in.
People need to check back in.
Deval recalls "early conversations about his run where he got warm, encouraging and deeply skeptical responses. 'I like your ideas', 'I think you'll be a great candidate' and 'you'll probably be a better governor than the other options out there', but 'there is no chance you will ever win.'" But they went to work on the grassroots anyway, in a serious way.
Over the year and a half preceding the event that I attended in Gloucester the grassroots Deval Patrick campaign in Massachusetts managed to:
- Recruit over 6,000 active volunteers
- Rack up a donor list with more names than any other campaign ever in the history of the Commonwealth
- Raise 4 million and 1 million of it online
- Get 40-50% of their donors to give about 100 or less
- Come away from the Democratic Caucuses in February of 2006 with 2 and 3 to 1 state wide margins; 9 to 1 in Middlesex County, the most populous in the state
- Win 58% of the vote at the convention
That is why we will win the primary and why we will win the general because we are inviting people back in. But you know and I know that we are a deeply cynical and still skeptical electorate...Mr. Patrick thinks the profile is part of the problem. I agree.
and I know on the day that I take the oath of office on your behalf next January there will still be people saying, 'You know what? He can't win.' He doesn't fit the profile.
As far as money goes, his competition? Reilly came into the race a year ago with a war chest of more than $4 million. Gabrielli came into the race 5 months ago with $15 million of his own money. Patrick announced his candidacy 12 months ago with less than 300K and has since raised $4 million, 550K in the last month alone, a state record for fundraising in one month by any candidate in history.
The issues, an abbreviated list of highlights:
- The Commonwealth is losing population.
- Education is a disgrace in the state.
- Our infrastructure is falling apart.
- The Big Dig was "a better idea at 5 billion than at 15 billion... there's hardly any curiosity on the part of our public servants as to where that money went."
- The entrenched politics of Beacon Hill do not serve the electorate - no comment.
The life story, "every third night on the floor":
- He grew up on 54th and Wabash and the south side of Chicago, "not the garden spot."
- He shared one bedroom in a tenement with his mother and sister, they shared the bunk beds and rotated so every third night they spent on the floor.
- He attended, "big and broken and under resourced and in those days quite violent and segregated public schools, but we had a community."
- He asks, "do you know what upside your head means in Gloucester?"
- He earned a scholarship, "A Better Chance", that brought him to Massachusetts to attend an elite prep school, Milton Academy, at age 14.
- He earned his bachelor's degree at Harvard, as the first in his family to attend college looks like Mr. Patrick set the bar pretty high.
- He worked for a year in Africa, Darfur to be precise, as part of the United Nations youth training program.
- He earned his JD, also from Harvard, and hit the street with some impressive accolades including a win in the Ames Moot Court Competition.
- He joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund focusing most of his time on death penalty cases and voting rights law.
- Bill Clinton, a former adversary, appointed him Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in 1994.
- He has also served many years in the private sector on the governance boards of Fortune 500 companies.
In the remarks I saw, Deval glosses over everything that he's done in his life after Milton Academy. Instead he chooses to describe in detail the communities that he has been a part of his whole life.
It's the communities that Deval has lived in that define him, not the work or the success. It's not the Presidents or the CEOs that he tells us about, but the Mrs. Joneses that he has been fortunate to meet in his life from the rough and tumble close knit South Side to the toney ivied vanguard of the academic world of New England.
That is the foundation that I have built an improbable professional life upon. I've had some wonderful chances. In some ways I've lived multiples of the American Dream, but I know and you know that all over the Commonwealth frankly all over the country that people are losing faith. They're asking themselves and I think reasonably and rationally, whether it's possible today to move beyond your station at birth. To make a better way for your selves and your family. The whole sense of community has been coming apart and I think that has something to do with the quality of leadership we get public and otherwise.
...when I move around the Commonwealth what mostly comes up are not the hot button issues, and we can talk about anything you want, what mostly comes up are. What I hear about are anxieties:
- about how to get and keep a good job
- health care
So let's start there in the next clip...
But on the economic front I will say that Democrats in particular have to get comfortable again talking about the importance of the private economy. We understand that there are multiple bottom lines. And that is the difference between us and the right. We understand there's a profit bottom line, we get that.
But there are human and community and environmental bottom lines too.
And they count.
Patrick has a specific vision for education in Massachusetts beyond the details of how to accomplish the job of educating kids in the public schools. "It ought to start before kindergarten with early education opportunities and go right up through public higher ed. Frankly, how we connect up technical, vocational and work force development as a part of a continuum of life learning that will be how we prepare people for the new society and the new economy we'll be living in. So what does that look like?"
- Broader access to early ed. for 3 and 4 year olds
- All day kindergarten
- Smaller class size
- Longer school days
- Supervised homework for ESL students
- Real investment in public higher ed, today MA spends at the rate of 47th in the nation
The last issue that I hear about consistently... It's not a sustainable model. I think the legislature took a step forward in the reform bill, but it's not the final word...
I think it needs to be implemented from the perspective that health is a public good. And that we owe each other a decent, affordable, patient-centered health care system.
All-righty then. Mr. Patrick also says in the Q&A that "we will get to Universal Health Care in my first term." No weasel words here guys. Universal Health Care.
Deval begins this clip of his remarks by talking about the most important debate that we need to have in American politics today. What is up with the Democratic Party and their desire to act or sound just like Republicans?
[On politics] It's as if how to win is really pre-eminent and principle and vision is for the naive and unsophisticated. And it's causing a lot of really good people to check out. And I'm not just talking about at election time, but civic life itself...
[On Democrats] We have perfected a conversation about how to win, but we don't say too much why we should win. We have candidates doing their level best to blur any differences between us and the opposition as a tactic to win without ever saying what we would do with that power once we do win.
