New York Media Touts Private Equity Obamist Deval Patrick as Presidential Candidate

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

Bain Capital’s corporate logo: Vultures, rampant, on a field of bones

Bain Capital’s managing director and the Obama circle’s choice for next president. “We get the government we deserve in a democracy,” Deval Patrick unironically said, according to the original caption (Photograph by John Trotter/MAPS for The New Yorker).

Yet another agent of wealth is being touted as a Democratic Party candidate for president — it seems there’s no end of them. This time the candidate is no Mike Bloomberg, with his suspect past, his narcissistic sense of entitlement, and openly limousine lifestyle, but an under-the-radar Democratic governor named Deval Patrick.

Patrick ticks all the boxes. He’s loved by the Obama organization, he has that next-Obama feel on the stump, and he’s a “moderate” (meaning corporatist) in a year when Third Way organizations are searching hard for a “sounds progressive, serves the donors” candidate to throw against the Donald Trump or Mike Pence wall in 2020.

And now he has the the big New York media pushing his candidacy, firing his big opening salvos for him. Jeffrey Toobin, not a no-name writer, has an absolutely glowing piece about Patrick in The New Yorker. Let’s take a look (emphasis mine throughout):

Toobin open this way:

On Election Night last week, Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, went out to dinner with his wife, Diane, near their apartment, in Boston’s Back Bay. They propped up their iPads on the table, trying to synchronize their schedules after a hectic couple of months. On weekdays, Patrick had been on the road for his job, as a managing director at Bain Capital, the investment firm founded by his predecessor as governor, Mitt Romney. On weekends, he had travelled to a dozen states, to campaign for Democratic candidates in the midterms, and, in the process, to generate the kind of good will and name recognition that could help him if he chooses to run for President in 2020. Diane, meanwhile, had been winding down her law practice, as a management-side labor lawyer at the major Boston firm Ropes & Gray, where she had recently given up her partnership after working there since 1995. Back at home, after dinner, Patrick took a quick look at the election results, and then turned in early, rising, as is his custom, at dawn, to take stock.

Notice, among the down home details of this warm portrait, these critical facts: Deval Patrick is managing director of Bain Capital. His wife Diane is a labor lawyer, but on the management side, meaning she helps corporations fend off unions.

Toobin clearly doesn’t see any of that as a minus, but he should. Bain Capital, worth nearly $100 billion in privately held assets, is an acquirer and destroyer of companies:

In his 2009 book The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy, Josh Kosman described Bain Capital as “notorious for its failure to plow profits back into its businesses,” being the first large private-equity firm to derive a large fraction of its revenues from corporate dividends and other distributions. The revenue potential of this strategy, which may “starve” a company of capital, was increased by a 1970s court ruling that allowed companies to consider the entire fair-market value of the company, instead of only their “hard assets”, in determining how much money was available to pay dividends. In at least some instances, companies acquired by Bain borrowed money in order to increase their dividend payments, ultimately leading to the collapse of what had been financially stable businesses.

A classic “leveraged buyout” company, a vulture capital operation. Here’s what Bain did to Toys ‘R’ Us in 2018:

Just a few years ago, Toys ‘R’ Us was an iconic American retailer. Six months ago, it filed for bankruptcy. Two days ago, it announced that all 800 of its American stores, and all 100 of its British ones, are closing or being sold. As many as 33,000 workers could lose their jobs.

What happened to America’s biggest toy store?

Simply put, vulture capitalists ate it.

One of those vultures was Bain Capital. Deval Patrick was its managing director, the man in charge, when this occurred.

So why is Jeffrey Toobin writing about him? Maybe because Patrick is much loved by the Obama inner circle:

Patrick would enter the race with one significant distinction: he is a kind of political heir to Barack Obama, and enjoys broad support from people close to the former President. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s former senior adviser and still a close friend, told me, “Deval would make an outstanding President. He’d make a terrific candidate.” She added, “President Obama and Deval are very much alike in terms of their core values, what drove them into public service, their willingness to lend a hand, the responsibility to give back. I think they share a basic philosophy about what it means to be a good citizen.” Obama and Patrick also have in common roots in Chicago, Ivy League educations, and complicated relationships with largely absent fathers (which both men have chronicled in memoirs that feature youthful pilgrimages to Africa). They espouse a politics of unapologetic idealism, with a largely moderate, center-left orientation. On the stump, both are part teacher and part preacher. “Deval is a very genuine person, a very empathetic person,” David Axelrod, who has been a strategist for Patrickas well as for Obama, told me. “He is a guy who makes people feel comfortable. He’s very principled, you can see that—just like Obama.”

