He was ushered into power on a mighty wave, a leader who made great promises. Optimism that gridlock could finally be broken was bolstered by both legislative chambers being allied with this leader.
Turned out things wouldn’t be quite as rosy as Bill Clinton thought in 1992, when, two years later, the GOP came to power for the first time in a half-century. Or George W. Bush in 2000, as he watched his “Mission Accomplished” agenda take a hit in 2006, when Republicans lost control of Congress.
And President Obama, who enjoyed huge Democratic majorities from 2008, must now deal with a razor-thin Democratic Senate and a GOP-dominated House that saw the biggest Republican jump since 1946.
So much for “having it all.”
Recognizing the mistakes by those leaders would be a history lesson well worth the time of new Republican governors.
The GOP leaders will be expected to achieve victories right out of the gate. Fair or not, there will be no honeymoons for the chief executives. And their work is cut out for them, with states facing gaping deficits; failing schools; antiquated infrastructure; hostile legal climates; municipalities on the verge of default; and crushing taxes.
Republicans will have to solve those problems without raising taxes.
Here’s a look at the biggest obstacles Republicans face:
Education Reform/Teachers Unions
Teachers unions spent millions this campaign season —with dismal results. But to think they are permanently vanquished is naïve. Facing a brand new phenomenon called accountability, the unions will use their sizable war chests (in some cases, obtained through forced union dues) to dig in hard. And their fights will be many, as they oppose school choice, pension reform, education funding cuts, and the outlawing of school strikes.
The trick here is two-fold: Close the huge shortfalls while not raising taxes, and accomplish that while navigating the minefield of “everybody wants theirs.”
This is not a partisan issue, since Democrat and Republican alike have become accustomed to feeding at the public trough, and that “free” money is not something given up lightly.
Just as all people in prison are “innocent,” every item in the budget is the most important one, and therefore should not be cut. Since tough decisions are the only way to keep fiscal promises, the only course Republicans can take is shared sacrifice — everybody feeling the pain. Most people realize that it’s the right thing to do, and will respect leaders for exercising political will and not playing favorites.
However, Republican governors will be under enormous pressure from insiders, including members of the GOP, to raise taxes, being counseled to generically label it “revenue enhancements,” under the rationale that it’s the only way to balance budgets.
Most politicians have self-serving agendas, and for these non-ideological hacks, it’s all about maintaining power for the sake of power, taking down anyone who dare overturn the apple cart.
Legal Reform/Trial Lawyers
Trial lawyers are one of the most well-funded special interests. Like the teachers unions, the trial bar spent heavily in the 2010 election cycle, with similar results. Knowing they can’t litigate away their electoral failures, they will continue to write big checks, since legal reform threatens their very survival.
Leading the list will be medical malpractice reform. In addition to being a key component in free market-based healthcare solutions, it will help stop the exodus of doctors from trial lawyer dominated states.
Perhaps the greatest fight facing today’s leaders — one that cannot be avoided — is reforming state pension plans. The costs are staggering now, but in many states, that number increases exponentially over the next several years. The money is simply not there, and if dramatic steps aren’t taken, default looms. But the unions’ mentality is such that default cannot happen in America, and will fight to keep everything the way it is, all others be damned.
Despite the mess left by many Democrats, they can no longer be blamed. It’s a lesson Obama learned the hard way. Instead of solutions, he chose blame, and the election results speak for themselves. Voters want action, not excuses.
Many Republicans cited New Jersey Gov. Christie as a leader they would emulate, and for good reason. Folks certainly don’t agree with everything he is doing, but he is popular because he kept his word, they know where he stands, and he clearly explains his vision, both in the public eye and legislatively.
The outlook: If Republicans use the governor's office as a bully pulpit, and effectively articulate their message, they will be successful. Courage trumps expediency, and now more than ever.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, FreindlyFireZone.com He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com
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