Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, Decision 2012, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 11:09 am

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would be on my short list for presidential candidates if he decided to run in 2012.

Unfortunately, outside of us RINO’s, I would be pretty much alone in that hope. Why this is so says a lot about conservatives and Republicans today.

Daniels represents one of the most conservative states in the union. He was just re-elected in 2008 with the largest vote total in state history despite Obama carrying Hoosierland that same year - the first Democrat to do so since LBJ in 1964. Clearly, he is conservative enough for almost anyone in Indiana.

But outside of his home state? Daniels runs into problems because he is actually interested in governing, rather than posing. He wants to get things done rather than hope for failure on the part of the majority as a path back to power. To that end, he has committed the unpardonable sin of working with Democrats in the legislature to pass health care reform, as well as fight the deficit by strategically cutting spending and - another horror - raising taxes.

Somehow, this makes Daniels less conservative than, let’s say, Rush Limbaugh who doesn’t have the responsibility of governing and can afford to posture about evil Democrats because he doesn’t need them to perform his job.

For most movement conservatives, obstructionism and doing nothing about the enormous problems facing us is definitional. Dismissing the opposition as out to harm America is a litmus test.

But Daniels - a great admirer of Reagan - comes at the task of governing a little more pragmatically.

The results speak for themselves:

On this day, Daniels is describing how, in his first term, he won bipartisan support for a program known as Healthy Indiana, which provides health insurance for Hoosiers who aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but earn too little to afford buying coverage for themselves. So far, 50,000 residents have signed up for the program, under which the state contributes up to $1,100 each year to each enrollee’s individual health savings account. Participants also contribute according to their income, and when the account is depleted, a catastrophic insurance plan kicks in to cover any additional expenses. It’s all paid for with a portion of the state’s Medicaid funds, along with an increase in the cigarette tax that Daniels pushed through a reluctant legislature.

In fact, Daniels is such a believer in health savings accounts and consumer-directed health plans that he made sure one was offered to state employees. So far, he reports, 70 percent of state workers have signed up — including himself — saving millions of dollars each year for themselves and taxpayers.


The good Mitch, by contrast, is a principled but practical conservative who respects the intelligence of voters and would rather get something done than score political points. Daniels is a genuine fiscal conservative who took a $600 million state budget deficit and turned it into a $1 billion surplus but managed to do so without cutting spending for education and even increased funding for child welfare services. He pushed hard to lower property taxes but didn’t hesitate to propose temporary hikes in income and sales taxes to keep the state in the black. He privatized the state’s toll road and then used the $4 billion proceeds to launch a major public works investment program.

He served as Bush’s OMB director and is scary smart. And he doesn’t sound like a tea party patriot in this interview with National Journal:

NJ: What do you think is the biggest lesson that the Republicans haven’t quite learned yet from the last election?

Daniels: Always have a better idea. Let me tell you how this looks from out here — and we’re anomalous. In Indiana, Republicans are the party of change and reform; ask anybody — our opponents, the press, everybody. In the rhythm of life here, four years ago we replaced a 16-year regime that had gone stale.

And so we are the party that restored fiscal integrity. We are the party that addressed health care for the uninsured. We are the party that rebuilt an attractive business environment. We are the party that cleaned up the ethics issues in government — that and much more. We attacked our infrastructure problem in a novel and taxpayer-friendly way.

NJ: That you took a little heat over…

Daniels: Yes, yes, but you know, the results are in — and incidentally, we just won with the largest vote total in the history of elections in our state for any office any year.

NJ: A tough year, too…

Daniels: In a tough year. Obama won the state — you know that. I guess what I’m saying is that when Indiana Republicans meet, I always tell them we cannot control what the party looks like in other places or nationally, but here in Indiana if we don’t remain the party always defining the agenda, bringing the new ideas and standing for constructive change, then people will excuse us from duty. And they should. …

People want to know first of all that you hear them and understand what’s going on in their lives. I work at this incessantly.

Politics is about the winning of power. Governance is about using that power to serve the people. In order to serve the people, you must listen to their concerns, and work with the other branch of government to address them.

Sometimes, like Daniels, you get it mostly right. Other times, like Obama, you get it mostly wrong. Both executives listened to the people but drew radically different conclusions about how to go about addressing their problems.