Ignore the adoring prose layered into that paragraph — “They [Obama and Patrick] espouse a politics of unapologetic idealism, with a largely moderate, center-left orientation. On the stump, both are part teacher and part preacher” — and focus on the endorsements. Patrick’s “unapologetic idealism” is just not true; both Obama and Patrick are corporatists who serve wealth first. Being “part teacher and part preacher” just means he, like Obama, is a good Elmer Gantry.

As for Patrick being “principled,” indeed he is; he’s principled “just like Obama,” though I’m sure Toobin doesn’t mean this as ironically it sounds to any real student of Obama.

Most of the piece is like that — painfully praising, and painfully revealing in a way unintended by Toobin. For example, here’s Toobin on why Patrick was opposed to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination:

That afternoon, Patrick and I sat down at a diner in Asbury Park. In Washington, Brett Kavanaugh was being confirmed as a Justice of the Supreme Court, and Patrick explained his opposition to the nomination. “Some of it is very personal,” he said. … In 1993, Patrick’s brother-in-law was convicted of raping Patrick’s sister, and Diane has talked openly about being a victim of domestic abuse during her first marriage. “I can confirm that the experience of not being believed or having the experience not taken as seriously or treated as seriously is extremely painful,” he said. He spoke with sorrow and emotional distance, and [Toobin couldn’t bring himself to write “but”], notably, didn’t denounce Kavanaugh directly, or Trump for choosing him.

Note in this passage the compelling verbal portrait of a man whose sister had been raped, speaking “with sorrow and emotional distance,” followed immediately by the lack of condemnation of either the rapist, the radical who nominated him, nor the destructive agenda the Kavanaugh court will enact. Toobin’s personal access to Patrick (“That afternoon, Patrick and I sat down at a diner in Asbury Park”), his front-and-center self-placement as the writer picked to roll out Valerie Jarrett’s front-runner, also stands out. The piece is a paint job, and deaf to its ironies.

None of this means that Patrick won’t be a force to be reckoned with in 2020. Both Toobin and David Axelrod attest to Patrick’s preacher power on the stump. Toobin: “Soon after Patrick started to campaign, Axelrod got a phone call from his sister Joan, who lives in Massachusetts … “She had never done anything like this before, but she gets on the phone and says she’s just met Deval and he is incredible. ‘He’s the real deal. You have to come here and work for him.’” … Patrick beat Reilly by twenty points in the primary.”

As a sleeper, Patrick is well positioned to surprise. Be prepared to find him in the running as the race evolves, with both money and power behind him and yes-we-can media angels at his shoulder.

Toobin, closing on a note of swelling church-organ glory, emphasizes Patrick’s chosen theme, “hope and kindness”:

“It struck me that something is so wrong when we learn to shout our anger and whisper our kindness,” he went on. “We have got to learn to stop being ashamed of being kind.” In the church and elsewhere, Patrick left a message of hope and kindness. The question, for Patrick and everyone else, is whether there is a wider audience for it in this fierce and broken political moment.

Is there a place for “hope and kindness” in this “fierce and broken moment”? Let’s ask the broken employees of Toys ‘R’ Us before seeking kindness from Deval Patrick, their destroyer.

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48 comments

  1. JerryDenim

    So in addition to being a Bain Finance vulture, Deval Patrick’s wife is a union buster and he is apparently unfazed by Kavanaugh’s nasty right-wing partisanship or his radical right judicial agenda.

    Wow. What a great Democrat.

    Hope and kindness- seems so familiar?

