Political Animal


November 09, 2012 11:21 AM GOP Governors to the Rescue!

By Ed Kilgore

Something we started hearing on Election Night and that’s now picking up steam as a “silver lining” for the GOP’s loss and/or as a source for the new, fresh thinking that will lift that party back to victory, is the Reforming Governor Meme. You know, it goes like this: congressional Republicans may be obstructionist ideologues who couldn’t run a popsicle stand, but ah, out there in America are Republican governors—pragmatic problem-solvers who know how to work across party lines to get things done! Here’s a vintage write-up of the Meme from Commentary’s Seth Mandel:

Conservatives still reeling from the presidential election and the loss of some very winnable Senate seats can take comfort in a rather significant consolation prize: Republicans now control 30 governorships for the first time in more than a decade. The victory in North Carolina was particularly sweet for Republicans. But on a more fundamental level, the right has swamped the country with conservative reform-minded governors, and this success is not geographically constrained: such conservatives are at the helm in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Louisiana, New Mexico, and even Michigan.
In the last couple of years, out of power in the White House and stymied in Congress by Harry Reid-so enamored of grinding business to a halt that he’s refused to pass a budget for going on three years-conservative governors have led the charge.

Sounds good, as an abstraction. But when you start looking at some of these fine GOP governors, an awful lot of them make their colleagues in Washington look like reasonable and practical-minded folk. Is Rick Scott a “reformer” in any sense of the word? Is Nikki Haley a “problem-solver?” Have Scott Walker or John Kasich or Paul LePage reached out beyond the party’s ranks to get things done? Is Phil Bryant someone who inspires the hope in voters outside the GOP base that the party actually cares for them?

And how’s about those new ideas? Rick Perry’s big idea goes right back to the Gilded Era and even Reconstruction: give “business investors” absolutely whatever they want at the expense of public services and the community’s quality of life. One of Bobby Jindal’s fresh new ideas is to give public money to anyone who can talk parents into sending kids to their “schools,” even if they are basically evangelical conservative madrasas. Walker and Kasich and Haley are big proponents of the exciting new idea of making employees bargain individually with their employers. These “reformers” and Chris Christie have also come up with this exciting new thing called “defined contribution pensions,” whose great benefits they want everyone to share. Nearly all Republican governors have discovered the very-21st-century concept of “tort reform,” and understand we have to get over the old-think represented by such reactionary pieces of legislation as the Pure Food and Drug Act. All over the South, and even beyond it, Republican governors have embraced the new frontier of health care policy: letting poor, old and sick people accept responsibility for their own health care! Thank God conservative think tanks are feverishly churning out such innovative policies!

Enough. The point is that there’s not a great deal of evidence that Republican governors are terribly different than their friends in Washington, beyond what is necessary to win state elections and comply with the statutory requirements of their jobs. Some of them make Paul Ryan look like a paragon of open-mindedness. Moreover, this Reforming Governor Meme is a golden-oldie the GOP (and sometimes Democrats, too) pulls out of the tool box whenever the national party looks to be in trouble. You may recall the last time we heard it a lot (at least before Mitt Romney used it in the last few weeks of this presidential elections): in the late 1990s, after Newt Gingrich and company did such efficient work in ruining the GOP’s image. Remember what that batch of Reforming Republican Governors gave us? The candidacy and administration of George W. Bush, the “reformer with results.”

So beware the next raft of party or national saviors from the “laboratories of democracy.” Sometimes their “experiments” are as fresh as the mouldering memory of Calvin Coolidge.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • stormskies on November 09, 2012 11:26 AM:

    As ever these cretins just go from one delusion to another. It is really something to behold ...

  • c u n d gulag on November 09, 2012 11:35 AM:

    I'm starting to think that the Republican problem with math, it's really a problem with meth!

  • Mad_nVt on November 09, 2012 11:41 AM:

    Please include Jan Brewer of Arizona as a potential beacon for GOP.

  • Josef K on November 09, 2012 11:50 AM:


    I think that's what Victor Frankenstein shouted when his creation demanded he build a she-creation. At least that Swiss idiot scientist had the good sense to not build any more monsters.

    The modern GOP doesn't seem to build anything but monsters anymore.

  • Bokonon on November 09, 2012 11:57 AM:

    I am cynical, but besides being a case of the media struggling to find a new story to fill the void now that the election is over, this seems like the media just blowing a big, fat, wet kiss to the next generation of GOP candidates who will be placing huge advertising buys in a few years.

  • Mike Lamb on November 09, 2012 12:07 PM:

    Can we back up a bit and parse that second paragraph just for a second? Harry Reid is enamored with grinding business to a halt? Come again?

  • T2 on November 09, 2012 12:10 PM:

    the GOP Governors will be a constant irritation....that's their job, apparently. Take Rick Perry, who yesterday called on Obama to repeal Obamacare in his second term. At a point, you just have to laugh.

  • Ron Byers on November 09, 2012 12:12 PM:

    Why are we spending so much time on the topic of saving the Republican party. It doesn't want to examine its problems objectively. Let it die.

    Now can we talk about strengthening the Democratic party?

