Often Lost in Media Coverage in Normal Times, Governors Actually Run Things
Several recent presidents have been governors: Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush II. Even so, governors often get short shrift in media and in public attention. We tend to gravitate toward Washington personalities. This is an understandable, if oftentimes shortsighted, approach to picking our national leaders.
Washington personalities have the natural advantage of being in a global media capital. At some level, Washington based individuals also often deal in foreign policy and foreign crises. These yield valuable experience for a potential president.
But as the current COVID-19 crisis reminds us, governors have real responsibilities. They directly affect citizens and the future of our country. Governors make executive decisions with real consequences and visible results (or lack thereof). They balance budgets and work with legislatures. Often times those legislatures are opposition party led.
Governors are not without foreign policy experience (border security, international trade, immigration issues, etc.). Governors also have limited defense experience, especially National Guard and related issues. This experience varies widely. Remember Sarah Palin talking about her security chops?
It has been fascinating to watch the role of governors in our current challenges. Like so much else in life, one does not really know how someone will do until the first real challenge arrives. Some will err, some will excel, some will freeze up. And so, it has been thus in this round.
Some governors saw the risk for what it is quite early. They pushed for the federal government to perform its critical functions with urgency. They found no one home. And so, they did the best they could. They did so at first individually, now increasingly in regional alliances.
High on that list of leaders are Governors Cuomo (NY), Newsome (CA), Hogan (MD), Cooper (NC), Whitmer (MI), and DeWine (OH). There are others also doing solid, smart work, to the benefit of their citizens and neighbor states. Then there are other types of governors.
No party can claim a monopoly on good governance, or on incompetent governance. But the Republicans are making a run for the latter title. One of the things that makes DeWine and Hogan stand out is the fact that they are Republicans. In Hogan’s case, he works with a legislature controlled by the Democrats. Both governors are getting the job done for the most part.
It is a steep downhill rating for the Republicans after that. We can start with Florida’s governor (DeSantis), who saw no reason to close the beaches during Spring break. And he has just opened them again. This in spite of the fact that his state has a very high percentage of vulnerable residents. Or take the governor of Georgia (Kemp). He realized only a couple of weeks ago that people with no symptoms could transmit the virus. Two weeks ago!
Arkansas (Hutchinson) and both Dakotas (Burgum and Kristi) suffer inept governors. So, too, Texas (Abbott) and Oklahoma (Stitt). The same for South Carolina (McMaster), and Iowa (Reynolds). They have all lagged inexcusably in necessary action. Science, expertise, and logic find no home in these states. Even when they have acted, they did so with so many exemptions as to be largely ineffective. As the virus spreads, their citizens will pay the price.
Rural America is only now starting to see this virus seep into its communities. Those in the states without serious controls or planning will suffer, badly. Look at the examples of the meat plants in South Dakota and no government guidance. Elections matter.
Lessons Learned, America
So, the next time out looking for leadership, gravitas and expertise, consider governors. We have quite a talent pool out there and a better than average bell curve of potential for success. Americans are figuring this out. The latest polling shows 65% trust what thier governor says about the pandemic. The President? 33%. There is, of course, also a representative population of dogmatic idiots among the rank of governors, too. Avoid them. Let us look for real governing ability.
Because we are pretty sure now that picking a “reality show” host is unlikely to end well.
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