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether

      Sounds like exactly the kind of Democrat the outgoing Establishment (and they will be outgoing) wants to leave in place. Very attractive to suburban Republicans. The union hatred forms a bond…

      Reply
  2. Tomonthebeach

    Maybe the DNC secretly likes Trump, and that is why it is offering these 2020 wannabes this holiday weekend with Turkeys like Patrick, O’Rourke, and Biden. Neokapitalismus uber ales?

    Reply
    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Yes, and on a related matter, people should start to ask if Rachel Maddow and her ilk aren’t in fact Republican double agents.

      After all, who but people working for the Republicans would have squandered two years with a parade of hair-on-fire/”the walls are closing in on Trump” reports that at best are exaggerated and at worst totally false, and have the practical effect of inoculating him against his actual crimes?

      Yeah, getting Trump for paying off a porn star, that’ll save the Republic! Go, Stormy!

      As for Patrick, no, never, ever…

      Reply
  3. The Rev Kev

    Actually I can see the logic in this and Deval’s Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deval_Patrick) certainly makes interesting reading. I guess that Bain Capital is tired of tearing down and destroying American companies and now wants to go for the big one – the American government itself. With a Bain alumni in charge, can you imagine how much the US Social Security system will fetch on Wall Street and how much it can be bilked for? Or Medicaid? As the US government cannot go bankrupt like Toys ‘R’ Us as they produce their own dollars, whole Departments could be sold off and privatized and Bain Capital is just the company with the know-how to do it. I wonder how much the Department of Agriculture will go for. Or Commerce. Or Education. Or Housing and Urban Development. Should be quite a firesale.

    Reply
  4. Altandmain

    Effectively, the US is increasingly governed by kleptocrats out for personal enrichment. Trump is just one of many kleptocrats. Most are looking to get wealthy after retirement.

    This Wall Street candidate, like Mitt Romney, got rich by helping destroy the jobs of American citizens through Bain Capital’s actions.

    I wonder if this is another “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Keep in mind that it took Bill Clinton to pass the “end of welfare as we know it”, NAFTA, and repeal the Glass-Steagall Act. A Republican would have faced far greater resistance. Similarly, Obama has received no criticism from Democrats for his war in Libya and his failure to prosecute Wall Street executives after the 2008 crisis.

    What might a neoliberal Democrat do? “End of social security as we know it”? Or something a bit more friendly sounding, but equally as ruthless?

    The only good possible outcome is that with people like Deval Patrick, Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, possibly Mark Zuckerberg, or maybe Hillary Clinton again, etc, they might split the vote and allow Bernie or a Berniecrat a serious shot at the White House. The other consideration is that many of these corporate Democrats may well give Trump a second term. Sad part is, I’m not even sure what’s worse, Trump or a neoliberal Democrat.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      and there’s the sticker in my shoe:^^^”…Sad part is, I’m not even sure what’s worse, Trump or a neoliberal Democrat….”^^^

      the part of me that’s a patriot…dwindling…atrophied…spent…wants to gear up, gird myself to war with Team Blue over this…this fakery, this bernaysian hopery…
      but that other part of me…the curmudgeon…hill people…now ascendant…wants to secede.
      declare myself a sovereign state, and have done with the seeming pointlessness of politics, as currently configured.
      what will the new iteration of “bernie bro” be?
      how did fact-free become the currency of the realm?
      (yes…I’ve been reading Baudrillard’s “America”…does it show?lol)

      Reply
      1. Fiery Hunt

        I hear ya, Amfortas…having no children and nearing the mid-century mark, I increasingly find myself thinking “To Hell with all of ’em…” and trying to figure out how best to just duck out and try to find some peace in the time I’ve got left. So tired of caring…particularly when so many people (Democrat AND Republican) are part of the problem.

        Reply
  5. Skip Intro

    The Wall St. Dems must be pretty desperate to promote ‘The guy who killed Toys R Us’. Didn’t they have a cute mascot? The memes practically generate themselves!

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      They blew their wad with defenses of Obama, and how would Bill Clinton have done in a more mature era of the World Wide Web?

