Props to Patrick

You know, I’ve got to give the guy some credit.

Gov. Deval Patrick pulled off an impressive reelection victory Tuesday. Let’s put aside all the complaining about Tim Cahill and bickering about Charles Baker, and note for the record that Patrick proved capable of withstanding the Tea Party tide that swept away so many of his fellow Democrats across the country.

Certainly, I’m disappointed in the outcome. Yes, it would have been better if Cahill had pulled out of the race months before. Yes, it would have been better if Baker had figured out a way to increase his name recognition earlier in the year. Yet there’s no way to change the past.

There’s an obvious ideological temptation among some on the Bay State right to dismiss everyone who voted for Patrick as hyper-idealistic moonbats who view Patrick through rose-colored glasses. There is an irresistible urge to rhetorically lash out at those who marked the box next to Patrick’s name, a searing desire to denounce every last one of them as shortsighted.

Yet that temptation, that urge, that desire must be resisted. It must be resisted because it’s inherently destructive. It must be resisted because it does not actually advance the interests of Republicans in this state.

There’s a stronger desire, at least in my mind, to figure out precisely what it is that attracted people to Patrick. Instead of loathing those who voted for him, I want to learn from them.  

I’m simply too much of a partisan to really “get” Patrick. I can’t view the man through an objective lens. I still see him as the man who bumbled his way through the Clinton Justice Department, and I cannot fully grasp how anyone can view him any other way.

Yet I want to understand. I need to understand. Understanding is preferable to grumbling. It’s preferable to frustration. It’s preferable to anger.

Just what is it that makes Patrick so compelling to this state’s voters?

I think back to his history-making 2006 victory. I’ve always felt that win was more of an anti-Mitt Romney, anti-Kerry Healey, anti-GOP vote than it was a pro-Patrick vote. Now I ask: did I miss something? Why couldn’t I recognize that it was, in fact, a pro-Patrick vote–a vote to affirm the politics of hope?

It’s tough to even write that phrase–“the politics of hope”–without recalling the scorn with which so many on the Bay State right greeted Patrick’s campaign and the subsequent presidential campaign of Barack Obama. All the good that did us!

I’m fascinated by the idea that one of the advantages Patrick had in his 2006 and 2010 campaigns was his ability to convey empathy and optimism. Are Republicans in this state incapable of doing that? Is it somehow unseemly to speak to hope, to dream of big dreams, to present an optimistic vision?

A significant number of voters in this state feel good about Deval Patrick. They trust him. They see him as an intelligent, compassionate, humble man who tries to do what’s right for the Commonwealth.

I can’t spit on these voters or damn them. It wouldn’t make anything better–not for my ideological side, not for anybody’s side.

Four years ago, Patrick asked Massachusetts voters to put their cynicism down. Of course, I responded by holding fast to my cynicism. I don’t think I can ever fully put it down. Yet I want to know why so many people never embraced such cynicism in the first place.

I’ll always have profound ideological differences with Patrick. I’ll always believe that, her flaws notwithstanding, Kerry Healey could have done a better job as governor. I’ll always believe that Baker could have made things better in the State House.

Yet all the whining in the world won’t change the results of November 7, 2006 and November 2, 2010. It was Patrick, not Healey and Baker, who touched the hearts and minds of most voters. It was Patrick, not Healey and Baker, who tapped into the electorate’s desire for a better day.

There is a reason Patrick won both elections. It wasn’t merely anti-GOP sentiment. It wasn’t foolishness. It wasn’t baby-boomer white guilt. What was it? What value does Patrick embody that makes so many voters embrace him? If Republicans don’t determine the answer, they might not win another significant statewide election anytime soon.

I can’t view Patrick the way so many fellow Bay Staters do: I’m ideologically blind. Yet I know that Republicans in this state must make an effort to understand just what it is that those who supported Patrick see. So, to use an old Patrick line, let’s reach for that.

About D. R. Tucker