A Pollution Problem for Patrick’s Presidential Push?

Is it over before it even begins?

Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts who has largely shunned politics since leaving office and joining Bain Capital in 2015, is using some of his most direct language to date to acknowledge his interest in a presidential run in 2020.

“It’s on my radar screen,” Patrick told KCUR, a public radio station in Kansas City, where he was traveling last week for a civic event called “An Evening with Deval Patrick: Reinvesting in America.”

Patrick also spoke to the editorial board of the Kansas City Star about the polarized gun debate in the wake of the massacre in Parkland, Fla.

But his comments about running for president are likely to gain the most attention, as Democrats continue to cast about for a candidate who can effectively challenge President Trump.

David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, two former advisors to President Obama, are among those who have encouraged Patrick to consider running for the White House.

Patrick, who pulled Massachusetts out of the abyss Mitt Romney had thrust the state into a decade ago, would in theory make a compelling candidate to oppose Trump in 2020; his rise from poverty in Chicago to become a trusted advisor to both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, his fight for progressive principles as a two-term Governor and his strong oratory skills would mark the starkest of contrasts to what we’ve got now. However, Patrick’s ties to Bain would not be the only thing that could cause his potential presidential campaign to blow up on the launchpad.

Patrick’s former Lieutenant Governor, Tim Murray, is making things a bit difficult for his erstwhile colleague these days, ticking off progressive activists by hailing the virtues of fracked gas on Twitter. If Patrick runs, those who rightfully demand that Democrats take a firm and unambiguous stand against fossil fuels (as opposed to merely expressing support for more clean energy) will pressure Patrick to formally condemn his former Lieutenant Governor’s pro-fracking propaganda—and will formally condemn Patrick if he does not. That’s going to be a problem, since Patrick is presumably no more inclined to strongly criticize Murray than Al Gore was to strongly criticize his former running mate, Joe Lieberman. Patrick can’t serve two masters, and if he runs afoul of progressive activists by refusing to reject his past political partner’s fondness for fracking, his chances for a Democratic primary victory could be impacted.

On page 223 of his 2011 book A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life, Patrick observed:

We each have a responsibility to the next generation. Everyone I have ever known was taught by his or her grandparents that our highest calling is to leave the world better than we found it. Meeting our generational responsibility may involve the grand gesture or a private act of grace or kindness, the historic accomplishment or some more personal form of service to the greater good. But it must be met.

The progressive activists who oppose fracked gas because of its threat to the next generation–the progressive activists Patrick’s ex-running mate has shamelessly offended–would agree with every word. Yes, it can be argued that Patrick is not supposed to be his former lieutenant governor’s keeper, and should not be held responsible for Murray’s promotion of pollution. However, there is a compelling counterargument: the interests of future generations, to say nothing of today’s public health and safety, are far more important than Murray’s feelings.

If Patrick wants to become the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, he needs to give progressives a reason to believe, no?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.