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JOAN VENNOCHI

What's Patrick going to do now?

NOW what?

As a candidate, Deval Patrick accomplished a critical goal. He inspired. The best politicians always do.

It's a bipartisan truth. Think about Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" or Bill Clinton's "Man from Hope." Ideology mattered, but in the end, an emotional tie between voter and candidate trumped any issue paper or debating point.

Master politicians do more than earn your vote. They win your heart, foolish as you know it is to give it up.

The goal, of course, is to lure the prey -- you, the voter -- to the voting booth. When that happens and you finally seal the deal by casting your vote, the transaction is complete. The wooing is over and it's onto the next phase, the business of government.

With victory comes a need for action, not rhetoric. It's time to put the slogans to rest, whether it's "Morning in America" or "Together We Can." The next test is whether the candidate can harness poetry and translate it, as elected official, into policy.

An example of how Patrick can make that happen is found not only in Washington, in the legacies of presidents, but also in Boston, in the legacy of a mayor. After all, all politics is local, a master politician named Tip O'Neill once said.

One recent and unseasonably warm November day, a simple but instructive political lesson unfolded behind Boston City Hall.

A statue of Kevin H. White was unveiled. The former mayor suffers from Alzheimer's disease, which eats at memory and eventually consumes it. But the people who served in his administration have not forgotten him, nor will they let Boston forget him.

They gathered on Nov. 1 to honor this politician who did something courageous during four terms in office. He hired them. They were young and untested, but inspired by a new mayor with an agenda for change. White gave them the chance to deliver on his promise.

"He challenged us to dream," said insurance executive Peter Meade, the master of ceremonies at the statue dedication. But White expected more than dreams. He put Meade, then 29, in charge of public safety. In essence, the new mayor trusted a young man to handle the crisis that engulfed this city when the courts ordered that children be bused to desegregate public schools.

Those in attendance at the dedication -- Barney Frank, Micho Spring, George Regan, and a host of others -- also bear witness to White's great strength: the ability to attract young people who were passionate about changing the world and loyal to the boss who gave them the chance of a lifetime to do it.

Part of Patrick's inspirational campaign theme was his insistence that he wanted people "to check back in." They did. Now, he should give some of them a reason to stay checked in. He should offer them not just a job, but the chance of a lifetime.

Turning over power to the young is not easy; clinging to it is the first urge of those who are young no more. But if this really is the new day in Massachusetts politics that Patrick promised, he cannot expect the same old players to deliver on his pledge to voters. If he simply recycles names from the past, he is letting down the voters he inspired with lofty words.

The people he puts in place are one signal of Patrick's sincerity. The rest is also up to him.

How long before Patrick, the outsider, is an insider? Only he can draw a firm, unwavering line and prove Republican Kerry Healey wrong about the dangers of one-party rule. Only he can stand up to the Legislature and the special interests who backed him.

During the campaign, Patrick insisted, "I look forward to being your governor." How long before Deval goes Mitt on us? How long before the political storyline is Obama or Patrick in 2012? How long before Beacon Hill loses its allure?

"What do we do now?" Robert Redford asks that question at the end of the classic 1972 movie "The Candidate." He plays Bill McKay, a lawyer who runs a campaign of hope, charisma, and simplistic slogans. When he wins, the candidate has no idea what to do next.

Let's hope Patrick knows how he wants to govern, what he wants to accomplish, and plans to stay here long enough to do it.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com.

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