This week, the president is trying one last time to pass health insurance reform. He is trying one last time to get some cooperation from Republicans. Frankly, I don’t blame the GOP for their opposition after what Harry Reid pulled with the jobs bill, taking a carefully crafted compromise and junking it in favor of a nonsensical measure that barely scratches the surface of our jobs crisis. And I am in agreement that there is so much in the Democrat’s proposal that is overreach that opposing the entire process is probably the only alternative open to principled Republicans.

But I have to admit to having admiration for the president. He is doing what good presidents do; not giving up a cornerstone of his agenda despite the odds because he obviously believes he is right. I want a president to be a stubborn mule when he thinks himself correct. Obama is damning the politics of health care reform and proceeding full speed ahead. I agree that he is perhaps taking his party over a cliff. But he will go down with his flag waving high.

Not very practical of me but a president who digs in their heels when they feel they’re right is someone who “gets it” about the job. History has tapped him on the shoulder. That’s a powerful incentive to make your mark and do so your own way.

Daniels hasn’t had the national responsibility but he didn’t hesitate to raise taxes and cut popular programs to balance the budget. While his health care reforms have been market friendly, the state subsidy to the uninsured would probably be viewed with a jaundiced eye by most movement conservatives. He privatized the state’s tollroads but took the money and funded infrastructure projects.

In short, Daniels has allowed necessity to guide his actions rather than ideology. That, and his decidedly dour take on CPAC does nothing to enamor him to “true” conservatives:

Daniels said he wasn’t at CPAC because it was “a lot of rowdyism and barbs cast at the other side. I think that’s appropriate at a certain time. But that’s not my lane right now.”

Daniels was arguing for the GOP to embrace “a friendly and unifying tone” and that his primary political focus was the upcoming elections for the Indiana legislature.

He argued that the problems facing the country — deficits and economic stagnation in particular — were so dire that they demanded serious policy work, not red meat politics.

“For the first time, I’m concerned about the future of the American experiment,” Daniels said.

When red meat politics is all you understand, and when you view cooperation with the enemy and any straying from a narrow, ideological worldview as apostasy, you are not going to fathom a character like Mitch Daniels nor ever consider him for national office.

I love rowdyism myself. This blog likes to mix it up and I pride myself on my ability to trash liberals with the best of them - when they deserve it. But Daniels is repelled by the kind of hysterically exaggerated critiques of the left that flowed so easily from so many at CPAC, depicting Obama with a horns and tail while ginning up fear and outrage over what might be done in his name. That alone disqualifies him in this current climate of “savagery.”

And that is the republic’s - and the Republican party’s - loss.


  1. Rick,

    I agree that Mitch Daniels is an excellent Governor and Hoosiers should be proud that he is in charge. As a business person (and a conservative), I find that the best solutions usually come from a combination of ideas. Some conservative, some liberal, some pragmatic, and not always evenly divided. I am curious as to how you would answer solve some of our nation’s biggest issues.

    Maybe, in a future post you can cover this topic. I know you have covered it in bits and pieces in other posts, but I would love to read a concise, “Here is what Rick Moran would do…”.

    Thanks and keep it up.

    Comment by JustIce — 2/24/2010 @ 12:48 pm

  2. Rowdyism is wrong, for sure, but principled opposition is quite called for today. If one goal of conservatives (even RINOs) is to unseat the Democrats and Obama as soon as possible, then each and every shortcoming, every broken promise, every failure, and every overreach of the Democrats must be loudly shown, cataloged and opposed. Then, a better set of conservative solutions for the public good should be proposed and publicized as widely as possible.

    Such solutions have been offered continually by Republicans, but have not been publicized as widely as they should be, and we can blame the MSM largely for that. These offerings have been withheld from adequate and honest public exposure, analysis and comparison. For shame!

    Comment by mannning — 2/24/2010 @ 12:54 pm

  3. Bang on Rick, know how I know… Mr. Reynolds had one line. GO! RINOs!

    Comment by Michael — 2/24/2010 @ 2:17 pm

  4. I would not necessarily be so quick to count this man out, if he decides to run. I think he is more likely to get the nomination for over someone like Sarah Palin. That is if he decides to run. His views are certainly more in line with the people who will actually make the decisions on a nomination than say CPAC or Sarah Palin.