      In 1992, he was elected with 42% of the popular vote after a climb down from close to 60% for a generic Democrat, doing poorly in almost every Democratic area but with young, suburban white women. Ignoring his extramarital liaisons, how would his campaign kick off location or his ties with Wal-Mart or Tyson’s chicken have looked? The memes of the Clinton campaign kick off in ’92 would be offensive by many standards and numerous. Bill in front of a factory farm, dead villagers in Rwanda, images from “Roots”, or Jim Crow Era society just from one picture. The original image Bill wanted to present might be ignored in the moment, but it’s vile.

      They tried nostalgia for JFK a few months ago, and the youngest person to vote for Jack is 76. Is a Roosevelt unavailable? The other side of the problem is centrism is inherently rotten ideology which would only attract non critical thinkers and those who were so greedy they would never be able to think clearly. HRC gets knocked as the one person who could lose to Trump, but consider, she may have been the best candidate Team Blue had. Biden wouldn’t attract crowds or enjoy an emotional connection or a myth of secret liberal Biden due to having to support his conservative wife Jill. Hillary enjoyed those excuses.

      Reply
      1. Altandmain

        Is a Roosevelt unavailable?

        The donors would never allow a Roosevelt anywhere near the White House.

        The closest we have is Bernie Sanders and possibly other Berniecrats. Any conventional Democrat is too corrupt and too bought out by the donors to be responsive to the needs of the common citizen.

        The other side of the problem is centrism is inherently rotten ideology which would only attract non critical thinkers and those who were so greedy they would never be able to think clearly.

        That’s the issue. The very wealthy are invested in keeping the current system. It is failing everyone else, but it is working for them at our expense.

        Reply
  6. emorej a hong kong

    The establishment’s anybody-but-Bernie forces are certain to appreciate that they cannot permit the anti-Bernie vote to be divided between even two major opponents, especially those with overlapping identity appeals.

    Kamala Harris still seems like by far the most logical horse for them to unite behind, not least because she is more of a blank slate (and thus packagable) to Dem voters in the early New Hampshire primary, where Bernie crushed Hillary in 2016, and where most voters probably already know that Deval Patrick is not going to deliver more change than Hillary would have.

    Reply
    1. johnnygl

      Kamala Harris ain’t no blank slate….

      As AG she defended the use of prison labor and pushed back against reform attempts, in addition to giving Steve Mnuchin a pass.

      I think the establishment is going to throw up a bunch of candidates early, see who catches on the most, and then cull the field rapidly to make sure they are united against Bernie. It’s a trick Republicans couldn’t pull off, we’ll see if team dem can do it.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Republicans used the sheep dog method. All those candidates were meant to prevent the not Jeb/Mittens vote from being too strong. Trump was at 20% or so going into it. If Jeb had managed to get to over 10%, I’m not sure Trump would have been as formidable. I think the idea was to keep the not Jeb vote from being too centralized. Jeb panicked when his numbers never reached a certain floor and his sheepdogs started saying Trump was conning everyone when Trump was still a “not Jeb” candidate.

        The Democratic field is quite poor for a number of reason, but they are desperate to capture an element of that Obama magic. It’s just Obama was never as good as the myth. Sanders isn’t HRC. Obama, Sanders, and Trump didn’t reach the heights against HRC because of missteps at the end of the game. It’s like Alabama losing to a FCS school in the closing seconds. If it happens, the reasons will be greater than a bad call or dropped pass.

        Reply
  7. Kurtismayfield

    Deval is just.looking for his next gig.. Bain isn’t going to keep him on forever. He will run, get like 7% in NH, and parley this into his next gig.

    Reply
    1. polecat

      You know, I think that pic of the Deval in blue was photo shopped. That’s not an alley, and those aren’t brick walls .. they’re really sliding stone monoliths in a sealed vault, slowly .. then all at once, squeezing what’s left of life out of the emaciated Middle Class.

      Reply
  8. johnnygl

    Coming from Massachusetts, where Patrick got two terms, he’s exactly what you’d think he is. He took it very easy on the hospital cartel that dominates Boston. He worked with mayor Menino to dish out hefty tax breaks to gentrify and redevelop the south boston waterfront. Plus more tax credits, cheap office space and high speed internet for ‘innovation centers’.

