As promised, I'm going to tackle some of the big issues Deval touched on while he was at UMASS Dartmouth yesterday. I should start off by saying that I went to Deval Patrick's Faneuil Hall rally several weeks ago. I'm sure many of my readers were also at that huge event. There were thousands and thousands of people there and the energy was just kinetic. It was quite shocking to me that, in the middle of winter, thousands of people would travel to Boston to come and hear him give a stump speech. Literally over a thousand people were turned away from the doors - I was one of the last few people to get in. It really showed the broad-based and charismatic support that Deval has had throughout the campaign. Through word of mouth and a true grassroots campaign, Deval Patrick has tipped the scale and tied up the race. Does it get any better than that?
Of course, the key aspect to Deval's campaign has been his grassroots effort. He's been running for over a year and it has been small events like the UMASS Dartmouth lecture that has rippled to create a campaign that could very well win. Deval could easily say "enough is enough" and stop touring the state. He could decide that he's had one too many breakfast with hundreds of people and answered one too many questions from college students who probably won't vote anyway. He could begin running a traditional campaign, now that he has the money, support and big-time endorsements. And maybe, at this point, that would actually help his campaign.
Yet, he keeps plugging away, stopping by lowly UMASS Dartmouth to say hello and answer questions for an hour yesterday in the South Eastern-most part of the state. This wasn't a big-time event, there were maybe a hundred folks there. But, just like a hundred events before, he knows that probably 80-90% of the people at those events of about a hundred people will probably vote for him. He knows that they'll go on to tell their friends, family and co-workers about the event - and half of those people will vote for him. This is people-powered politics in action, folks. It's the ultimate goal that all progressives have: an election controlled by voters, not special interests or party insiders.
What's more important is that not only does he go to these events, but he actually seems to like them. Imagine that, a potential Governor in Massachusetts who actually likes people from Massachusetts? That's more than either Paul Celluci or Mitt Romney could say. In the smaller venue of the Library Browsing Area of UMASS Dartmouth, Deval Patrick took time to shake everyone's hand and take a picture with anyone who wanted one (including me). He took questions for an exceedingly long time... and they weren't all easy questions. He answered them honestly and was exceptionally candid. Another politician would have been either vague or just said whatever the crowd wanted to hear. He had fun, answered honestly and made no promises he couldn't keep.
What's more important is that not only does Deval Patrick seem like a good guy, but he's also sharp. During the speech, he gave some fundamental advice every Democrat should take with them, be they from Alabama or Rhode Island, "discontent with the Republicans is not enough, nor should it be." Did you get that, John Kerry? People-powered politics and the progressive movement will never succeed unless we convince the Democratic Party that it must stand up, in unity, and offer better ideas.
We have to offer more than better ideas, we need to be able to sell them. Deval began to discuss Cape Wind, which surprisingly drew the biggest response from the crowd, and he packaged it differently than any other elected official I've yet to see. Cape Wind is a unique opportunity, it represents the next great leap in Massachusetts's "innovation economy." Where others just see an environmental issue, Deval Patrick sees 'the next great Massachusetts industry.' It's not just about Mother Earth, it's the economy, stupid. Deval Patrick understands that. He understands that to win and do well when in office, he needs broad-based support from everyone. Thus the careful packaging of ideas that is not only going to help him win, but represents the logical conclusion: energy independence is good for our economy over the longterm and, in Massachusetts, even now.
Cape Wind represents an opportunity to harness the globe and create a renewable, clean energy that can create significant amounts of electricity - enough to power 2/3rds of an entire region. It can do all that without harming the environment or even killing birds. We'll create jobs and power most of Cape Cod through a means in which we can sleep well at night.
In the same discussion about Cape Wind, Deval Patrick also hit upon another common theme. He said that one of the biggest differences between Republicans and Democrats is that, "we understand there's more than one bottom line." The money we save today from energy that destroys this planet - the only one we have - is one day going to cost us tenfold. Heck, if Katrina showed us anything, it's that it's already costing us. How many of these major hurricanes would be tropical storms if the oceans were a degree or two colder? New Orleans could still be here today, instead of the city in ruins.
The multitude of bottom lines extends far beyond the environment. Health Care is probably the single biggest issue of today. Deval Patrick issued a warning: the next governor is the one who is going to implement the new health care bill. Remember all those pesky questions I brought up? Well, the next Governor is going to deal with them. The next Governor is going to help decide just what kind of assistance we mean when we say we're going to provide assistance. The next Governor will truly govern over something far more important than access to health care; the next Governor will help decide whether or not health care in Massachusetts should be affordable. It'll start with the families who are set to receive public assistance to pay for health insurance - but it won't end there. The new health bill barely scratches the surface of affordability.
And Deval Patrick has some real good ideas there. From eliminating administrative costs, to pooling resources together to get bargain rates, Deval has ideas. He has ideas that will tie together seemingly unrelated things. For example, in keeping our health industry cutting edge, Deval Patrick wants to create bonds for research universities to expand on their stem cell research. As the bonds are being paid back, the interest on those bonds will go to public colleges in Massachusetts. Every little bit helps, especially when Massachusetts ranks 47th in public higher education funding.
Being the progressive candidate, I'm sure many in the state would be quick to think him naive or his ideas a pipe-dream. However, he's anything but naive. Ultimately, Deval Patrick is a man grounded in reality. He never stared away from saying things that will undoubtedly challenge voters. For example, he thinks "we get the leadership we deserve." Ultimately, less than half of the country typically votes. The voter-turnout in Massachusetts this upcoming election will probably be around 40-45%, if that. People have a very cynical view of government - and why not? Politicians are viewed as being typically corrupt, don't care about the people and bow down to special interests. What chance does the little guy have?
Well, "the more good people that check out," the more cynical government becomes. Checking out only serves the corrupt and rubber stamp politicians. Deval Patrick is a breath of fresh air. His campaign has been about inviting in those who have, in the past, checked out. American democracy, powered by the people, may lay dormant - but it hasn't died. Deval Patrick is a chance to rekindle the progressive dream, where people matter instead of money, and nothing he said at UMASS Dartmouth left me with any reason to change my mind.