    Comment by B.Poster — 2/24/2010 @ 2:26 pm

  5. Oppostion is one thing, but in many things its appearances and some of what gets shown is the Republicans are being the Party of No. I’m all for alternatives, and frankly the Democrats aren’t offering much that is really new or bipartisan, despite what they say they are offering. Both sides are becoming too partisan to really want to work with each other, and in an election year I would be pleasantly surprised to see it.

    I also don’t buy the MSM argument, there are news networks for both sides so their information gets shown, part of the problem is both sides slant their views on the material so its hard to get a balanced view from anyone.

    Comment by boyo111 — 2/24/2010 @ 2:48 pm

  6. Weeks ago the Republicans published and sent to Obama a booklet that spelled out ideas for healthcare, and a number of other issues that Obama should consider. Show me a citation that is from the MSM on this dated at least before Feb 14th.

    Comment by mannning — 2/24/2010 @ 3:04 pm

  7. Interesting that you single out our own Mitch Daniels as an example of good governing in your fine essay.

    We moved east to conservative Porter County Indiana from the Chicago suburbs eighteen years ago specifically to escape Illinois democrat corruption, high taxes and to raise my family in a safe exurban environment with a sound school system. I personally know many other ex-Illinoians who moved here for the same reason.

    In the industrial democrat and union thug controlled Northwestern Lake County with a decades old history of democrat corruption they hate Mitch. You will often see “Ditch Mitch” bumper stickers there. Daniels has cut off Lake County from state funding increases until they cut spending 26% or enact a county income tax of 4.5% to offset their $367 million dollar debt.

    While he may express “a friendly and unifying tone” Mitch plays real hardball to ensure that Indiana stays in the political red and economic black. At a local Lake County high school last year Mitch told them this: “You are entitled to all the lousy, crummy, graft-ridden government you want and are willing to pay for.”

    Mitch can work with democrats, true. With the exception of Lake County, Indiana state democrats are generally fiscally and socially responsible politicians who are easy to reason with, not Nancy Pelosi style socialist zombie pick pockets.

    Comment by CZ — 2/24/2010 @ 3:05 pm

  8. One of the great challenges for the GOP is how to defang the urban liberal strongholds inside red states. Gov. Daniels is providing a very attractive model that is entirely unobjectionable to the public at large and will find wide support, sufficient to get it into state constitutions. This sort of quiet competence at raising liberal testicles to about ear level will be quite attractive to a lot of conservatives.

    Gov. Daniels is going to have a great deal of support in the GOP outside of the RINO grouping. The reality of Gov Daniels is that he has an actual solution to liberal urban concentrations. He’s tax limited them.

    Under his leadership, Indiana has acquired property tax caps, 1% assessed residential, 2% commercial, 3% industrial if I remember correctly. It’s getting written into the Indiana Constitution this year. Cities have to live within their means and have no ability to pass crushing property taxes anymore to finance spendthrift policies. This overwhelmingly affects big cities and poorly run cities, i.e. the left wing power base.

    Because of this policy, Gary, IN is likely going to go bankrupt. Their budget’s got to get cut 40%. They’re going to have to get off a cash basis accounting system, and implement dozens of other reforms. My opinion is that they’re not going to make it, not with a debt load of 80% of their new tax base and a poor credit rating. It’s going to be a huge blow to the local left when Gary’s lifeline runs out in 2012 and they have to seek some sort of extraordinary adjustment.

    I expect Gov. Daniels to end up pulling the plug on the city and allowing constituent components to apply for municipal charters in their own right. Miller, for instance, is likely going to be quite happy to be free of some of the dead weight in the rest of the city.

    I think you’re selling Gov. Daniels short. I think that conservatives who want results are likely to have a strong voice going into 2012 and many of them may well back Daniels.

    Comment by TMLutas — 2/24/2010 @ 4:05 pm

  9. Rick,

    You might not be as alone on the blogosphere as you think. Over at RedState (yes, RedState, the home of the “movement conservatives” who you think would dismiss someone like Daniels out of hand), Leon Wolf had a front-page post up on Monday about Daniels, which struck a remarkably similar tone to your post here. His last line summed it up best, when he said, “But for those of you who are tired of “exciting and sexy” and would prefer simply for the government to be run well, Daniels is certainly worth a second look.”

    If Daniels decides to run, don’t be surprised if many of the movement conservatives gravitate towards him, as a conservative who can actually govern effectively.

