This Blog Needs More Daniels Commentary

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 25, 2011

The Governor writes here on his reasons for not wanting to consider right-to-work legislation in Indiana at this time. As he makes clear, the reasons have nothing to do with Daniels being some kind of RINO or wimp. Rather, they have to do with his desire not to clutter the already busy and ambitious legislative session with a bill that would “hit the public cold” without giving proponents of the legislation a chance to campaign on it, and to receive a mandate from the voters beforehand. In Daniels’s words, “I was concerned that it would provide the pretext for radical action by our Democratic minority that would jeopardize the entire agenda above, with zero chance of passing RTW itself. And that is exactly what has happened.”

Avik Roy is very much worth reading on this issue. An excerpt:

. . . it’s worth reviewing Indiana’s recent history, for those who have the impression that Daniels is a coward. Back in 2005, Indiana House Democrats used the same tactic, leaving the capitol and boycotting votes on dozens of pending bills just before a critical deadline. At that time, Daniels said that “Indiana’s drive for growth and reform was car-bombed yesterday by the Indiana House minority. … If you want to know why Indiana’s economy fell behind, why state government is broke, broken, and awash in scandal, just look at [Democratic minority leader Pat] Bauer.” He said Democrats didn’t have “the courage or conscience to stay at work” and that he was “embarrassed for them.”

In 2011, Daniels’s rhetoric has been more conciliatory, likely because he knows from his experience in 2005 that he needs seven Democrats in the House to get anything done. Jim Geraghty asks, “If the Indiana House Democrats get what they want through this tactic, what’s to prevent them from using it again and again every time they think they’ll lose on a big issue?” The answer is, they already have, and Republicans can’t do much about it. Indiana House speaker Brian Bosma admitted as much to Katrina Trinko. What Daniels seems to be hoping is that Democrats won’t walk out for an issue like education reform, which has broader public support, because he campaigned on it.

Conservatives who criticize Daniels for his stance on the right-to-work legislation remind me a bit of liberals who called Obama a coward for abandoning the public option in 2010. Obama said often that single-payer health care was his preferred approach, but that he simply didn’t have the votes for it in the Senate. Daniels is, unfortunately, in a similar position in Indiana.

I’ll add something else to all of this. Running against an incumbent President of the United States is really difficult, in part because an incumbent President is able to command media attention, while rivals must struggle to attract any kind of interest whatsoever. One of the best ways to get attention focused on challengers is for the party out of power to have an interesting and exciting nomination contest. The party out of power can set the stage for such a contest by encouraging a significant number of candidates to seek its presidential nomination, thus making the race for the nomination appear wide open, and thus giving journalists a lot to write and broadcast about. The party’s candidates will get a lot of press, the voters will get to know them, and with positive coverage, there will be a greater willingness on the part of the electorate to consider those candidates as acceptable alternatives to an incumbent President.

But instead of encouraging the presence of interesting candidates for the Presidency, a lot of Republicans are actively working to discourage people like Daniels from seeking the Republican nomination. Whether Daniels ultimately decides to run or not is up to him, but about the only person who will be happy about restricting the race to the plastic, the unprepared, and the plain incompetent is Barack Obama.

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