    Thomas Frank covered this area well. I really need to get his book.

    For the left, i think we need to be aware of how much the modern democratic party has cultivated the cities and states that they want to live in and which reproduce themselves and their values. Lots of immigrants, but the right kind, tech entrepreneurs, doctors and researchers and lawyers. Only enough poor ones to make sure there are plenty of housekeepers and landscapers available. High rents and house prices make sure the poverty is at a safe distance.

    Reply
      1. SwampYankee

        I’m really sorry to hear that about your sister, johnnygl. What a rotten [redacted]. I also agree with everything you say about the “Seaport” district and mass gentrification of our Commonwealth of Massachusetts — urban, suburban, and rural. These bourgeois liberal elites are also fine with the destruction of our natural resources to enrich developers through the creation of dystopian cul-de-sac sprawl in globally rare pine forests, just like they’re fine with Lupita taking care of their kids they don’t know or like (“she’s like part of the family!” you might ask Lupita if she feels the same way….)

        They will not last forever; change will come, and whether it’s Cromwell or FDR, the choice is in their hands (hint: I think they’re going to get Cromwell).

        Reply
        1. JohnnyGL

          Thanks for the kind words regarding my sister, she ended up getting her teeth sorted out and has bounced back reasonably well.

          However, it’s quite clear to me that when the budget had to be balanced, Gov. Patrick (and the state legislature, to be sure) decided to make ‘hard choices’ and told poor people on Mass Health (state medicaid) that they needed to make a sacrifice.

          Trump will shamelessly and eagerly run to Patrick’s left on this and hit him for it on the campaign trail. And he’ll be absolutely right. No other Republican would have the audacity to do it. Trump will do it in a heartbeat.

          Reply
          1. JW

            Just as unforgivable were the cuts, real and threatened, to mental healthcare, marginalizing mental health even more than it already is.

            Reply
    1. p fitzsimon

      Don’t forget the resume he came with to the governorship. Board of directors of Ameriquest, the godfather of sub-prime mortgages.

      Reply
  9. Swamp Yankee

    Patrick was Proto-Obama as Governor — talking a good game, delivering next to nothing. I remember being so hopeful when I saw him inaugurated on the Common in January, 2007. It was and is all b—s—.

    Patrick, like Obama, promised 100 and delivered a 12, and expects us to be happy for it.

    Things we still don’t have: any kind of shared prosperity outside Rt. 128; Rail connections between Boston and major cities like Springfield, New Bedford, and Fall River; a clear accounting of how Patrick’s Department of Families and Children literally lost kids who ended up dead, and so on.

    Like Mayor Marty Walsh, Patrick was the darling of the business classes, whose lust has now been transferred to his ideological — though not partisan — confrere, Charlie Baker (R-Mean Boss).

    With his mega-mcmansion in the Berkshires, Patrick makes clear the relationship of the Boston bourgeoisie and wealthy to the rest of the Commonwealth: metropole and colonies.

    Did I mention Patrick’s love of pipelines to export fracked gas ripped from destroyed Pennsylvanian landscapes to world markets?

    Like so many liberal [sic?] Democrats here in Massachusetts, Patrick is a moral abomination.

    Go Bain yourself, Deval!

    Reply
    1. johnnygl

      Trump will have an easy time dispatching Deval Patrick. He doesn’t even need to come up with a funny nickname because local repubs already did it for him….Cadillac Deval!!!

      Reply
      1. Swamp Yankee

        Yup! Remember the curtains thing in the Statehouse, too? Imagine that! A corporate lawyer not understanding (small “r”) republican simplicity! I’m shocked! shocked! to find there is gambling in Casablanca?

        Reply
    2. Kurtismayfield

      Baker is so close on policy to Deval that Howie Carr calls him “Tall Deval”. I still don’t understand how any of the scandals of the last few years haven’t hung around either of their necks.

      Reply
  10. RUKidding

    UGH. Thanks for bringing all the info together in one place. I only had a very sketchy notion about Deval Patrick, who he is/was, etc, other than mainly knowing that he works for Bain. As someone above said: Mittens with melanin. What else needs to be said, other than the obligatory:

    Thanks, Obama!

