Patrick isn’t waiting to play up his business background, however. During a recent appearance in Worcester, he drew an explicit analogy between corporate and political leadership. “In business, one of the phenomena that’s happening is that managers are managing for the short term, for this quarter, and sacrificing the long-term interests of the end product along the way,” Patrick said. “The same thing, I think, is beginning to affect government, when we govern for the next election cycle — or, in the case of the incumbent, for the next news cycle.”
Given the anti-business stance of much of the Democratic left, there’s some risk here. But Patrick insists the Democratic Party needs to lose its business baggage. “The point I make when I’m out talking to Democrats,” Patrick told the Phoenix, “is that Democrats have got to get comfortable again talking about the importance of the private economy. Because that’s where most people make their way.
“The difference between us and the right is — or ought to be — that we understand that there’s more than one bottom line,” he continues. “There’s the profit bottom line, and that’s right. That’s fine; I’m a capitalist; I understand this. But there are also environmental bottom lines, and community bottom lines, and human bottom lines. And the role of government, as I see it, is to balance those bottom lines — to create the corridor within which the free market operates. I don’t know that that is a Republican or a Democratic message. It’s pragmatism.”
Judging from the caucuses — where left-leaning Democrats tend to be overrepresented, and where Patrick won big — his message may be resonating. Then again, it’s not clear the Democrats who gave Patrick his big caucus victory actually took his views on business to heart. They may simply have decided that Patrick’s charisma — and his support of gay marriage, an issue where Reilly’s been spotty at best — make him the only palatable option. “Where else are progressives going to go?” asks one Patrick backer. “Are they going to go to Reilly? To Healey? There’s not a lot of options. And people seem to be willing to overlook minute issues, in favor of having a candidate who reflects their overriding interest.”
Big Money, Big Oil
As the race between Patrick and Reilly progresses, however, these issues might not stay minute. After all, Reilly needs to do something to reverse his free fall, which started with controversy over his imprudent intervention in a fatal-car-crash investigation (see “99 and 44/100 percent pure,” January 20). And while Patrick can be positively eloquent on some business matters — e.g., capitalism’s place in society — other issues related to business give him more trouble.
Take executive compensation. Last year, on NECN’s NewsNight With Jim Braude, Braude asked Patrick about the bloated $185 million compensation package that Jim Kilts, the CEO of South Boston–based Gillette, had just received for masterminding the company’s sale to Procter & Gamble. It was a great chance for Patrick to distance himself from the worst excesses of corporate America — and he took a pass. Kilts’s payout, Patrick said, was a matter for his board of directors to decide.