    I think that Daniels, Huntsman, and Ryan are the future of the party. A close examination of Daniels’ record might cause some of those movement conservatives to pause. He signed a very liberal gay and transgender executive order that placed them under state civil rights laws. ANd he has kept Indiana evangelicals at arms length for most of his administration.

    Not saying that those are deal breakers but it may upset some on the religious right.


    Comment by tccesq — 2/24/2010 @ 6:17 pm

  10. If he runs, I will vote for him. Ditto for Huntsman (who apparently is doing well representing our country in China). I will not vote for any of the other purported front-runners (Palin, Romney, Huckabee, Pence) who are either terribly flawed or have few achievements to their name.

    TM Lutas brings up a fantastic point about how Gov. Daniels is dealing with Gary. On a national scale, city, county and even state bankruptcies will be occurring over the next few years. Even if Obama gets re-elected in ‘12, he will have to hew to a more conservative toolkit for dealing with them because of their sheer number and cost. If what Gov. Daniels is successfully implementing can be replicated along locally realistic lines by other governors, it will be a powerful example for much of the nation to follow.

    Comment by Eddie — 2/24/2010 @ 8:27 pm

  11. As a California conservative, I’d like to ask Rick where his pragmatism got Arnold? Right in the toilet. Arnold worked with Democrats last year and raised our taxes while cutting some government in order to “balance” our budget. Of course, it was shell-game math and our budget is rife with holes again. Arnold’s approval numbers? in the 20’s. How is that working out for him? It was stated above that working with the other side is perfectly fine when the other side is mature. Raising taxes is not a death knell if they are low to begin with. However, the Dem leadership in DC is anything but mature and our federal taxes are too high. Congress’ approval number is currently in the teens. Why would anyone want to “work” with them?

    Here is a little more food for thought: Once upon a time there was a governor who had a great reputation for working with the other side. He was pragmatic. He was so pragmatic that he even came up with a nice RINO term of “compassionate conservatism”. Once he got to DC, he would be able to repeat that pragmatism and get stuff done. His name was George W. Bush and it worked out like a dream. The Dems in Washington were mature and worked with him on a litany of issues like Social Security reform, the war on terror, etc. He left as one of the greatest presidents ever.

    Rick has the same false hope that American socialists do: This time it will work!!!!

    How about another California governor who was a pragmatist, who worked with Democrats, who got a lot done, and who ran for president and served two terms that redefined America?

    I don’t give a crap about Arnold. He’s no conservative and never was. The problem you have is that you are incapable of envisioning a conservative working with the other side. That doesn’t make them a RINO or even a moderate. It makes them responsible. Look at Mitch Daniels. The guy got 60% of the vote in one of the most conservative states in the union during a Democratic year. He is conservative, popular, and works with Democrats because he knows that serving the people is a higher ambition than simply gaining power.


    Comment by Bruceinsocal — 2/25/2010 @ 8:23 am

  12. I have NO problem at all with them being pragmatic. Brown’s vote was sheer genius. I have a problem when they work with the other side to actually harm conservatism a la McCain. Arnold is also doing a wonderful job working with the Dems here on green energy. He will have the state bankrupt in no time.

    I’m with you Rick on being pragmatic, but your end game must be your side’s goals. Being bipartisan for bipartisan’s sake is not going to win you elections. BTW, I think Daniels is great. Tax increases suck, but he is probably thinking about deeper cuts in the future after he shows that raising taxes doesn’t cut it. Heck, Reagan even raised taxes so it isn’t the death-knell for good conservatives.

    I do feel honored to have received an “ed.” rant though.

    Comment by Bruceinsocal — 2/25/2010 @ 10:06 am

  13. “Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would be on my short list for presidential candidates if he decided to run in 2012.

    Unfortunately, outside of us RINO’s, I would be pretty much alone in that hope. Why this is so says a lot about conservatives and Republicans today.”

    Baloney. RedState likes him. A lot of beltway conservatives are warm to him. I like him. The only question is whether he has the ‘charisma’ juice to take it to the Presidential level.

    Comment by Freedoms Truth — 2/25/2010 @ 1:22 pm

  14. Apparently, rowdy conservatives do like Daniels.


    Comment by Bruceinsocal — 2/26/2010 @ 11:37 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress