Friday, March 24, 2006

Race in the Governor's Race?

As inattentive as most Massachusetts voters may be, if they know Deval Patrick's campaign at all, they are likely to have noticed that he is an African American.

A few folks, like Carpundit have rubbed up against the subject, but with the Democratic convention in about two months, it may be worth confronting. His brief meta-analysis is probably to the point -- Massachusetts isn't going to elect a black lefty to the corner office. Maybe a black centrist, but not a lefty.

Over at Left Center Left, Chris tees off on that. He's pointing to Patrick's politically mixed platform.

Many here don't know or remember, but despite the very pale (and very male) governors we have had, a Black politician does occasionally win the voter and statewide election. A prominent example from 30 and 40 years ago was Edward Brooke. We sent him to Beacon Street twice as attorney general and on to Washington as U.S. Senator, both times reelecting him.

However, to Carpundit's point, this was a Republican. He had been an Army captain and earned the reputation as crime fighter that both Tom Reilly and Kerry Healey vainly pretend to own. Hah!

There is another kind of color in the race. Gabrieli and Mihos are both rich windbags, both promising of helping elect themselves with their own millions -- the name on the governor's door being the ultimate vanity plate. That's cute and colorful, but certainly not a good reason to put someone in power.

Lackaday, Tom Reilly has little color, dermal or figurative. He doesn't have a platform to speak of, which is good, as he is a mediocre speaker even when he's on form.

When Patrick spoke at his Boston rally early this month, he was aware of the burden of leftism. We don't know whether he also considers it a potential liability in conjunction with his skin, or whether he truly is a slightly-left centrist.

As he put it in his rally speech:

And while we’re at it, let’s forget about labels.

Who cares whether they call a program “liberal” if it helps someone who needs help and it works. Who cares whether they call a tough fiscal judgment conservative if makes good fiscal sense.

Enough already with “the right” versus “the left.” Let’s focus on right versus wrong.

That sure looks as though he wants to keep himself out of the ring corners and where he can maneuver in the bout. That will likely work with some voters. Others will simply look at his progressive aims and turn off. Many of us will forgive his centrism considering the whole set of goals.

As for the race thing, the Bay State Banner managed to find understandably dubious Black Bostonians. They need only look at the elected officials to see how few are Black, including zero governors.

How real a factor race will be in this issue in this century remains to be seen. You can be sure that the other candidates will be too savvy to say or even hint that the commonwealth is not ready for a Black governor.

Having the best platform and the only roadmap to worthwhile goals won't convert racists. If they can't pull a lever or ink an oval for a Black man, they won't. However, it's likely that in Massachusetts, Patrick has two problems larger than race. First, the Democratic Party machine wants one of their own trained animals -- Reilly or maybe Gabrieli. Second, without that kind of support, he has to make himself and his platform known to the bulk of us lazy voters.

Now, back to race, there's a question that the Suffolk pollsters, who are so intent on creating Gabrieli and Mihos as factors in this contest, can ask...if they have the nerve.


Chris in Boston said...

question that the Suffolk pollsters... can ask

I'm not sure what that would reveal, since people don't respond with the answer they're thinking but with the answer they want to give - or are you speaking tongue in cheek ? I can't tell.

Good series of posts tracking the reception of Patrick in the black press, by the way. I'm interested to see how the racial/class politics play out.

massmarrier said...

Yes, I was glib on that. I would very much like to see some meaningful polling from Suffolk and others. Granted it's early, but they have been pandering to new and potential candidates, rather than hitting the issues. They could take a page from Pew and find out what's motivating voters. That would be useful to the candidates as well as to us observers.

Anonymous said...

Say what you will about Reilly, and I'll admit he has his shortcomings, but soft on crime ain't one of them.