Kevin Cullen

On Patrick, conventional wisdom might just be wrong

Deval Patrick accepted his change after paying for his food at The Bridge Cafe in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday.
Deval Patrick accepted his change after paying for his food at The Bridge Cafe in Manchester, N.H., on Thursday. Charles Krupa/Associated Press/Associated Press

Having done a quick perusal of what passes for political analysis in our wacky, teetering democracy, it seems the perceived wisdom is that Deval Patrick, the genial former governor of Massachusetts, doesn’t stand a chance of becoming president, so he shouldn’t run.

But since when, in the four years after everybody who makes good money in the politics game said Donald Trump stood zero chance of becoming president, has the perceived wisdom been right?

America has, over the past four years, been like the earth after the Ice Age. Virtually nothing that was alive before is alive now. Nothing is what it was. Everything is changed. Precedent means nothing.


Remember when Trump made his dramatic entrance, riding down an escalator, foreshadowing what would be the downward trajectory of what passes for civility and decency in politics? He called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, and people yawned or reached for the clicker or a glass of wine and said, “This will not stand.”

But he kept standing, insulting women, disabled people, all and assorted minorities, POWs, Gold Star families, military leaders, allies, anybody who disagreed with him or had the temerity to point out that he didn’t know what was in the Constitution much less have any respect for it.

In 1972, Ed Muskie, the senator from Maine, was the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Shortly before the New Hampshire primary, William Loeb, the far-right publisher of the Manchester Union-Leader, printed an editorial accusing Muskie of using an ethnic slur against Americans of French-Canadian descent, using as evidence a letter later found to be a hoax planted by the Nixon administration. Loeb also belittled Muskie’s wife.

Muskie held an emotional press conference outside the paper’s offices and either cried or some melting snow made it appear he cried, and his candidacy was toast.


Fast forward to now and insulting women and ethnic groups is a surefire path to the White House.


The experts — ha! — say Deval Patrick got in the race too late, that everybody who’s any good is already working for all the other candidates in the circus car that is the Democratic race, that he doesn’t appreciate how the fund-raising game has changed from big corporate money to small donors, yada, yada, yada.

The Republicans, who should win a prize for somehow managing to speed past the Democrats in the race to elevate shamelessness to an art form, are champing at the bit to go after Patrick’s efforts to help his rapist brother-in-law, his weakness as an administrator, his relationship with Barack Obama, whatever. They’ll find something.

The Democrats, who devour their own with the zeal of parasitic wasps, are set to pounce on Patrick because he is a corporate lawyer — the horror — who has worked for some Darwinian companies and despite being a black man who grew up impoverished is somehow not woke enough or too centrist or something like that.

The guy grew up poor on the South Side of Chicago and made his way to Milton Academy, Harvard, the Justice Department and became only the second African-American to be elected governor in the United States. He must have something on the ball.

He’s also a decent person, which is, in America 2019, definitely a strike against him.

That might be the biggest knock on Patrick, as perhaps history may judge as the biggest knock on his pal Obama. Maybe he’s too nice a guy to go up against a bully and a braggart who is devoid of empathy.


That’s a fair point, but saying Patrick has nothing to offer in a presidential run, or that he somehow showed up too late, is silly in these days when talking about precedent or the right way to practice politics means nothing, when the guy in the Oval Office spends hours watching “Fox & Friends” and tweeting instead of reading briefing papers or the Constitution.

My spellcheck keeps changing “Deval” to “devil.”

Maybe the Republicans can run with that.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.