    Reply
  11. Butch In Waukegan

    Related to Patrick’s run?

    $20 million fund set aside for laid-off Toys R Us workers

    In a unique move among private equity-backed companies that file for bankruptcy, thousands of former Toys R Us workers will soon receive severance payments from a $20 million fund

    I seem to recall there were 30,000 or so workers let go. Divvying up the $20 million means under $700 per worker. Charge it off as PR.

    Reply
    1. RUKidding

      Chump change. Cost of doing bidness.

      Bastards.

      Let us not forget, however, that being poor is a “personal choice.”

      Reply
  12. Left in Wisconsin

    I’m thinking this is starting to look good for Bernie. He can be the Trump of the 2016 R nomination and the rest of them can be the 16 (I won’t say dwarves) others, none of whom can get traction. If he starts with a solid 25-30%, it’s going to be hard for any of the rest of them to consolidate the opposition. It will be interesting to see if the DNC starts thinking the same way and begins working to actively limit the size of the field.

    Reply
  13. JW

    Massachusetts is such a microcosm of the US economy because it has the wealthy, knowledge-economy coastal major metro (Boston), the ho-hum just-getting-by middle (Worcester, Manchester, Fall River/New Bedford), and the absolute left-behind rust belt devastated by the policies pushed by the coast (Springfield, the Berkshires, most of Rhode Island even if it’s on the coast). And as a bonus, a Caribbean-style ultra-unequal vacation paradise/worker hell (Cape Cod).

    This is the model society as created by the Democrats almost completed unimpeded by Republicans. It may be a better place to live than the rest of the US, but that says more about the rest of the US than anything.

    Reply
    1. Swamp Yankee

      Yes, this says it very well indeed. I might even include New Bedford and Fall River in the rust-belt.

      As I see it, you have the Metropole, in Wallerstein’s terms (the world system) the Core, in Rt 128 and the wealthy parts of Boston (not Chelsea, not Revere);

      You have the true periphery, in places like the Berkshires and Cape Cod;

      And then you have the semi-periphery, the Merrimack Valley, the Worcester Hills, Southeastern Massachusetts.

      I can certainly attest, from here on the border between the periphery and semi-periphery (C. Cod and SE Mass.), that things are very, very bad in the Commonwealth. My community college has homeless encampments as its neighbors. Needles are common, and the only economic opportunities are building new bars.

      Heckuva job, Dems!

      p.s. Almost forgot Deval’s great economic policy — casino gambling (‘gaming’). Yeah, that should do the trick to revive Springfield! Yeesh.

      Reply
  14. Michael Fiorillo

    By way of historical footnote and fwiw, Patrick’s father was the great baritone and alto saxophonist Laurdine (Pat) Patrick.

    Patrick was an alumnus of Du Sable High in Chicago and a student of the legendary Capt. Walter Dyett, whose alumni – Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Bo Diddley, too many more to list) – constitute one of the greatest musical legacies this country has produced.

    Pat Patrick was also the first member of the Sun Ra Arkestra, played with Ra for decades, as well as many other luminaries. A musician’s musician.

    Sun Ra was the Marcus Garvey (from Saturn) of jazz in some ways, especially during the years when Patrick was most active with him, and Patrick, too, was a “race man” at least according to Deval Patrick’s memoirs. As the post mentions, he frequently uses the absent father trope, and his father’s alienation from mainstream American culture, in counterpoint to his education and proper grooming at The Milton School and Harvard… Obama style. In this case, apples do wind up pretty far from their trees.

    Take four minutes away from the neoliberal Hellscape, for “the sound of joy:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvORQaz21_Y

    The baritone groove at the beginning and alto solo near the end are both Pat Patrick.

    Reply
  15. Senator-Elect

    Stoller nailed it on Twitter today:

    ‘Rising star’ as a political term should be reserved for people with a track record of real accomplishment. It should not be used to describe those who look good on TV and are below the age of 45.— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) November 20, 2018

    The media is just so horrible, it’s disturbing. But they, too, are a reflection of society and how sick it has become.

    Reply

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