Reasonable Doubt

Honestly, I don’t believe our governor is telling the truth.

Deval Patrick says he will not run in 2012 for the US Senate seat currently held by Scott Brown, even if President Obama asks him to. “I am running for nothing,” Patrick told NBC’s Matt Lauer yesterday. “I’ve been very clear. I do not want to serve in the United States Senate.”  

Balderdash. If Obama asks Patrick to help the Democratic Party maintain control of the Senate by winning back the seat Ted Kennedy once held, Patrick will not–cannot–turn him down.

It is impossible to envision a man who so boldly expressed his commitment to a progressive civic vision in his book A Reason to Believe turning down an opportunity to implement that vision in the US Senate. It is impossible to envision Patrick riding off into the sunset of the private sector upon the conclusion of his second term as governor. Why not prematurely end that term and move on to new, more fertile ground?

Yes, a recent Suffolk University/7 News poll shows that Brown would defeat Patrick if they went head-to-head today. However, April 2011 is not November 2012. At this point in 2009, the idea of Patrick being re-elected to a second term as governor seemed absurd. Look what happened.

How could Patrick not three-peat as a political trailblazer? The same elements that contributed to his gubernatorial victories in 2006 and 2010–the strong backing of organized labor, the energy of progressive activists, the support of independents who aren’t exactly thrilled with the impression left by the local and national GOP–will still be factors a year and a half from now. Despite the findings of the Suffolk/7 News poll, Brown would be the undisputed underdog in a fight against Patrick.

If Patrick doesn’t run, he would effectively betray the message of his own book. In A Reason to Believe, Patrick describes a conversation he had with Obama in early-2005, as he contemplated running for governor of Massachusetts. He told Obama that he lacked money, name recognition or staff, but what he did have “was a passion for helping people, a willingness to make the tough calls if they are the right ones, and a hunger to reach out to people who were not feeling connected to their government. Above all was my determination to run on my values–win or lose. Democrats, I said, needed to regain their voice of optimism, but a voice that blended optimism with pragmatism…I didn’t know whether I could win, but I thought a little authenticity might count for something in Massachusetts.” By not running, Patrick would essentially signal that he no longer has that passion, that willingness, that hunger, that determination. Does anyone seriously believe that?

Patrick also speaks of his frustration with the Republican agenda in the mid-2000s. Obviously, that frustration has not diminished in Patrick’s soul–in fact, that frustration has motivated him to vigorously defend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the formal name of “Obamacare”) from the GOP’s strong criticism.

As a senator, Patrick could not only oppose the obliteration of “Obamacare,” but also serve as a forceful advocate for the vision of “social justice” he so eloquently and thoughtfully speaks of in his book. He can’t save the world, or even a portion of the world, in a corporate boardroom. A man of his ideological impulses has to be where the action is.

A Brown-Patrick race would be the most high-profile Senate contest in the country–and an important indicator of whether the GOP has any legitimate chance of viability in the “Bluest State.” If Brown can defeat Patrick–arguably the most compelling political figure in the Commonwealth, the man who beat the Tea Party last year–it will demonstrate that the Republican Party can indeed be competitive here, so long as it has good candidates who run good campaigns. However, if Patrick beats Brown, particularly by a margin wider than his six-point victory over Charlie Baker, it will prove that Brown’s historic 2010 win was just a historic fluke.

Patrick convinces no one with his denials. The governor’s passion for politics and policy permeates every paragraph of his book. He’s not the sort of man who’ll sit idly by while Brown aligns himself with a political vision he clearly loathes.

If, or more likely when, President Obama calls Patrick and asks him to aid their party by challenging Brown, Patrick will not say no. How can he? If you were a man committed to a vision, and had an opportunity to make that vision real and to protect that vision from its would-be destroyers, wouldn’t you step up too?

Patrick’s going to run. It’s just a matter of time.

If I were Senator Brown, I’d fill the tank in my truck.  

About D. R. Tucker