  • Juanita de Talmas on November 09, 2012 12:12 PM:

    Remember what that batch of Reforming Republican Governors gave us? The candidacy and administration of George W. Bush, the “reformer with results.”

    Sadly, the American electorate is so stupid it will swallow this BS hook, line and sinker. My question is, after Gingrich in the 90s, Bush in the 00s, and Boner/Cantor/McConnell in the 10s, why hasn't the American public turned their back entirely on the Republican party? And the answer is in my first sentence.

  • edr on November 09, 2012 12:15 PM:

    I have to agree. These Republican governors are carrying out the right wing agenda. Reduce the power of unions, gut educational and the teacher unions with it. Its working here in Pa.

  • Gene O'Grady on November 09, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Please stop being unfair to Calvin Coolidge. One of the things he seems to have been most proud of in his term as governor (based on his autobiography) was raising teacher salaries, and the beneficiaries of government largesse that he went after sound a lot like Mitt Romney.

  • Rick B on November 09, 2012 12:48 PM:

    All the comments seem to me to be based on the idea that the idiotic proposals the Republicans are promoting belong to the mass of the conservative Republican Party. They don't.

    Those ideas are actively created in the conservative think tanks. The same think tanks recruit, train and field a cadre of propagandists to spread those ideas. When one idea is discredited it is replaced with another one that is similarly damaging to society. The older ideas are not retired when they are discredited, they are simply put on the shelf and recycled later when there is a new audience.

    Look at the list of funders of the conservative think tanks if you want to know who is behind this attack on America. The Koch brothers are one modern version, but so is Howard Ahmanson, Jr. who partly funds the Discovery Institute. The idea that Social Security needs to be replaced by "defined contributions pensions" is a Wall Street investment manager's wet dream. Corporate executives hate 'negotiating' with workers they should be able to hire, use up and dispose of.

    When the conservative politicians demand 'freedom' the real question is who loses the freedom and who gains. Medicare Advantage was established along with Bush's Medicare Part D drug plan and is run entirely by insurance companies without any real comparison and evaluation (the numbers of people being suckered in are too small for the media to concern themselves.) Right now is open season for changes. The decisions are essentially guesses as to which plan will rip you off the least, and the plans are designed to skim the healthiest seniors off the insurance pool and throw the rest back into regular Medicare.

    With unions and with fixed benefit pensions there are rules the corporations have to follow and which the average person can understand and expect. This so-called 'Free Market' crap is a way of ending all rules and letting the best scamsters steal what they can before leaving the country - or sending their money out of the country like Mitt Romney has.

    I could go on, but I won't.

  • boatboy_srq on November 09, 2012 12:50 PM:

    @c u n d gulag: it may just be as simple as a problem with spelling - and the GOTea desire to stamp out all those "math labs" springing up.

  • boatboy_srq on November 09, 2012 1:09 PM:

    out there in America

    THAT is the real problem.

    The GOTea is convinced that somewhere (over the rainbow?) there is this great land of Ahmurca, where entrepreneurs magically create jobs and every good Ahmurcan lifts himself up by his own bootstraps, and every Othered creature knows its place and reverently allows only the Ahmurcans to govern.

    And somehow, this great land of Ahmurca does not include any of the following: Washington, DC; California; New York; Massachusetts; Maryland; New Mexico; Vermont; Chicago (and maybe the rest of Illinois); Washington (especially Seattle); Oregon; Hawai'i; Miami, Florida; Austin, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and virtually any city or state where non-GOTeahadists are at least a substantial plurality.

    This is not politics-as-usual. It's Civil War 3.0 (where 2.0 was the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow South, up through the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement). This time, though, instead of claiming a location specific to their requirements, it's a mindset, and instead of separation from the US it's the separation of the US from the rest of us.

    This is the battle for the foreseeable future: recognition that disagreement and unAhmurcanism are not the same, and that the GOTea does not hold authority on what it means to be part of the USA.

    Captcha: the Neingg. I kid you not.

  • Rick Massimo on November 09, 2012 3:34 PM:

    I refuse to make a serious response to a post that says that Harry Reid and the Democrats are the reason nothing gets done in the Senate.

  • Chip Hollister on November 09, 2012 8:27 PM:

    Tru dat! Unfortunately we have DINO Dems like Cuomo joining the ranks of Republicrat deformers. Until we get some true progressive Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Socialists like Bernie Sanders standing up for the working class of Americans, it will be the rightward charge of the Republican Light Brigade followed by the sellout Democrats like Obama and Friends, maybe they can even get their spot on Fox. The pseudo liberals were happy about this election, the progressives had little to take home for real hope and change in this country.

  • Doug on November 09, 2012 8:44 PM:

    Tell me "Chip Hollister", WHO decides what a "pseudo-liberal" is? Or a "progressive", for that matter?
    If you don't think the results of the elections were good for this country, why not try something really radical? Like, say, move to somewhere in the depths of northern Florida and spend your time constructively, spreading the word to the "heathen"?
    They've got electricity there, so we won't be deprived of your valued input...

  • pjcamp on November 10, 2012 1:43 AM:

    Like . . . .like . . . like. . . . Ooooo! Ooooo!

    Just like Mitt Romney!

    Let's run him.