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Fmr. Governor Deval Patrick on what's next for the democratic party

Fmr. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined Yahoo Finance to discuss what's next for the democratic party after the historic 2020 election.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Elections have consequences, not only on the economy, but on health care policy, on just about everything. And our next guest knows that better than just about anyone else. Deval Patrick is a former governor of the state of Massachusetts, worked in the Clinton administration in the Department of Justice as an Assistant Attorney General of Civil Rights, and before you were the governor of Massachusetts, you actually helped implement the-- I guess they call it Romneycare, but what became the precursor for the Affordable Care Act. So we have a lot to talk about with you, governor. Thank you for joining us.

DEVAL PATRICK: It's good to be with you, Adam. Thank you.

ADAM SHAPIRO: The first thing, though, is I saw your reaction when Seana was teasing, what happened to the Blue Wave? Because you are co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century. That is a Democratic entity, I guess, that is designed to help Democrats get elected. So very simply, what happened?

DEVAL PATRICK: Well, first of all, as the greatest skeptic of polling you could possibly have on your show, even I got caught up in all the pre-election euphoria about what was going to happen. At American Bridge, we were very focused on three states-- Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania-- and in engaging over the course of the year, those so-called Trump-Obama voters, folks who had voted-- or Obama-Trump voters-- folks who voted once or twice for Barack Obama, and then in 2016 for candidate Trump.

And it was not about shaming them for that 2016 vote, a strategy which I think never works, it was about very respectfully engaging them, letting them tell their stories about their satisfactions and disappointment and creating a permission structure so that eventually, enough folks let us in, made a way, and that is a big part of how those three so-called blue wall states turned blue again.

SEANA SMITH: Well, governor, what did you learn from them just in terms of being able to flip their vote and make former Trump supporters then vote for Biden? How were you successful at that?

DEVAL PATRICK: Well, I think first of all, as it is in, I think, all politics and with all people, it is a matter of being respectful. It's listening to people and not kind of wagging your finger about the choices they made. They had reasons for making their choices. And we as Democrats, candidates can learn from those choices. It turns out, a lot of people want the same things. They want an economy that is growing and growing out to the middle and the marginalized and not just up to the well connected.

They want access to affordable care. They want help-- not government to solve every problem in their lives, but government as a force in helping them help themselves, especially during a crisis. And Joe Biden, it turns out, is exactly the right candidate with the agenda that meets so many of their concerns.

ADAM SHAPIRO: But when you look at the future of the Democratic Party, if you could get Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Conor Lamb, you have the-- someone who's left in the Democratic Party and someone who's more moderate, perhaps even conservative in the Democratic Party. If you had them in a room, what would you say to them?

DEVAL PATRICK: First of all, I think the most important thing is for them to listen to each other, because they're saying very similar things. Just, you know, their solutions may be a little bit different, but they're trying to solve for the same problems, which are the problems I was talking about-- the ways in which folks feel left out and left behind. They felt this way, by the way, for generations in black and brown communities. I can tell you that.

But now that experience is being felt by folks all over the place. It's a really dynamic, transitioning economy, even at this point of being on its knees. But it is growing in ways and innovating in ways, that is not making a way for everyone. And we can do better in that respect. Nobody-- nobody-- in the Democratic Party differs from the view that we ought to have an economy that enables people to lift themselves and their families, to live the same kind of American dream that I have lived and then some. But we have-- it is harder now for folks to break through and break up and move up. And there is a role for government in helping to understand that, first of all, and then make some industrial policy choices that enable the American dream to flourish.

ADAM SHAPIRO: You know, it's important to listen to someone's voice like yours-- starting off in Chicago, rising at Harvard, and then up to Governor of Massachusetts. But I've got to disagree with you, because Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and the progressives are saying if the Democratic Party had adopted more of their agenda, they would not have lost the House seats that Conor Lamb is pointing out that they did lose. And quite honestly, the quote "progressives" of the Democratic Party, it's easy to get elected in New York City, but good luck getting elected in Strongsville Ohio.

DEVAL PATRICK: Well, first of all, I think that-- was it Leader Clyburn who made the point that candidates need to run the campaign that makes sense in the district they're running from, in the communities they are from. That's first point I want to make, and I think he's right. The second is I think the language is failing us all around. I'm a progressive, but I've spent most of my life in corporations and companies and working in the private sector. I've also worked, as you said, in the public sector, and I'm a capitalist. I just am not a market fundamentalist.

I don't believe markets solve every problem in everyone's life just on time. I do think we need more collaboration, and we need more forward looking policies that are adapted for where we are going, not just where we have been. I ran in a state where, you know, most people think of it as reliably blue, Adam, but in fact, there are more unenrolled independents in Massachusetts than there are registered Democrats and registered Republicans combined.

Most people aren't buying 100% of what either party is selling. And so candidates need to talk to people's lived experience and get out of this box folks keep trying to put others in that are labeled one way-- conservative, progressive, moderate-- and be about problem solving.

SEANA SMITH: Governor, right now, though, we're looking at a situation with President Trump refusing to concede, calling the election fraudulent, the suggestions of widespread fraud without any evidence. What kind of lasting damage do you think this can cause, when you focus on not only just the lack of confidence by some people, but more specifically his supporters in elections here-- not only this year, but going forward over the next couple years-- and specifically, four years from now?

DEVAL PATRICK: Well, it's deeply, deeply worrisome, Seana. I think, you know, what presidents say matters. And you know, as frustrating as folks sometimes are when a president isn't more categorical, isn't more inflammatory, there are reasons why a president should show restraint. We have not seen that in the last four years. Frankly, given all of the reports that there has been a lack of evidence of vote fraud, I wish we'd seen this kind of energy when there was actually evidence of interference with our election system in 2016 by the Russians.

That, where there was actual evidence disclosed by American intelligence officials, that was kind of, eh, doesn't matter. Today, there isn't evidence, at least none that's been reported, of widespread vote fraud-- meaningful and impactful vote fraud. And we have the president and many of his allies stirring everything up. I read a report that I think struck me-- a news report that struck me as a parent, that this was folks humoring the president just to sort of salve his feelings before he leaves office. That is a very, very sad state of affairs if it is true and not a very powerful or helpful reflection on the greatness of the United States.

ADAM SHAPIRO: So, governor, it's at this point in these kinds of discussions people like ask, would you join the Biden administration? I'm not asking that. Here's what I'm going to ask you. Fantasize with me-- if there were two positions in the cabinet for which you'd be best qualified, which would it be?

DEVAL PATRICK: I'm not going down that path. Listen, there are, I'm sure, a lot of great people ahead of me on whatever list for whatever positions they have. I'm not in search of a position. I want to be helpful. You know, I'd love to be able to do a project or serve on a commission. We're working on something right now, former governor of Idaho, Dick Kempthorne, and I called a COVID Collaborative, which we'll have some more to say about soon. But other than that, besides finding a regular job, I want to help in building the grass roots into a permanent civic structure so that we're not having to invent campaign organizations in time for the next election.

ADAM SHAPIRO: If you ever do get AOC and Conor Lamb in that room and get to talk to them, please record it. I think that would be an amazing thing to hear. Deval Patrick is the former governor of Massachusetts, among his many accomplishments-- thanks for joining us here on Yahoo Finance Live. All the best to you.