Excerpt from Frank Cagle’s latest column, wherein he says Gov. Bill Haslam is bringing revolutionary changes to state government. Maybe just because he can. In what universe is Bill Haslam a moderate?
I suppose on the surface if you contrast him with some of the legislators who push a social agenda–like most any bill sponsored by state Sen. Stacey Campfield–he may come off as a moderate. But if you look at the things he has done (or proposes doing) he is fundamentally changing state government and the state’s education system.
Set aside whether you think the things he has done are good or bad. Certainly there is room for reform in education and in the functions of state government. My point is that people tend to overlook just what a revolutionary figure Haslam has become in his time as governor.
…Some of the privatization moves have been controversial. One wonders if he is as naive as he seems. Is there another political figure locally or in state government who would not have foreseen his relationships with Jones Lang LaSalle, Tom Ingram, and the energy company coming under fire for conflicts of interest? What is he paying Ingram for, if not to warn him about these perceptions?
Or is he secure enough in his position that he just doesn’t care?
Gov. Bill Haslam in a speech to 22 state House freshmen, reported by Andrea Zelinski: “There’s a way to be about good government versus a way to always be about politics… There are times when you have to come up with a political answer. That’s just the reality… But I really hope that we’re always driven by getting to the right answer.”
The governor admitted the “right” answer will likely look different to each member of the diverse class of legislators elected earlier this month to begin serving in earnest once the General Assembly convenes Jan. 8, 2013.
…Haslam said lawmakers should familiarize themselves with the state budget and how spending plans work and drive policy decisions, warning that plans to cut taxes but increase spending on a project won’t balance out.
Meanwhile, wading through policy issues is tougher than it seems, offered Haslam, who oftentimes finds himself on the fence before announcing what direction he wants to take.
“Once you get here, things tend to be a lot less clear than maybe they were before,” he said.
“I’m a person of conviction. I really am. I’m not saying that we should just be somewhere in the mushy middle and everybody’s got a great point. But we do have to realize in every discussion that the other fella might be right.”
An insightful (I think) Frank Cagle column poses this question in its headline, “Will most Republicans go along with extreme positions to avoid the ‘moderate’ tag?” An excerpt: If the sparse polling data available is correct, Mitt Romney is not likely to get as large a margin in solidly Republican Tennessee as John McCain did in 2008. Perhaps voters are not as excited about Romney, or perhaps they aren’t quite as rabidly anti-Barack Obama as the first time around.
After all, a black man was elected president and the world didn’t end. (Though from looking at some of my e-mail, there are those people who think it did.)
But has the personality of the Republican Party changed?
Here in traditionally Republican East Tennessee we tend to be more fiscally conservative and less intense on social issues. Middle Tennessee has become the hotbed of radical on-the-march anti-immigration, anti-abortion conservatism and it is an area more in tune with the perception of what the national party has become.
…The problems of the national Republican Party with minorities and women have largely been created by a minority of Republicans in state legislatures. There are religious conservatives who bring legislation primarily designed to make abortions harder to obtain. These bills make it harder for women’s clinics that provide abortions to exist. (A lack of hospital privileges closed a clinic in Knoxville.)
But clinics also provide other health services for women, many of them poor. Will such legislation turn off many women, and many young people, who will view the Republican Party as harsh and anti-women? It makes the face of the party white male state legislators who want to subjugate women.
I sometimes wonder if Tennessee is as conservative as its politics suggest. It may be that the ultra-conservative positions, that may give the national Republicans grief, play well in our state.
Or is it that the extreme branch of the state Republican Party has more passion and more ability to whip up the base than the mainstream Republicans? We have reached a point where even being considered “mainstream” or, God help you, “moderate” can be a mortal blow to a Republican politician.
In the next session of the Legislature we are likely to see a good bit of more extreme legislation than we have seen before. The question will be whether the traditional Republicans will have the courage to vote against “vaginal probes” or whether they go along to get along to avoid being labeled as not being conservative enough.
Going into Super Tuesday, it seemed possible that the Tennessee Republican primary tradition of conservatives splitting their votes to assure plurality victory for a moderate would hold true.
Coming out of Super Tuesday, just maybe a new normal has been achieved wherein the conservative wing of the Republican party can believe in better.
Gallup has new state-by-state polling results out today for the first half of 2011 on approval of President Obama’s performance and political alignment of respondents.
Here’s a comparison of the Tennessee results versus the national average:
Lean Republican: 40.4 percent nationally, 43.7 percent in Tennessee.
Lean Democratic: 43.7 nationally, 39.2 Tennessee
Conservatives: 39.8 nationally, 43.6 Tennessee
Moderates: 36.2 percent nationally, 35.6 percent Tennessee
Liberals: 20.3 percent nationally, 15.9 ;percent Tennessee
Approve Obama: 46.8 nationally, 40.9 Tennessee
Disapprove Obama: 45.7 percent nationally, 50.5 Tennessee
Nationally, Obama’s approval rating was highest in Connecticut (60 percent) among the states and lowest in Idaho (27 percent).