Monday, November 27, 2006

Segolene can learn from Deval Patrick

I know this sounds repetitive, but there are so many good American political analogies for what's happening in France right now that it's hard to ignore them. This year the state of Massachusetts held an election for Governor (that's basically the leader of a state for any non-US readers out there). The Republican candidate, Kerry Healey, was in many ways the state's Sarkozy. As Lt. Governor, she had positioning herself for four years to succeed the current Governor, namely by standing next to the actual Governor during any press conferences. Much of her election campaign focused on fighting crime, and she used dark TV ads to promote the idea that her opponent, an African-American, was sympathetic to murderers and likely to release criminals. This opponent, Democratic candidate Deval Patrick, was in many way's the Segolene Royal of the race. Although he had worked in the Clinton Whitehouse, he was relatively unknown before the election campaign, and he promised a break from the partisan politics of the past. His whole message was about people "checking back" into politics, bringing people into the process who had left because of disinterest and disgust. In many ways it was a very populist campaign, and if anything was similar to Royal, it was that he was constantly open to new ideas from everyone he met, even his political rivals.

So who won? Kerry Healey's scare-tactics backfired tremendously, and although she strongly attacked Patrick in debate after debate, her poll numbers never rose above 30-something %. What did Deval Patrick do to ward off her viscious attacks? Nothing. In most every debate he would talk about his ideas, the ideas of others, and the future. Even when the rhetoric got the hottest, and he was being accused of trying to get an rapist and murderer out of prison, he stood by his message and above the petty political firestorm. By not engaging in such low tactics, his reputation as a new and fresh face was automatically raised in the public eye, and he won the election with 55.5% of the vote, beating Healey's 35% by a long margin. Sarkozy would do well not to follow the lead of Healey. As for Royal, optimism can win elections, just make sure you stay on message.

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