By S.E. Cupp
Back in 2010, during the midterm elections, people in my field were of course panting in breathless anticipation as we watched important congressional races to see how many seats Republicans would pick up two years after Barack Obama came into office. Would it be a turnover of the Senate? How sweeping would the House pickups be? Who’d take Pelosi’s place? What would it mean for the tea party? We all know how it turned out. I’m fond of the way one notable described it…as a “shellacking.”
But overlooked were the equally important governors races. I had my eye on them here and there, just to keep up with redistricting possibilities. But no one could have predicted just how important the state houses would be so soon into 2011. In short, whether you’re Chris Christie or Scott Walker, governors are having the best month ever, and it’s clear the Republican gains in the state houses last year are having a huge impact on domestic policy. (And, let’s face it, they’re a major thorn in President Obama’s side.)
In 2010 Democrats took five governorships from the Republicans…California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota and Vermont. But Republicans took a whopping 11 governorships from the Democrats, including key states like Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Who knew how big THAT one would turn out. Republicans also won Florida, which had previously been held by an Independent. Before he was a Republican. So Republicans held a majority of governorships for the first time since 2006.
No one would have predicted just a few months ago that it would be these governors, and not celebrity senators like the thus far invisible Marco Rubio or the tea party favorite Rand Paul, who would be making the most noise.
First, of course, there’s Chris Christie, the biggest celebrity governor on the Republican roster right now, thanks to some memorable scuffles with New Jersey teachers unions, and near constant prodding to run for president in 2012 by, well, everyone. He was on Face the Nation this weekend with Bob Scheiffer, talking about another US governor’s battle with teachers’ unions. In typical Christie fashion, the governor pulled no punches and spoke of his support for rigorous debate over the future of public sector unions and the compensation they command.
Which brings us to Scott Walker, an unassuming former Eagle Scout and IBM salesman, who – inexplicably – decided to do the thing he campaigned to do: take on Wisconsin’s budget shortfall and address the overweening power of the public employee unions. His throw down with the teacher’s union and Democratic Senators in Wisconsin has been so important and stunning, that it prompted President Obama to wade into what should be a local issue when he announced that Governor Walker’s actions constituted an “assault on the unions.”
The problem, however, with Obama’s disdain for Walker’s proposal is that it’s the absolute height of hypocrisy and myopia.
Kimberley Strassel had an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal on Friday called “Union Power For Thee But Not For Me,” in which she points out that President Obama’s reckless criticism of weakening collective bargaining power for public employees ignores the glaring fact that he oversees 2 million federal workers who (drumroll please) have no collective bargaining rights for wages or benefits.
And thanks to who? The one and only Jimmy Carter, who passed the Civil Service Reform Act in 1978, with the help of a Democratic Congress. And in the two years since Obama took office, which were spent under a Democratic majority, how important was it for him to overturn this cruel and unjust piece of legislation that is tantamount to an “assault on unions”? Not important at all, because it’s still very much in place. In fact, Washington DC is effectively a ‘right to work’ town because of Jimmy Carter. Put that in your protest and smoke it.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Ohio Governor John Kasich are also fighting budget battles in their states, and while they may be wielding scalpels compared to Walker’s chain saw, they’re still managing to put the power of the state houses on full display.
The media seems to recognize this interesting shift, and is giving unprecedented face time to the govs. On This Week with Jake Tapper yesterday, he featured an interesting gubernatorial panel discussion between Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Jan Brewer of Arizona. The annual Governors meeting was in Washington DC this weekend, so it was probably pretty easy to corral these four into one studio. But it was interesting to watch these four executives – two Republican women and two Democratic men – discuss their role in various national debates. Of course no one knows how influential a governor can be more than Jan Brewer right now.
Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels all made the rounds on the Sunday shows…a quick cutaways to senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman in Cairo on the Sunday shows was no match for the star power of the big name governors who are quickly reminding us that all politics is local.
It seems that the impact of the GOP govs has at least one Democratic executive feeling a little left out. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is getting sick and tired of the pesky Tea Party, which he thinks is leading the country into a “civil war.” And why? Because they’d like to nullify certain federal laws that they say just don’t make sense anymore. GASP! Thomas Jefferson, by the way, was a big proponent of this. But for holding the federal government accountable, for daring to question the legitimacy, constitutionality, morality and wisdom of an ever-expanding Democratic agenda, and for attempting to spare their children and grandchildren from bankruptcy, the Tea Party is leading the march toward a civil war? Talk about old tone. Looks like somebody’s throwing a bit of a temper tantrum. Take a time out Governor Schweitzer. Mommy and Daddy are talking.
The next few weeks and months will reveal just how important those midterm state house elections were. For the short term at least, it looks like the governors are running the show, and no one’s going to tell them to sit down and shut up. So, better get used to it, Mr. President. The states are taking back some power.