Deval Patrick might have made a run for the presidency in 2016. A two-term governor of Massachusetts, Patrick could have chosen to challenge Hillary Clinton, and would have threatened to eclipse her among progressives. Instead, Patrick has taken a pass on the opportunity, and on the constituency, by jumping into an industry that became the bane of the Left. And not just an industry, but the most demonized company within it — Bain Capital:
The former governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, has joined the private equity firm Bain Capital as a partner to focus on socially oriented investments, a person briefed on the matter said on Monday.
Mr. Patrick, a Democrat and close ally of President Obama, left office in January. At Bain, he is expected to concentrate on raising money for a new fund that will focus as much on positive social impact as it will on investment performance.
The New York Times’ Michael de la Merced reminds readers of the role that Bain Capital drew in 2012 especially:
Yet Mr. Patrick will be joining a firm that became a lightning rod during the past two presidential elections: One of its founders was Mitt Romney, a predecessor of Mr. Patrick in Massachusetts, whose stint in private equity drew scrutiny and criticism from political opponents during his run for the presidency.
It’s a curious move for a couple of reasons. First, Patrick’s private-sector experience was in law, not investments. He served as general counsel to Texaco and Coca-Cola after leaving a Boston law firm that he joined after leaving the Clinton administration. Patrick went to work for ACC Capital Holdings between 2004-6, but as a board member helping to manage investigations into its Ameriquest unit, which even then was under investigation in several states for its subprime lending. He didn’t appear to have any involvement in venture capital decisions by the time he ran for governor in 2006.
So why did Bain Capital hire Patrick as a partner? It’s no secret that Democrats battered Bain’s reputation in 2012, even though Bain executives have been active in Democratic Party politics. Barack Obama even appointed a Bain executive to replace Cass Sunstein, and had another as one of its top bundlers. The company would want to repair that reputation, and some of the damage its industry took, by hiring a high-profile Democrat to run their social-justice efforts. In that sense, Patrick’s private-sector track record makes perfect sense.
It also shows that Patrick won’t be running for president, in this cycle or any other. First, the brand itself is just too toxic, as are any Wall Street ties this explicit, among the progressive wing of the party. They will argue, and not without justification, that Patrick is allowing them to exploit him in order to shore up their public relations. Since Patrick is hardly a centrist, that kind of split from his constituency means he’s not going to have much of a voter base within the party after this career shift. Jeb Bush can have an interregnum like this because the Republican Party doesn’t treat venture capital as a disease to be cured, although it has still left Bush vulnerable to the populists on the Right. This is simply fatal on the Left, even in a party with so little bench talent.