A Keller at Large blogBy Jon Keller

Thanks, Kennedy brothers.

Ever since JFK, you give a Massachusetts politician a convincing re-election win and a compelling personal story with an image-making machine behind it, and look out world, here they come to save the day. For two generations, we’ve been the Universal back lot of political hubris, where serial ambition rehearses its next star turn.

And now we know what the “new kind of politics” Deval Patrick promised us was – another dose of the same old bitter medicine.

Let’s stroll down bad-memory lane: Dukakis, jamming unaffordable health-care “reform” through for use as a campaign prop, while papering over a huge budget deficit; Weld, embassy-hunting at the White House before they’d even bussed the empty longnecks at his re-election victory party, and bailing out mid-term; Cellucci, gone to Ottowa at mid-term; Romney, grabbing for RGA markers even before mid-term; John Kerry. In a few years, maybe Scott Brown too.

It never seems to result in any benefit to the citizens. Mostly, it comes out of our hide. Bills filed and budget cuts made for their branding value, not their moral and fiscal logic. Positions taken and political alliances formed with more regard for their political payoff than their benefit to the state. A shrinking from hard choices that might not play in the greener pastures of the future.

What if, come budget crunch time this year or next, a watershed bill curbing public employee benefit costs – like the plan design reform the governor says he backs – comes up for a vote, and a scene descends on Beacon Hill like the one in Wisconsin? Would Obama surrogate Deval Patrick be willing to take the heat, especially if his position conflicted with preferred White House policy? Or would our latest national-figure-in-the -making be an easier mark for the most powerful pressure groups within his party?

Presidential name-floater, senatorial hopeful, CEO on the make for the choicest board of director slots, or just retro-egomaniac, it really doesn’t matter what brand of soap the new Patrick PAC (YesPAC? WePac? Or CanPac? So many choices) winds up peddling. It can’t be good for us, this all too familiar retro-new politics, whatever self-serving goal it’s striving for.

Jon Keller