June 26, 2017


Elected as a Tea Party Conservative But Governing as a Centrist : A lot of the hard-line GOP governors who won in 2010 have surprised their supporters with a shift toward pragmatism. What's driving the change? (ALAN EHRENHALT,  JUNE 2017, Governing)

Kasich was one of 17 new Republican governors lifted into office on a conservative electoral tide in the Tea Party election of 2010. All but one (Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania) were re-elected in 2014, so at the start of this year 16 were still serving. These governors vary enormously in temperament, ambition and political competence. But one thing can be said of most of them: They have governed more or less from the center, sometimes bewildering the conservative activists who helped them get elected. Some have behaved as centrists from day one; others, like Kasich, have undergone well-publicized transformations. But as a group, they tend to reinforce the idea that a governorship is a moderating influence on most people who come to hold one.

It isn't always easy to tell a change in core beliefs from a change in image. Nikki Haley of South Carolina reflects that ambiguity. A member of the Tea Party Class of 2010, she staked out a position in her first gubernatorial term as a conservative loose cannon, more interested in scoring political points against her personal enemies in the legislature than in pursuing any particular policy agenda. She handed out "report cards" to individual lawmakers and told visitors to the legislative chambers to "take a good shower" when they left the Capitol. The state House speaker, a fellow Republican, accused her of having a penchant for "middle-school insults."

So it's hard to imagine the Nikki Haley who took office in 2011 being chosen as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, even by a president as unorthodox as Donald Trump. But it wasn't the Haley of 2011 who got the U.N. job. It was the seasoned second-term governor who had developed a reputation across the country as a voice of moderation and compassion in tragic times. When nine African-Americans were murdered by a white supremacist in Charleston in 2015, Haley responded with symbolic but powerful gestures of sympathy, ordering the removal of the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds and mandating that state police wear body cameras as a check against discriminatory conduct.

"Everything I've done leading up to this point," Haley said in her second term, "has always been about diplomacy." That wasn't remotely true, but it was emblematic of the public figure she had become. In the months before she left office, Haley was still quarreling with legislators, including some whom she tried to oust in primaries in 2016. But it wasn't her streak of residual pettiness that had come to define her in the public mind; it was the statesmanlike qualities she had managed to exhibit in moments when it counted. [...]

Taken as a group[...]the GOP governors elected in 2010 have governed more from the center than from the right. In most cases, they have proved to be significantly more moderate than the Republican legislatures with which they shared power. Bill Haslam of Tennessee is Exhibit A in this category. He has spent the past seven years dealing with hard-right legislative initiatives, most famously a bill in 2016 that would have made the Bible the official state book. Mary Fallin has had similar problems in Oklahoma; Republicans in the legislature, initially her strong supporters, have consistently fought against her efforts to increase taxes to fund public schools.

It's why effective presidents have nearly all been governors first.

Posted by at June 26, 2017 5:12 PM