The Grand Theme of Governing
How can Republicans clean Democrat clocks all over the country? All it will take is a simple message: Republicans can govern. Democrats can't.
Think of all the contrasts available between adroit Republican governors and flailing Democratic ones. For one, the surreal spectacle of Wisconsin Democrats focusing resources on their third election campaign since the 2010 election to defeat Scott Walker's collective bargaining reform, even when that reform is no longer a real issue, shows that Democrats are in election mode every moment of every year.
This difference has shown up elsewhere in state and local government. Rudy Giuliani may not have been a conservative, but as Mayor of New York, he was a courageous and effective leader, which gained him admiration from conservatives. The contrast between Giuliani and Dinkins, the hapless Democrat cipher who preceded him, is stark.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is also not conservative, but he is an honest and courageous executive in the spirit of Giuliani. The contrast between Christie and Jon Corzine, his Democrat predecessor who has managed to mislay one billion dollars of investors' money, is stunning.
In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina blasted the states around the Gulf of Mexico, Democrat Governor Blanco of Louisiana engaged in crass political maneuvering against her rival Democrat Mayor Negin of New Orleans. Republican Governor Barbour, meanwhile, in neighboring Mississippi, acted decisively and effectively to protect his fellow Mississippians.
Two years ago, when the BP oil spill was threatening the livelihood and safety of Americans, Obama was that nervous skinny man who spouted meaningless rhetoric, while Republican Governor Jindal was the effective executive who inspired Louisianans with his quick actions to minimize the damage.
Governor Jerry Brown ought to know as much about California government as any person around, and yet he has been unable to turn the state around. Indianans will be picking a new governor to succeed term-limited Mitch Daniels, but the sheer administrative brilliance of Daniels has preserved a state right in the middle of the rust belt.
Governor Nikki Haley brought jobs to South Carolina, something which the politically naïve might think organizations representing South Carolina workers would applaud, and the outgoing AFL-CIO president in the state, Donna Dewitt, smashed the governor's face on a piñata. (NOW, of course, immediately condemned this as an egregious mockery of the serious problem of battered women...just kidding!)
This is a recurring pattern. Republican government executives take political risks, spend political capital, and challenge political bosses after they win elections. What has Obama done? His latest "budget" was recently shot down, with no one in his own party in either house of Congress voting for it. Obama has tried to gain points by silly attacks upon a serious budget, the one proposed by Congressman Ryan. Obama is utterly incapable of doing anything but politicking and campaigning; he is a pawn of Saul Alinsky's and Bill Ayers's radical political theater.
No wonder, then, that Obama sounds as if he is running against Republicans in power, even though his party won Congress in 2006 and he won the White House in 2008, and no wonder that David Axelrod last month spoke so directly against the status quo that one cannot imagine that he or his boss sees Obama as responsible for anything.
If Republicans handle this theme well, then the corporate executive experience of Mitt Romney can be used to highlight how his presidency would differ from the drifting wreckage of the Obama presidency. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has said on several occasions, dating back at least to February, that Mitt Romney "likes" firing people. Good executives, of course, must be willing to let poorly situated companies shrink or even go into bankruptcy and must be willing to trim unnecessary personnel costs.
The Republican retort to this sort of attack should be that Republicans government executives like Scott Walker and Chris Christie have shown a willingness to make hard and unpopular decisions. Mitt Romney, for his part, has shown at Bain Capital and in his handling of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which had been mired in cronyism and corruption, that he can take risks and do things which cause people pain, if his office requires it.
The options for real leadership in the White House are shrinking fast. Last August we suffered a downgrade in federal sovereign debt, which means that saving our nation cannot be accomplished with smoke and mirrors. Four years ago, Americans gave Democrats massive majorities in Congress (a filibuster-proof Senate majority) and gave Obama not just the presidency, but a huge reservoir of personal goodwill.
Republicans like Walker, Christie, Giuliani, and Jindal have shown that they will use executive offices to solve problems even if that means being made into a Nikki Haley-headed piñata. If Romney can convince Americans that the way back is neither easy nor painless, but will grow harder and more problematic the longer we wait, then this theme of governing may give Republicans the muscle they need to get the job done.