Monday, September 04, 2006

Goldilocks Picks a Governor

It's choosing time and we have no one else to blame for our pick. In just over two weeks, the Democrats show where their minds and hopes are.

It's a fairy-tale choice, but one we have to live with afterward. We have already seen a bunch of Goldilocks-style comparisons. Some say, Tom is too conservative, Gabby is squishy enough, and Deval is too liberal. Others say Gabrieli has no relevant experience, Reilly has been part of the problem for years, and Patrick has the perfect blend of government savvy and outsider independence.

It goes on and on. Yet, what happens on the September 19th primary day will say a lot about us. We walk into the polling stations with our minds, hearts -- and hopes -- ready to pick the one who's just right.

Well, in this house, we're ready for change, meaningful change. I shall be very pleasantly surprised if the plurality of Democrats is as well. This is a time for courage, which is much to ask of ordinary folk.

This time, the primary decision will say much of our character and aspirations. To oversimplify (but not by much):
  • Tom Reilly is the least-change candidate
  • Chris Gabrieli is not likely to get much perking in the legislature
  • Deval Patrick would be a mandate for substantial course change
I'm not at all convinced most Democrats or those sissy unenrolled voters have the courage and tolerance for ambiguity to go for real improvement. In this house, we shall watch with fascination to see what primary voters approve.

Showtime -- Thursday: Chris, Deval, Tom...come on down! The least anyone voting in the Democratic primary can do is watch the power plays and posturing on most Boston-area TVs Thursday at 7 p.m. The three biggies will make their cases in the JFK Jr. Forum from Harvard's government school. This is a big deal.

You get to play Golidlocks and find the porridge, chair and bed that's just right for you. There's a difference though. The bears chased the interloper away. You'll have to live with your decision.

You have ways, ways and ways of measuring. Consider:
  • Broad brush. It doesn't make much difference. They are pretty much the same -- gay-rights, more jobs, less crime. Toss the toxic Republican and hope for the best.
  • Effective executive. Do you believe that 1) Reilly knows the Beacon Hill game and players, so that he can get good laws through, 2) Gabrieli claims he knows how to create jobs and stimulate economies, so that he can perk up this flaccid commonwealth, 3) Patrick is not a tainted, tired insider nor a jive salesman, so that he brings clear direction for the first time in decades.
  • Nits and grits. There are single-issue distinctions, which are deal makers or breakers for some, say taxes. Reilly has the guns-and-butter expand services but give tax cuts, Patrick says no tax cuts; we need the cash, and Gabrieli tries both ways -- tax cuts as we can prove that we can afford them.
No matter how many beds, chairs or bowls you try though, some differences are obvious. The key one is philosophic. It's like a variation on Dirty Harry -- "Do you feel progressive today? Well, do ya', punk?"

If any Democrat wins the primary and then general election, you can be damned sure:
  • A Reilly administration would play the game and follow the rules as he has his entire career. Don't look for big change or powerful innovations. If you like incremental improvements only, he's the best bet.
  • Patrick is nowhere liberal enough for me, even with conventional wisdom practically linking him with Bolsheviks. Yet, of the three, he is far the most advanced in proposing social and economic goals, with amazingly enough, actual policies to get there. His administration would be one of debate, change and even turmoil. If you want to hide in your living room with your TV, he's not your man.
  • Gabrieli is at heart and professionally a salesman. He promises big improvements with smallish efforts, and not too specific. Coming into a do-nothing State House and General Court, he would be hard pressed to accomplish any of what he promises with what he has shown us so far. He might be able to pull off the combo private/public stem-cell funding, but that won't turn us around or be enough. He's the middle path that may go nowhere in particular.
A post in a few days, maybe tomorrow, will touch on some of this election's key fantasies. Think Taxachusetts and such. No matter who gets the primary dubbing, you can be sure such clichés will be in the air.

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