Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hypocrisy Among the Partisans

Those who do not know me will certainly wonder if I've lost my mind, but lately I have become quite impatient with the partisan demagoguery coming from fellow Republicans here in Massachusetts.

In 2002 when Mitt Romney was elected Governor, his Inaugural Committee set about raising $1.3 million -- a record for inaugural spending until then -- much of it from Big Wig corporations (Reebok, Mass Mutual) and their chieftains (Bill Bain, Joe O'Donnell) and lawyers (Ropes & Gray), in $25,000 chunks. During his campaign, he portrayed himself (accurately) as an outsider and reformer, and pledged to "change state government" and not to be beholden to special interests. Surely, when he began collecting money for his three-day-long inaugural celebration, none of his Republican supporters would have failed to defend him against partisan accusations of "appearance of conflict of interest," since these same corporations and their chiefs were in a position to seek assistance from the Governor's office. Surely!

Romney's inaugural program also sought to present an all-inclusive, common man theme. From his campaign's website:

...Emphasizing the inaugural theme of inclusion and public service, Romney and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey were greeted upon their arrival at the State House by a "Citizens Welcome" of Girl Scouts, City Year Corps members and Beverly High School Band students. In Nurses Hall, they autographed inaugural post cards for school children, then saluted veterans in the Hall of Flags and shook hands with members of the public at the foot of the Grand Staircase.

Faces of citizens were on display throughout the inaugural events, photographed by high school students across Massachusetts. Romney and Healey started the day by serving breakfast to homeless veterans in Boston and later participating in a basketball game with middle and high school students at the Colonel Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester.

In a departure from the past, Romney and Healey held the traditional prayer service the previous evening at the New Covenant Christian Church in the predominantly minority neighborhood of Mattapan.

Tomorrow, they extend the festivities to western Massachusetts by visiting a Springfield elementary school.

To a man, we puffed out our chests and said "that's our man!! Way to go!!"

Well now the shoe is on the other foot. Deval Patrick, a man who grew up far, far from the cloistered neighborhood of Grosse Point in the slums of South Side Chicago, is pursuing plans for an inaugural that is much along the same lines as Romney's blueprint. Another record-setting private fundraising drive, targeting the A-list of Massachusetts business and society (along with a multitude of "little people"), and a five-day program that seeks to reach out to the geographical and cultural corners of the state. Bully for him.

But what do we hear from my fellow Republican bloggers?

Scorn. Ridicule. Contempt.

First, there's Matt and Aaron Margolis, publishers of Hub Politics, who slam Patrick's inaugural plans, positing that "all the reasons Deval Patrick gave for you to elect him are being refuted--by himself--all before his inauguration," and demonstrate that he is just an ordinary politician. (This is after a solid week of trashing Leslie Kirwan, the former Weld administration budget professional who was tapped as Secretary of A&F.)

Then Optimistic Patriot, my rhetorical foe at New England Republican, rolls out some of his best snark with this:

Ever notice how everything Governor-elect Patrick does is for the people? That’s the latest from Camp Patrick as more negative attention is focused on his special interest funded, budget busting inauguration. But he doesn’t want you to get the wrong idea by the $50,000 per special interests are plopping down to fund the bash because he’s making government more accessible to you through these parties. It’s your bash, Massachusetts.

But the idea that Patrick is making government more accessible to the people by charging them $50 a head for the privilege of attending his inaugural is laughable. But in a small nod to the populace’s distaste for his extravagance, Patrick is grabbing a fig leave by throwing some boots and shoes to poor children. This man gives till it hurts.

[Ed.: Can someone explain to me how an inauguration that hasn't happened yet can be "budget busting?" I know, I know -- hyperbole. See infra.]

Now I wasn't blogging back in December 2002 but I have to suspect that in December of 2002 there were plenty of lefty blog posts ridiculing Romney for being "for the people" and taking money from corporate fat cats. When they do, we bristle and smoulder and erupt in our best partisan snarking, and the debate (such as it is) immediately devolves into a Yo Mama contest between left and right. It's tawdry, juvenile and pointless.

So I ask my fellow Republican bloggers -- why is it okay for Mitt to put on a "people's inauguration" and raise money from corporate sources, but it is an act of sheer hypocrisy for Patrick to do the same?

I can hear O.P. already (actually, to quote him directly):

Deval Patrick set the bar very high. He promised a new direction and tone for state government. He positioned himself as the outsider. So the expectations are very high, but he set them, not me. And when you examine his actions so far, they don’t match his rhetoric. He’s meeting with Billy Bulger. He’s shuffling the same old people around. The same special interest groups running the state into the ground now funded his campaign and are throwing him the largest inauguration ever.

Hmmm. Change a few nouns, substitute a few names, maybe doesn't sound so different from Mitt.

And why is that a surprise. Isn't being "for the people" and "aganst special interests" what every (successful or unsuccessful) candidate is? Is the rhetoric so much different? Naah.

There used to be a tradition in the time and tide of electoral politics. It was called "The Honeymoon."

The opposition party would take a step into the background for a bit, allow the incoming victor the courtesy of a few months to select his team, execute his inaugural party, go through the transition process and submit his first budget. The Honeymoon might be long (Weld's) or short (Romney's), but it was granted. (Without doing any exhaustive research, my fuzzy memory says that even Mike Dukakis received a reprieve from his most avid opponents following his reprise primary victory over Ed King and subsequent trouncing of my dear friend, John Sears.)

But now it seems to be an all-out sprint to the front line at the inaugural parade route: the rabid participants, faces contorted despisingly, bullhorns perched lipward, tomato-pitching arms cocked at the ready, partisan minds convinced that their worst predictions are certain to be validated tomorrow.

So I suggest to those with a frothing cynicism (however born) of this particular aspect of Patrick's transition, CHILL OUT.

We Massachusetts Republicans have been advised by the vast majority not among us that our manner and method of communicating our ideas is nothing less than an abject failure. We cannot afford to wave our big swollen bruised egos around, lest they continue to strike unintended objects and cause further antipathy to those who otherwise might listen.

The man won an election with stunning ease. Pack your ammo and hold it for something that matters.

For the time being, remember what the value of magnanimity in defeat is to the spectator who might support your cause but objects to the message or the messenger. There are plenty of them out there.

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