Mr. Patrick then quickly hits on the reason that Democrats needs to distinguish themselves from the right in this country. It's the YOYO - WITT economics debate and right now we only have a few voices here and there that are willing to take the issue on from the WITT side, the right side. YOYO, you're on your own, and WITT, we're in this together, economics have been at opposite ends of the spectrum for many years in this country. Unfortunately, YOYO seems to have prevailed in the last 30 years or so.
Mr. Patrick doesn't use this terminology. I'm not sure if he's read Jared Bernstein's book, All Together Now, but he perfectly encapsulates the fundamentals of the debate in his remarks in this clip. The YOYO economy stalwarts are convinced that government needs to be small, lame and not interested in interfering with the private economy too much unless it's corporate welfare. The government needs to accomplish its goals with incentive based "tax cut for this, tax cut for that" programs. The WITT economy seeks to share risk among its citizens. Stuff like public education, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and soon universal health care are WITT policies based on risk pooling and a commitment to community beyond the threshold of our own homes. He talks about the most egregious example of where we're at in this country on YOYO, Katrina.
Poor people and sick people are on their own... I think that's the vision of government that was on display in the Gulf Coast after Katrina. We were ashamed by what we saw and we were right to be ashamed. Those people who were abandoned on their rooftops after Katrina were before that storm.
Those are the folks and the ones just like them here in Massachusetts who are flat on their backs and the middle-class that is one month away from being just like that. And they're deeply anxious about it and they don't think anyone is listening.
And many have been waiting for the Democratic Party to make up its mind about what we stand for.
So that's why I'm asking people all over the Commonwealth to stand with me and if you do then we will stand for something again.
That's right, Mr. Patrick, because YOYO economics only works for the affluent, healthy and lucky members of society. They don't work so good if you start off poor, get sick or experience a run of bad luck in your life. And I'm a Democrat because I don't believe in going it alone.
Question 1: Pat
What is the platform?
- Economic Stimulus: permitting; venture capital; alternative and renewable energy products, "we get that right and the whole world will be our customer." Deval supports the Cape Wind project.
- Public Education: universal pre-school; all day kindergarten; reduce class size; extend school day; invest in higher ed. - real investment.
- Stem Cell Research: get on the offense here in a big way, but endow the public ed. facilities too.
- Health Care: "We will get to universal health care in my term." Works for me Mr. Patrick.
"... and I could go on and on and..." All the specifics are up on the website."We've been working [on this stuff] for more than a year... Check us out, kick the tires."
- Video: The Politics of Hope
- Video: A Journey of Hope
- Video: Deval on the Issues
- Video: Education
- Video: Health Care
- Video: Selling Massachusetts
What are your thoughts on how to promote the arts and foster better public ed. arts programs?
Question 3: Simon
This one turns into an animated conversation with Simon, the public school art teacher. Many people chime in with a comment towards the end of this clip?
In response to a question from Deval, Simon draws gasps from the crowd about the funding realities of the school that he works in . In fact, it's a system wide bloddletting of money out of the budget and consequently the cities and towns have no chance whatsoever of making up the shortfall. Check it out because if you have a kid in school, you should know all the specifics that they discuss in this clip. If your kid is going to be starting school after January 2007 or so then you should be okay with this, we'll get Deval in and he'll get in done right, to the penny and with the proper quality.
Deval highlights include: "we're playing a shell game with the money"; raking up "corrosive deficits" for the cities and towns; using a regressive tax to fund that schools; discussion of the Chapter 70 money.
This is a question from two different people in the theater. It starts out with a general discussion on commercial fishing, ocean issues and quickly gets into the proposed LNG facility off the shore of Cape Ann. I learned a lot here.
Loves that Deval has been in every world: corporate, public and non-profit dealing with a lot of these issues over a distinguished career. Ed's a real character, "a light rinse" is mentioned. I didn't bring it up, swear.
Very impressed with the event and especially the Q & A on the commercial fishing and LNG question. Naturally, it was an impressive delay on the part of all involved in that discussion.
Makes one of the most important comments that I've ever heard in doing about 20+ of these so far. We must engage to affect change. There's no other way.
A new convert, "as good a candidate as we've ever had."
Another art teacher like Simon from the Q&A, she came here specifically to evaluate Deval on school funding and the arts. What do you think she said?
Came "out of retirement" for Deval as an early adopter in the grassroots here in MA. She describes her wild ride from the caucuses through the convention to now.
Works as Cape Ann Coordinator. She discusses the responsiveness of the campaign and how it works when you work "with" Deval.
Shameless blimp, but for the cause of the arts. Who could object? The event I attended was scheduled to have a focus on the arts.
August 31 - September 17
World Premiere Musical
Deval Patrick's Upcoming Events:
The calendar section at the website has a boat load of events. Deval is going to be ramping up the appearances at town hall type meetings like the one I went to in Gloucester, so check him out. Kick the tires. This section is also flush with grassroots events all around the state, so if you want to get involved, this might be a good place to start. Yard signs are now available, so get one and plant one.
Two Debates will be held next month in the lead up to the vote. September 13 and 14 check your local listings, if you're so inclined.
The deadline to register to vote in the primary is Wednesday August 30th, 2006. You must be registered Democrat or Unenrolled to participate in the Democratic Primary.
Additional Media Links for Deval:
Cape Cod Today: Deval's race to lose
Video: The CBS debate in April
Globe: Undecided Voters Loom Over the Primary a neutral piece
Globe: Poll Finds 3-Way Tie in Primary a neutral piece showing the importance of supporting your candidate in the fast approaching primary