James P. Freeman: Obama, Patrick: Unrepentant progressives


“It’s one for all and all for one

We work together, common sons”

                                               --Rush, “2112”


Like progressive rock of the 1970s, progressive politics of the 2010s, also overwrought and overvalued, may be fading into the collective memory. As evident from the recent election, sensible candidates fled from proximity to its platitudes.


President Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, individually heralded as the new voices of progressivism,  may come to collectively symbolize its very impotence and likely temporary revival. Kindred spirits, youthful and dynamic, for 10 years they have occupied a unique space in the temple of the American body politic. Their brand of progressivism, carelessly applied yet tethered to the original philosophical tenants from last century, has proven to be long on compassion and short on competence.


From savvy prodigies to seasoned professionals, their lives bear remarkable parallels with recurring intersections. Both were raised by a single mother and experienced strained relationships with a distant father. Both are married to attorneys and have two daughters. Both attended Harvard Law School and were civil-rights lawyers. Both are well-versed in Chicago-style politics. Both have had a family member ordered deported then granted legal status. Both supported Roland Arnall’s (founder of scandal-plagued mortgage lender Ameriquest) 2005 appointment as ambassador to the Netherlands.


Both have enigmatic relationships with the Clintons (as counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Patrick sued then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in a voting case; in 1994 President Clinton appointed him as an assistant attorney general. Obama selected Hillary Clinton as secretary of state after defeating her in 2008). And both will be remembered for electoral firsts: Obama as the first African-American president; Patrick as the first African-American governor to be re-elected.


Obama-Patrick today are the political equivalent of Lennon-McCartney, authors and architects of liberalism’s lyrical chorus and progressive arpeggios.


They gained national exposure for soaring speeches at Democrat National Conventions (Obama in Boston, 2004; Patrick in Charlotte, N.C., 2012). During the 2008 primary, Obama--denying accusations (raised by Clinton’s campaign) of plagiarizing a 2006 Patrick speech--confirmed, “Deval and I do trade ideas all of the time.”


Consider, then, the undeniable similarity, if not synchronicity, in their style and substance. Throughout elective office, their oratory and orthodoxy seem meticulously orchestrated. Patrick’s 2006 slogan: “Together we can.” Obama’s 2008 slogan: “Yes we can.”

Rarely stepping inside the soul of scripture, except when politically expedient, they both paraphrased Exodus 23 in remarks seemingly choreographed regarding immigration policy. This past July, Patrick: “My faith teaches that, if a stranger dwells…” This November, Obama: “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger….”


Their beliefs illustrate perfectly the prurience of progressivism: omnipresent government as monopolizer of wisdom, allocator of capital, liquidator of competition, juror of diversity, dispenser of fairness, enforcer of selective laws and, now, a counselor in competence. Little in heaven or on earth is exempt from intervention.


Regarding global warming—despite a seventeen year pause and now known, with a sort of ambiguous panache, as “climate disruption”—Patrick said, “The overwhelming judgment of science… has put that question to rest.” Days later, in his 2014 State of the Union address, Obama said, “…the debate is settled… [disruption] is a fact.”


Nothing exemplifies unrepentant progressivism, however, better than the Affordable Care Act, whereby government, as social scientist, is reliant upon “experts” to engineer and deliver progress. MIT economist and paid health reform adviser Jonathan Gruber, cited by Obama (having “stolen” Gruber’s “ideas liberally”) for his role in ACA’s creation, recently affirmed what reasonable skeptics already knew: the law was based upon manipulation and deception, shadowing a flawed state model (slowly bankrupting Massachusetts). Few realize that Gruber, who last decade also advised Massachusetts, still sits on the board of its Health Connector, implementer and administrator of “model” healthcare.


After ACA’s disruptive roll-out in October 2013 (see CGI Federal, ultimately fired by Massachusetts and the federal government), Obama returned to Boston, extolling the virtues of  the ACA.


At Faneuil Hall, after being introduced by Patrick (saying the law was not a Web site but a “values statement”), Obama defended a so-called “progressive vision of healthcare for all.” With indifference to reality, he bizarrely claimed it connected “some ideas about markets and competition that had been championed by conservatives.” Shortly thereafter, the Mass. Connector site crashed, unable to conform to ACA’s myriad rules and regulations.


With Patrick leaving office in January, Obama said last March that the governor would make “a great president” and his friend “could be very successful at the federal level.” It remains to be seen, however, if a kind and merciful God will allow a nebbish state manager, harboring national ambitions, to once again quote from The Good News in a new public capacity.


James P. Freeman is a former Cape Cod Times columnist