When former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick envisions what Jan. 21, 2021, might look like if he is president, it sounds an awful lot like Jan. 21, 2009.
That was before the Affordable Care Act passed without a single Republican vote, before the Republican Senate refused to consider Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland, before Donald Trump was elected president by fed-up voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, before a party-line vote in the House impeached Trump. It was a time when President Barack Obama claimed to be laser-focused on not red states or blue states, but the United States.
For those eager for a return to bipartisanship, it was perhaps a rosier time. And Patrick seems optimistic that the future is a lot like that past.
“Most problems where the solutions stick are ones where there’s a collaborative solution,” Patrick said on Friday during an interview with the Globe’s editorial board.
“I have had to be a bridge — not just build one, be one,” he said. “I have a familiarity with the hard slow slog it takes to make those bridges work. But if we don’t try, we’re in trouble.”
The question is whether focusing on collaboration and bridge-building is an effective strategy to winning the Democratic nomination in a year when many on the left are furious and pledging their support to two progressive firebrands, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Patrick, who served as governor from 2007-2015 and entered the presidential primary just last month, has sought to distinguish himself from his progressive rivals. He does not support Medicare for All, but said he does support a public option within Obamacare. He has said in the past that he wants to reduce student debt and that he doesn’t specifically support a wealth tax.
In his interview with the Globe, Patrick argued that his case for economic change was not particularly new.
“It’s the same case that Barack Obama made a decade and a half ago,” Patrick said.
His claim that Obama-esque solutions will work in the Trump era contrasts sharply with the visions of Warren, who has become famous for promising “big, structural change” and Sanders, a Democratic Socialist, who has called for a political revolution.
Patrick also refused to attack his more moderate rivals, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
At the Democratic debate this week, Warren criticized Buttigieg for holding a private meeting in a “wine cave” in California with wealthy donors.
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren said.
When asked about his thoughts on that much-discussed cave, Patrick demurred.
“I don’t care about the wine cave. I mean honestly, I just don’t care,” Patrick said, arguing that the more important focus was on national unity.
“Either we’re one national community or we’re not,” he said. “This isn’t a defense of millionaires and billionaires, I’m just saying that prosperity is not the problem. It’s the hoarding to the detriment of all of us that is unsustainable.”
With his late entry, Patrick faces a steep uphill battle for the nomination, having already missed the deadlines to get onto the primary ballot in Arkansas and Alabama. His campaign also did not notify the state Democratic Party in Michigan that he wanted to be on the primary ballot before that deadline, but has said it ultimately collected enough signatures to get on the ballot anyway. He did not appear onstage at the Democratic debate this week, having missed the polling and fund-raising thresholds.
Even so, the former governor said he remained optimistic, pointing to polls in early voting states showing high numbers of undecided voters. And Patrick said that although his campaign has state directors in all the early states, he will be primarily focusing on New Hampshire and South Carolina, forgoing intensive efforts in Iowa and Nevada.
“If it’s intimate in New Hampshire, it’s granular in Iowa. What it takes to build so that there is somebody in every one of those precinct’s gyms on caucus day, is maybe not practical,” Patrick said.
He added, “I would not have gotten in if I didn’t think there was a path.”