Saturday, April 10, 2010

Deval's Us v. Them Campaign Starts

The Patrick/Murray Extreme Local came to English High in Boston today...and by tomorrow night will have stopped at 19 other campaign sites. The guys will earn their sleep.

As a simple man from the land of the maple trees, I made no effort to race around with Deval/Tim. Rather I showed up well before the noon event in JP along with hundreds of others and waited. Noon became 1:25 before the lieutenant governor showed in the English gym.

There was no foul though and people weren't leaving. Most came in pairs or foursomes or more. Socializing, the ritual hugging of liberals long untouched and unseen continued. Then Tito Jackson popped to the podium around 1.
Self-spoiler: Deval did show, thoroughly roused the room and got his biggest of many big cheers with, "The re-election campaign starts right here, right now!" I have no doubt he went on to use that line in Worcester and Holyoke and maybe other places. That rallying cry was of a piece with his well-crafted and better-delivered stump speech. Everything is about including "us."
Up on the podium, Tito did his warm-up act with nearly as much candor as passion. If you have not heard him in action, try to. I suspect that if everyone who voted for Boston council in the last election has been to a Tito speech, he would have won a seat. As it is, he serves as Patrick's political director.

Admitting he was there to keep us focused and add some energy for Murray and Patrick when then arrived, he did. Leading simple chants (like Pat-rick and four more years) and clapping, he charmed the crowd by confessing he couldn't and wouldn't try to sing.

The House Specials


Before the candidate pair appeared around 1:30, we got what has become a standard routine, including:
  • Inspiring guest, in this case a young Kenyan woman (name when I can get it) who intends to register the 76,000 or so African legal immigrants who have no yet started voting.
  • Courageous liberal pol, in this case U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano, who started with a nice angle of once-a-mayor-always-a-mayor comparison between Murray (Worcester) and himself (Somerville) and brought in a specific and heartfelt praise of Patrick as who doesn't just talk, but fights for what's right.
  • Blessing of the spouses. Diane Patrick and Barbara Capuano both got credit for allegedly lending their hubbies for the greater good and putting up with the absurd hours and duties from them.
Shortly before Murray appeared, the dozens of campaign staffers handed out hundreds 1x2-foot campaign signs, with the new slogan — on our side, with our in a different color for emphasis. It seemed every other person had a sign, which they dutifully thrust up rhythmically during the speeches. The gym was set for about 300 chairs, with another 150 or so people in bleachers and likely as many standing behind the chairs. There were a lot of signs.

So, let us muse on how good is the slogan, which we shall definitely hear repeatedly. Four years ago, together we can took on a magical twinkle. Try as they might before and even after the election, Deval opponents were unable to adequately denigrate the intellectual and emotional pull of that one.

This one is fine, but lacks the mystique. In fact, it has a darker undertone, one we heard in Murray and Patrick's words today. The re-election is us v. them, progressives v. regressives, hopeful advancers v. backsliders.

My Miscall


Here's a check on my prognostication. Immediately following Patrick's January state-of-the-commonwealth address, I called his campaign strategy — rather poorly, it seems. I correctly pegged the obvious of let-us-finish-the-job and don't-change-horses-in-midstream that followed the impressive litany of the administration's many accomplishments. On the presentation though, I blew it. I predicted that he'd follow through with the address' we made it personal angle, linking every achievement with a person or group of people involved and helped.

Instead, the rhetorical device will apparently be that we delivered; now the challengers want to undo what we have accomplished together. During Patrick's speech today, he repeatedly named a topic and problem, cited what we said by way of promises and detailed how they delivered. Then, it was the challengers (an unspecified and amorphous group of dastards) want to stop or reverse our progress. The conclusion came in the question of whether voters would want to go back to the bad old days. Of course not, if you put it that way.

Leading challengers Republican Charlie Baker and Independent Tim Cahill have been trying to claim that the current administration hasn't accomplished enough or maybe even that they haven't done anything meaningful. I call bovine feces on that; Patrick/Murray can much more easily make a case of health insurance, ethics reform, transportation overhaul and more.

Now, whether the us v. them plays well remains to be seen. Clearly Patrick's campaign wants to put its arms over the shoulders of voters. The message is that we've been in this together for three years and we need to keep marching forward.

By the bye, maybe the same team that came up with on our side chose the music loop for the rally. It included a few ho-hum Springsteen tunes, likely for the beat. However, most were deliciously heavy handed lyrics that went with the campaign. Think the Beatles' Come Together, Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours), and Bachman-Turner Overdrive's You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.

Of course, the campaign has the advantage here. Reactionaries trying to reverse what many will see as pretty positive progress, particularly in a terrible recession, would have far fewer snappier tunes to choose. There are a lot more rock songs about hope than hiding.

Master of the Dais


For personal style too, Deval ended up owning the podium, even eclipsing Tito. Suffolk County Sheriff did a solid job in bragging about how she didn't want to see youthful offenders crippled for life with CORI records, and how Patrick was fixing that. Capuano was his irascible, candid and charming (to us who like honest) self. Murray lead into and introduced his boss in his own intelligent, cogent but fairly low-key listing of his and the administration's accomplishments. Yet, as we got into it, for the first time since Tito took the stage the audience flagged and sat down.

It was Deval who was most out there as the most skillful orator. He had both the content and style. He got big points for going into each major challenge, how they fixed or are fixing it, and how it showed that they delivered on promises. The they (challengers) are likely to be left with picking big things they see undone or if they are foolish enough trying to twist a reform or accomplishment into something less.

The hope for debates heading into the primary is likely Grace Ross again. This time, she's running as a Democrat and not a Green. Last time, she asked the most pointed questions and made everyone else squirm. She definitely was good for the process and we can hope for more of the same over the spring and summer. The primary is September 14th this year.

For a bit of background, we spoke with Patrick on Left Ahead! in February. The podcast is here.

Part 2: Coming up in the next post, expect a little commentary on the crowd. My confession is that I can disparage pols who work the room, but I was a blogger/podcaster who did the same, greeting pols.


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