“Without a doubt
When it comes to ideas about everything
King Friday XIII has them”
-- King Friday XIII, from “Making and Creating,” 1986
As Gov. Deval Patrick, the commonwealth’s veritable King Friday, prepares the dissolution of his domain, Democrats, with yeomanly purpose, searching for progressivism of yore, will soon descend upon the hills of Worcester to nominate a gubernatorial candidate. Who will play Queen Sara Saturday or Prince Tuesday to Patrick’s Friday?
In 1867 (the year Republicans held majorities over Democrats of 40-0 in the Senate and 230-10 in the House) Walt Whitman first published “O Me! O Life!.” If life is “a powerful play that goes on,” distressed Democrats may wish to control-alt-delete the last eight years of verse.
Patrick may be the most supercilious (about his abilities and policies) and super-sensitive (about criticism of his abilities and policies) public servant in modern-day Massachusetts. Given the official record, it will be interesting watching his party apply a progressive pumice to the corrosive and incorrigible government he has led.
A sampling of the governor’s ideas, leadership and management efforts: Funding at the embattled Department of Children and Families has been cut by over $100 million from fiscal 2007 to 2015 (12.4 percent). Unfunded pension liabilities have grown substantially to $23.6 billion. Government spending has increased by an average of $1 billion per year. State sales tax has increased by 25 percent. The gas tax, now pegged to inflation, will increase in perpetuity. Property taxes have risen by billions.
The once vaunted health-care exchange is left in ruins — now the worst performing in the country -- with $57 million having been spent on an unworkable Web site, with 160,000 residents being placed indefinitely on Medicaid, costing uncounted millions of dollars. Bankrupt Evergreen Solar, costing residents $50 million, “wasn’t a failure.” Welfare waste and fraud (19,000 “missing” recipients) is described as “leakage” and full of “anecdotes.” The imposition of near-martial law in the wake of last year’s marathon bombings was euphemistically called “shelter in place.”
A number of Democrat candidates have cited the following: Massachusetts has ranked in the bottom 15 states over the past decade in job creation. It has the sixth highest rate in America of drug users under the age of 18 (during an “opiate epidemic”). The commonwealth ranks 8th worst in the country for income inequality. The homeless population has grown by 8.7 percent in the last year, while rates have fallen nationally; taxpayers now spend $50 million annually to place homeless in hotels.
This has all occurred with the complicity of Democrat super-majorities in the legislature.
In polite progressive circles, however, there must be unimaginably little mention of Patrick’s “accomplishments” given the sheer puerility of them. At least former governor Michael Dukakis, the last true progressive, talked about competence. Of the five major Democrat candidates for governor, none speak about progress made because of the sheer preposterousness of the suggestion.
Today’s candidates surely must be living in the Neighborhood of Make Believe given their willful ignorance of serious matters affecting the commonwealth. Each echoes a narcissistic sentimentalism for timeless and timely liberal themes; each exhibits a certain cognitive dissonance about what is important, given the absence of addressing critical issues and proposing sensible ideas in their campaigns.
State Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley, consistently leading in primary- and general-election polling, believes that citizens should have greater “access” to community health centers. She desires expansion of “learning time” for education while lowering the costs of higher education (was Elizabeth Warren’s $347,000 salary at Harvard too high?).
State Treasurer Steven Grossman, who will “combine his progressive values and business experience,” has presided over an increase in the commonwealth’s unfunded pension liabilities while at treasury. He claims to have “revolutionized the way government operates at treasury.” He is also “fully committed” to achieving the goals of the MA Global Warming Solutions Act.
Corporate executive Joseph Avellone, M.D., is convinced “our largest challenge is and will be climate change.” Yet his “highest priority” is education.
Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for the federal Department of Homeland Security, “will focus on the issues that matter most to Bay Staters.” Among them: “combat[ing] climate change” and “protect[ion] of women’s reproductive rights.”
Finally, Donald Berwick, M.D., former Obamacare administrator, also believes climate change is the “most pressing concern to the health of our planet.” He sees Massachusetts leading the charge to have 3.3 million electric vehicles on our roads by 2025.
Here is a real pressing problem: The last time a Democrat succeeded a two-term Democrat governor was November 1934 when James Michael Curly was elected after Joseph B. Ely (1931-1935), when terms were two years. It has never occurred in the modern era when terms were extended to four years in 1966.
What should be clear in 2014, regardless, is that whomever the nominee, he or she may need a magical Boomerang-Toomerang-Zoomerang to ensure the neighborhood corner office remains in control of a Democrat.
James P. Freeman is a Cape Cod-based columnist.