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wonkNOT's Patrick Interview


Michael (wonkNOT) interviewed Deval Patrick. This was interesting to me:
Deval astutely pointed out that while he often starts out his stump speeches talking about "why" – the values behind his stances and beliefs, people often say "yah, yah" get to the "how". He said that many people in the audiences he speaks to want to know the details, the wonky, policy stuff; not why he would do something but how. We discussed that there is a challenging tension between speaking about specifics (the how) and the need to continually connect to larger context/vision of "why". I feel that this is an important thing his campaign will need to figure out but if they get it right they’ve got room to run. This is where the framing comes in and the being repeatedly intentional about underlying values. It’s not easy but I do think its necessary.
I personally have little interest in the "how" (unless someone is proposing something genuinely revolutionary -- then you need to hear to know if the person is crazy or a genius). My problems with it are (1) I don't believe that anyone running for office really knows how they are going to get something done (2) It may undermine the effort to talk about it to the public first, rather than working the politics (3) It's more than a year before the term would actually start -- situations change.

So, I'd much rather hear approach and priorities and get the feel that the candidate is smart, engaged, and ready to lead. When Deval says that he's willing to spend political capital to get to universal coverage, that means a lot more to me than the specific bill he's backing.

Now, as we get closer to the election, you need a more concrete plan, because (1) the media and your opponents will make it impossible for you not to have one. (2) if you win, you need the plan to show what your mandate was for. But don't dismiss the reasons.

The why gives you an idea about what's going to be important to them when it comes time to compromise. Deval stresses the "universal" aspect rather than a specific plan (like single-payer -- although I've heard him say that he'd like to get to single-payer). I've also heard him say that he wants to get the uninsured covered fast -- that he couldn't see making them wait for a specific solution. I think that these statements give an indication of what he'd actually do far better than a specific plan would.