Friday, January 16, 2015

Governors' Handicap

Via giphy.
Well, well, Brooksie's back as Mr. Savvy, handicapping the Republicans for 2016:
If the Republican presidential campaign were “American Idol” or “The Voice,” this would be the out-of-town auditions phase.
Actually it's "America's Next Top Model". Have I used that before?

But it's not the out-of-town (i.e., non-Washingtonian and hence non-Senatorial) candidates as such. No Dr. Ben here, no frothmeister Santorum, for instance, just governors. And no ex-governors like Mitt or Jebbie, or Huckabee or hahahahaha Pataki:

Governors across the country are giving State of the State addresses, unveiling their visions. Let’s spin the chairs and grade the contenders, to see who deserves a shot at the big show.
Image by qcfs.
Not sure why you need to spin the chairs, but I guess that's just part of the fun.

Also missing are governors Jindal, Perry, Snyder, and Scott. We're talking about an extremely reduced field of currently governors, in fact, restricted to Kasich, Christie, Walker, and Pence. Pence? (He's a weight-loss technique: Take care of the Pence and the pounds will take care of themselves.)

I realize you're thinking wait wait, wasn't it just about twenty minutes ago that Brooks was finalizing his big move from politics to metatheological exegesis? As on his extra-special tour as Claypool Lecturer at Birmingham's St. Luke's Episcopal (the Rev. Richmond Webster, rector), via Driftglass:
"I've asked David to come to Birmingham to talk about moral leadership," Webster said. "His columns have moved from political analysis to a call for leaders to have a moral center."...

Brooks teaches a class at Yale University on humility and has a book on humility coming out soon. "In the last year or so, he has been increasingly more of a faith-based writer," Webster said.

Although Brooks is Jewish, "he's an articulate observer of Christianity," Webster said. "David is an important moral voice in our culture today."
But that's the thing. See, these leaders don't just have a moral center, they literally are a moral center, with their hints that a suitably tiny government might sometimes be permitted to extend its bony little hand to the assistance of the working man:
Kasich, a working-class kid, spoke as a small government conservative who sometimes uses government to advance Judeo-Christian values....
Christie is working hard to prove he understands the everyday concerns of the poor and the middle class....
The Wisconsin and Indiana governors are both versions of what used to be called working-class, Sam’s Club Republicanism. Walker never graduated from college.
As if Walker had been forced out of Marquette by poverty and family obligations, shining shoes or hawking newspapers in downtown Milwaukee while his mom took in boarders? He's never explained the reasons he dropped out after four years with a year's worth of credits needed for graduation, but he had had a marketing job with the Red Cross since the previous February and how he spent his first fall out of college was in a loser campaign for a state assembly seat. His parents were a "prominent" small-town Baptist minister and a bookkeeper, so I imagine they were not rich but very definitely upstanding; they may have been pretty startled to learn he had another year to go (one of the reasons he failed to finish in four years was the amount of time he spent on student government, playing with impeachment proceedings, campaign violations, and dirty tricks like the theft of copies of the campus newspaper issue endorsing his opponent) and perhaps they told him he'd have to come up with the fifth-year money himself.

Kasich, a Boomer like me, was raised by the government; his father was a mailman, he went to Ohio State, and worked for the Ohio state legislature from graduation in 1974 until he won a seat in it in 1978; his first job in private enterprise was when he went to work for Fox News at the age of 49, in 2001; he then attached himself like a limpet to Lehman Bros., absorbing money from them until they exploded in 2008. His net worth is said to be $2.5 million.

Kasich's reputation as a centrist comes from his time in Congress, and seems to be basically because he braved the wrath of the NRA in supporting a national assault-weapons ban. And by all accounts he deserves some of the credit as chairman of the House Budget Committee for the surpluses achieved in the last years of the Clinton presidency, which of course were accomplished with tax hikes.

Brooks likes the wetness of his speech, which presumably reminds him of his own damp-handed style:
He built his speech around empathy, resilience, responsibility and other virtues: “You know why this happened? Too fixated on ourselves. It’s all about me. And somehow we have lost the beautiful sound of our neighbors’ voices. Moving beyond ourselves and trying to share in the experience of others helps us open our minds, allows us to grow as people. It helps us become less self-righteous. Did you ever find that in yourself? I do ... self-righteous.”
But as Ohio governor he's been mostly a model of Tea Party dickishness, campaigning on the program of eliminating the state income tax and going on to eliminate the estate tax, cut business income taxes while raising sales taxes, lose his state $385 million in transportation funds because he doesn't like high-speed rail, restrict collective bargaining so hard that the people rose to override him in a referendum, and win mandatory ultrasound exams for women seeking abortions while opening state-run "pregnancy crisis centers" in which abortion is not discussed as an option. He's also done a couple of things the Tea Party disapproves of, ultimately accepting the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act, which has helped him not bankrupt the state as Brownback has done in Kansas, and recruiting an evidently gay person as executive director of the state Republican Party, but I don't feel he's getting the beautiful sound of his neighbors' voices. I'll grant him the working-class origin, but he's not very loyal to it.

Mike Pence's father "ran a string of gas stations" so his working class origins are far from obvious to me. He certainly didn't get rich as an attorney or talk radio host, but did better as a congressman, with a net worth going from $15,803 at the end of his second term in 2004 (tsk, tsk! I thought those conservatives were provident!) to $211,510 when he left to be governor of Indiana in 2012. If he stays in politics long enough he'll have a pretty nice retirement. Christie, of course, was the son of an accountant, and a seminal event in his young life was the family's flight west from Newark to the suburbs after the 1967 riots. Middle class, yes, working class no, and the comfy housewifey Mary Pat is an investment banker whose career has propelled the family into the 1% with a net worth of $5 million.

Kasich gets an A from our genial correspondent, Christie an A-, and the other lads are B+. I'm far too bored at this point to work over the whole thing, extracting every error and distortion it includes. I'm sure I'll be writing about Christie again, and no doubt Scott Walker too.

I'd kind of like to be able to figure out what Brooksie's up to in this deeply reported piece, whether he's really pimping Kasich, who has no more a chance of getting the GOP nomination than I have, or trying to lay out a theory that a "working-class" but non-redneck, moderate Republican tendency exists in spite of the lack of empirical evidence for such a phenomenon, for the benefit of his readers, who I think are mostly ex-liberals seeking reasons not to be embarrassed for voting Republican, to the extent that there is such a thing scattered around Jersey's home counties and bits of upscale Long Island. He may just be trying to show us all that he's as smart as Chris Cillizza. Which is very likely true, alas.

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