Note To D.R. - We Got Outplayed
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.
I owe D.R. an apology, because he's been worried about Charlie's campaign for months but I've reassured him that given the environment and Deval's poor leadership skills and Baker's attractiveness as a candidate that everything would work out fine. I was wrong, of course, and D.R. hasn't sent me any nasty notes. I respect him for that.
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... Just what is it that makes Patrick so compelling to this state's voters?
This is where I want to focus, as well. How do we learn, improve, and move on. Mourn quickly, then get on with it. Charlie is a great guy, became a good to very good candidate, but had a lousy campaign.
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?
Certainly the GOP can be as good at stagecraft as the Dems, but Deval is a maestro of candidate performance skills. Being in his presence is uplifting, and he manages to convey that same sensation through the lense of a television camera.
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.
I agree. You can't blame voters for being conned - our system cultivates these skills in candidates. Charlie is sincere and capable, but it's not enough to be good - you have to make people feel your goodness even when you're being bad. That's the Governor's gift. Deval is insincere and smarmy, but reeks of sincerity and caring while he slithers.
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.
It's not that complicated, really. Besides Deval's gifts as a candidate, Charlie's campaign made mistakes - they never created an effective theme for why he should be governor, they never properly introduced him to voters, they focused for too long on attacking Tim Cahill, making Charlie fit the stereotype of a mean Republican. The list of miscalculations goes on and on.
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.
To win in this league, you need to be able to manage a campaign like you're Bill Belichick and you've got to run your routes like you're Randy Moss. Our team simply got outplayed.