Nothing strikes deeper into the heart of a politician than to have a governing rival call him or her ” irrelevant.” Well that’s what Senate President Therese Murray called Governor Deval Patrick a few days ago. The Governor, who coined the term ” Yes, We Can” and captured the corner office on Beacon Hill with promises of real change, has become to many of his supporters a huge disappointment and to his fellow Democrats in the legislature an obstacle to their vision of running the Commonwealth.
Despite great anticipation among voters that Patrick had the formula for reforming the ageless political culture in the State House, there is now an emerging consensus that he has squandered all the political capital he once held. His re-election bid, if there is one, is in deep trouble as the Republicans are smelling blood every time they look at Patrick’s sagging poll numbers.
In many respects, Patrick suffers from the Jimmy Carter syndrome-an outsider who plans to shake up the establishment and bring reform to government, only to find that his inexperience and rusty negotiating skills create a climate of mistrust and political gridlock. All the hope on election day that Massachusetts would evolve into a different political environment has turned sour as again the winds of cynicism fill the air.
Granted that Patrick has led the state through some of the toughest times in recent memory; there is little he can do but say no to just about any new program. His primary job these days is to cut, cut and cut some more. In this climate of economic meltdown, it is nearly impossible to say Yes, We Can.
But if a governor can’t hand out the goodies, than he has to have the persuasive skills to bring change to those sectors of government that are in need of reform. So far Patrick has shown little capacity to move the political conversation from budget cuts to structural reform in transportation, pensions, and tax policy. There is no sense of movement in the State House; no sense that a governing strategy is being implemented. In short, nothing is happening except budget cuts.
Maybe the governor needs a new set of advisers; maybe he needs to take a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people; or maybe he needs to read what happened to Jimmy Carter when Ronald Reagan asked the American people on the campaign trail, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago.”