Last October 23, President Barack Obama flew into Boston to host a fundraiser for his good friend, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The well-advertised affair was held in the ballroom of the exclusive Westin Hotel in Copley Square. The expectations, needless to say, were sky-high.
"You fired up?" Patrick shouted into the microphone, a phrase both he and Obama often use to greet audiences. "You ready to go?"
Unfortunately for Patrick, the audience was anything but fired up, and some were already itching to leave.
Why? Because half the tickets for the event never even sold. Democrat loyalists meandered nervously about the empty seats, trying to blame the lack of interest on the bad economy.
When President Obama took the podium, he touted Gov. Patrick's many non-existent accomplishments, and exhorted the small gathering to support his friend's reelection in what promises to be a "tough race."
In poll after poll, Deval Patrick's numbers have been sinking for more than two years. A recent poll gave him a 37% approval rating and a 55% disapproval rating. Another poll found that half of Massachusetts voters believe that Patrick should not even seek the Democratic nomination in 2010.
My, how things have changed! (See my 2008 article, Governor Deval Patrick: "Together We Can"...Have Racial Preferences.)
In 2006, Deval Patrick cruised to the governorship with 55% of the vote, if only because the Massachusetts political and media establishment literally guilted the public into voting for him. If you weren't for Deval, you were a racist—pure and simple.
Moreover, we were told that having a black governor would enable Massachusetts to dispel the racial antagonisms that have hung over it since the racial redlining scandals of the 1960s, the anti-busing protests of the 1970s, and the Larry Bird-led, unusually white, Boston Celtics of the 1980s. Deval Patrick was to be a race-transcendent figure who would finally bring the Commonwealth together.
Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out that way.
Virtually from the beginning, Deval Patrick has governed as far more of a "race man" than most of his supporters anticipated. For example, at the gubernatorial inauguration, Patrick broke with tradition and insisted on not taking his oath of office inside the State House chamber. Instead, Patrick chose to be sworn in on the State House front steps, facing the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial on the Boston Common, which honors the all-black 54th Regiment that fought in the Civil War.
Deval Patrick also took his oath of office with his right hand placed on The Mendi Bible—the bible given to John Quincy Adams by the captive slaves of the Amistad. During his Inaugural Address [Text], Patrick also made special reference to the Amistad, and to one of the leaders of the slave revolt that took place aboard the ship.
I had to wonder, when listening to the speech, why Deval Patrick chose, at this moment, to identify with an African slave who led a violent uprising against the white slave traders who had purchased him.
At any rate, Gov. Patrick soon proved that, despite his Ivy League credentials, he did not represent a new brand of race-transcendent leader. Rather, Patrick has proved himself to be as race-obsessed as any member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
For example, during the Henry Louis Gates v Officer James Crowley saga, Gov. Patrick echoed President Obama's racial-fingerpointing and described the incident as "every black man's nightmare and a reality for many black men."
When the public reacted negatively toward Barack Obama's televised race-hustle over the Gates arrest, do you want to guess what Deval Patrick did?
Nothing. He virtually hid inside the Governor's office and waited for whole controversy to blow over. This, despite the fact that the entire incident happened in his state, and at his alma mater.
So much for being a race-transcendent leader.
Indeed, not only has our first black governor not brought the Commonwealth of Massachusetts together, there is a growing sense that Deval Patrick simply does not fit in here at all.
For example, the most popular rite of state politics is the annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast in South Boston. It is a political roast during which local pols are under enormous pressure to be funny. Usually, they are very successful.
At former governor Mitt Romney's first breakfast, Romney took the podium and explained his opposition to gay marriage. "As a Mormon," said Romney. "I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman….and a woman… and a woman."
It brought the house down. And Romney joke, perfectly delivered, was rebroadcast over and over again on local media.
Naturally, at every St. Patrick's Day Breakfast, Gov. Patrick has been under a lot of pressure to be funny—and every time he flops.
