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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Citizen politician

Donald Berwick for Governor? That's likely to generate a lot of head-scratching in Massachusetts political circles this morning.

And for all the long shot nature of the trial balloon launched by the Newton pediatrician -- and controversial one-time head of Barack Obama's Centers for Medicare an Medicaid Services -- there's actually an interesting philosophy at play here.

Think Deval Patrick. Or Elizabeth Warren.

He's not the usual suspect, a Tim Murray or a Steve Grossman whose career path has always included a run for the Corner Office. And he's shown a willingness to engage the political system at a time when most potential candidates are throwing their arms up in disgust.

Berwick is well-known and respected in his field of health care quality and patient safety. To others, he is a virtual cipher, except as the somewhat noisy and ultimately unsuccessful effort to permanently install him as head of the agency that oversees the vast bulk of the nation's health care system.

His sin? Showing hospitals how they can save lives and money by using standard clinical protocols to treat patients.

That led ObamaCare opponents, aka the Republican Party, on a jihad to deny Berwick the job on the grounds he favored rationing and death panels.

The path is remarkably similar to the one trod by Warren, who turned Senate opposition to her role in the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into a seat in the very body that thwarted her nomination.

Or the ultimate outsider to the Massachusetts political scene who is finishing up the final two years of what will likely be remembered as a highly successful two terms as governor.

While the tales of Patrick and Warren suggest Berwick may not be not Don Quixote with a stethoscope, they clearly show the pitfalls and barriers along the way.  Like organization, name recognition and financial support for starters.

Or the inevitably that he will stumble and stub his toe pretty hard along the way.

But the fact Berwick is even considering a run for elected office after being chewed up by the Washington meat grinder is an encouraging sign that, no matter how dysfunctional our political system becomes, the notion that people still feel they can do some good by serving in office remains alive.

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