Was it only 16 years ago this month that Deval Patrick was cruising to victory in the governor’s race with the slogan “Yes We Can”?

Yes, it was. And the “no” karma emanating from the public these days makes that episode of positive messaging seem dated.

Primary night last month was a big evening for “no.” Can an obscure multi-millionaire walk in and straight-up buy the Democratic nomination for Attorney General? No, she can’t; Shannon Liss-Riordan, meet Steve Pagliuca, who finished dead last in the 2010 US Senate primary. Could the party’s Somerville Left finally kick some Lexington Liberal tail and assert electoral dominance? No, they couldn’t; most candidates backed by the party’s activist left performed like the 2022 Red Sox.

Were more than a paltry rump of the electorate inspired enough to bother to vote in a primary where it was made extraordinarily easy to do so? Seventy-eight percent said no.

Fifty-six percent of voters may have told the Suffolk pollsters last month they thought the state was “heading in the right direction,” but it’s hard to tell if that’s a “yes we can” vibe or just a favorable comparison with their view of the country’s direction – 56% “wrong track.

Perhaps Joe Biden will ultimately prove that gobs of stimulus and forgiving college loans can buy love. For now, the dominant message from DC to the locals is “no,” we can’t develop an immigration plan, can’t manage the economy, won’t do what it takes to curb COVID. Keep telling the customers “no” and they’ll tend to return the favor.

Here in the TD Garden of Eden, political leaders and institutions have been making news for saying “no.” The House Speaker publicly toyed with the idea of nixing legally-required tax rebates; once that was shouted down, it’s “no” to much of the tax-break package they were all set to approve in July.

Meanwhile, it’s “no” new Orange or Red Line cars for long-suffering commuters and “no” relief from soaring energy bills.

In our mostly binary political system, for every “no” there’s a “yes.” Incumbents mostly got to “yes” in the primary, a resounding vote for “no” change.

But the real suspense on election night will be around the statewide ballot questions. It’s an axiom of ballot-question politics that’s the “no” side has an easier time of it, with wavering or under-informed voters using “no” as a default.

That’ll work fine for defenders of the new state law granting non-citizens access to drivers’ licenses. To get rid of that requires a “yes” vote, and Florida Gov. Ron (“Dr. No”) DeSantis’s Vineyard migrant-dump stunt last month might have cost Question 4 supporters some steam.

But what about Question One, the 4% surtax on million-dollar incomes? A “no” vote sinks that ship, which is fueled by more than $10 million worth of Massachusetts Teachers Association member dues.

This one is an epic battle of “no” – just say “no” to filthy-rich millionaires vs. just say “nix” on “the politicians’ tax hike,” as the “no” campaign puts it.

How to sniff out which group more voters would like to flip the foam finger to? Just follow your no’s.

Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.