The thing about the St. Patrick's Day Breakfast is that it is a nearly all-white affair and virtually no blacks ever attend. It is held in South Boston—the epicenter of anti-busing protest during the 1970s. The sight of watching a black man, who clearly resents being there, take the podium and try to be funny in front of an all-white crowd is simply unbearable to watch.
It was another bomb. Raising taxes is no laughing matter in Massachusetts. In 2006, Patrick campaigned on property tax relief, but never delivered. Instead, Gov. Patrick has presided over the largest tax increase in state history. This includes a hike in the alcohol tax and a 1.25% increase in the sales tax (6.25% total).
The result—which was widely predicted—is that a great many people drive an extra hour or so to go shopping in New Hampshire, which has no sales tax. Even one Patrick ally was recently photographed in the parking lot of a New Hampshire liquor store, loading the trunk of his state-owned vehicle with cases of booze.
However, the one area where Gov. Patrick is most out of touch with the voters is his unwavering support for illegal immigration. In fact, one of his first official acts as governor was to kill a partnership between ICE and the state police to screen for illegal aliens.
Last year, when ICE raided a New Bedford factory that was employing illegal aliens, Patrick took the side of the illegals and characterized the ICE raid as a terrible "humanitarian crisis."
In the most recent state budget, the state legislature cut a $70 million dollar health insurance program for legal immigrants (many of whom are actually illegal). But Patrick insisted the immigrant insurance program be restored to the budget.
So now we have to pay higher taxes so that immigrants can get free health insurance?
Good luck campaigning for re-election on that one.
The weird thing is that Deval Patrick actually is campaigning for re-election as an immigrant advocate. He recently released his "New Americans Agenda", which was drafted by a commission he created last year through an Executive Order. The report recommends virtually every nutty pro-immigration idea imaginable, including in-state tuition and drivers licenses for illegal aliens.
These immigrant-coddling proposals will be dead on arrival for at least two reasons:
1) The Massachusetts legislature has continually defeated in-state tuition for illegal aliens due its overwhelming unpopularity.
2) State legislators rarely pay attention to anything Deval Patrick says or does anyway.
My prediction: Deval Patrick will not be reelected in 2010—and not simply because of his terrible job performance, his pro-immigration pandering, and his political tin ear.
Deval Patrick will not be reelected because he has already served his purpose. You see, voting for Deval Patrick has allowed Massachusetts liberals to confirm to their peers, and to themselves, their racial high-mindedness. But achieving that only requires that you vote for him once.
I can't tell you how many times I have heard white liberals here say something like, "Well, I voted for Deval Patrick in 2006, but I am not going to vote for him the next time."
The Republican front-runner in 2010 is Charles Baker, the kind of candidate Massachusetts elites truly adore because he is just like them, or at least, how they like to think of themselves: A Harvard-educated patrician in the mold of former Gov. William Weld—fiscally conservative, socially liberal. You get the picture.
While we still know little about Charles Baker at this point, he has recently made several encouraging pro-enforcement statements. He obviously realizes that immigration is one area where Deval Patrick is extremely vulnerable.
This raises an important question: what will a Deval Patrick defeat mean for Barack Obama?
How many of those who supported Obama in 2008 will withdraw their support in 2012 not simply because of his poor job performance, but because they have already had plenty of time to pat themselves on the back for electing a black president?
By 2012, our elites will need a new means of stroking their egos, especially if Obama's approval rating continues to dip and the GOP continues to make considerable gains.
If you think I'm being unrealistic, then consider the fact that last year Barack Obama was able to turn his 47th birthday party into a $5 million campaign fundraiser in downtown Boston. But only one year later, Obama headlines another fundraiser in Boston and the Democrats can barely sell any tickets.
The unmistakable reality is that the people of Massachusetts are ready to abandon their failed experiment with minority rule.
The rest of the country cannot be far behind.
Matthew Richer (email him) is a writer living in Massachusetts. He is the former American Editor of Right NOW magazine.