Friday, April 14, 2006

Troubling Tactics and Tacky Toupees

Midterm elections are approaching and the Indiana House is up for grabs. What are Democrats odds for regaining the majority? Very, very bad, so long as Pat Bauer remains the party’s leader.

Allow me to elaborate.

Speaker Bosma has been using the Bush-Cheney-TurdBlossom tactic of “going to the base.” He fought for prayer in the Statehouse (despite the ruling that it is unconstitutional). He pushed to criminalize abortion. He harped about the “sanctity of marriage” and tried to get intelligent design into public school curriculum.

But his plan was flawed; in Indiana, the base of conservative Christians was anything but dormant. He mobilized a group of people who were already mobilized in this state. His antics garnered him favor only with those who already go to the polls and faithfully pull the Republican lever. In the meantime, he marginalized a much more politically valuable group: the Moderate Hoosiers.

Moderate Hoosiers do not want their laws to be based upon a religious document written 2,000 years ago on another continent. Moderate Hoosiers want to make their own decisions about family planning and marriage. Moderate Hoosiers want science to be taught in science class. Moderate Hoosiers, above all, want the legislature to fix things that affect them--crumbling roads, loss of jobs, a 33% high school drop-out rate, and rising property taxes.

These Moderate Hoosiers are up for grabs in the next election. They just need someone to knock on their door, smile, and entice them.

There will be a knock on the door, to be sure. But when the door opens, on the other side will not be a caring, charming Democrat with arms outstretched, ready to entice. It will be House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer. And let me tell you: There is nothing enticing about B. Patrick Bauer.

For those of you who have not seen Pat Bauer on television or in person, allow me to paint a picture. Picture a man of below-average height and above-average weight, who is more circular than he is linear. When he speaks, his voice comes out flat, dull, reminiscent of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… “anyone……..anyone?” And to top it off, literally, lays a piece of carpet (or maybe the hide of a dead squirrel) on top of his head, not even pretending to be attached to his scalp. Democrats, this is your spokesman.

I say this not to be petty, but because an attractive politician is a likeable politician, and a likeable politician is a winning politician. Fortunately, looks are not everything, at least to most voters.

But the façade of Pat Bauer is indicative of the substance.

In the past three years, Republicans—who controlled the Senate and now control the House and the Governorship—have come up with a number of ideas. Some of them are good and some are bad. Some are very conservative and pro-business (elimination of the inventory tax) and some are very liberal and pro-Hoosier in nature (child welfare reform, property tax relief for homeowners). Pat Bauer has opposed each of these ideas uniformly. If it is proposed by a Republican, Pat Bauer does not like it. Even if it would lower your property tax bill or remove a child from an abusive household.

As such, Bauer has lost all credibility. If Bauer shoots down every idea, good or bad, it seems obvious that he has either no ability to discern good policy from bad, or no desire to do so. And who wants somebody like that making important decisions?

Apparently, not Hoosiers. In a recent informal poll, he was voted #1 of the "100 people who are messing up Indiana." His votes nearly doubled the #2 selection, Speaker Bosma. According to the article, the criticism came equally from the left and the right, and it sounded something like this: Pat Bauer is “a do nothing politician at his best and an obstructionist politician at his worst.”

Within his own party, Bauer has ensured his own survival by devouring the party’s young. Anyone in his administration who dares to question him or defy his orders is quickly removed. Which leaves the party full of mindless yes-men and disenchants those who might lead the party into the next era. Those left behind will drive the party into the ground even faster than Bauer has because the only people allowed to remain are those without plans, ideas, or courage.

Pat Bauer has done one thing to benefit his party: He twisted the Major Moves debate sufficiently to turn voters (and Pacers fans) against Governor Daniels. But his tactics were dirty and dishonest. He frequently referred to the plan as a sale of state property, rather than a lease. He pointed to gross revenues of the tollroad as the amount of money the state loses, when anyone who took Accounting 101 knows that the relevant number is profits, which are negative for the tollroad (meaning the state saves money by leasing). He ranted about privatization, encouraged xenophobia by comparing it to the Dubai Ports deals, and spent four months trying to murder the plan and turn people against Mitch Daniels. He succeeded only in the latter.

What could Bauer have done? Knowing that Major Moves would pass either way, he could have taken an admittedly imperfect plan and offered his input to improve it. Perhaps fought to alleviate the burden on those in Northwest Indiana. Perhaps tried to shorten the lease term, or appropriate the money over 75 years rather than allowing Daniels to spend it all in his tenure. But those actions would have required compromise. It would have required him to sacrifice the one bit of political capital he was able to scrounge up this session. And it would have required him to care about Hoosiers above his own political future.

I write this as a proud and established liberal and a policy wonk. I support liberal principles, at least as far as social issues are concerned. But I can no longer support B. Patrick Bauer because his leadership is killing liberalism in this state.

Democrats, please replace Pat Bauer as Minority Leader. By supporting him, we are subsidizing our own demise.


Anonymous Katz said...

You probably saw my rant to IndyYoungDems where we (more moderates) need to rally and stand-up. I had about a dozen e-mails back from people in support, but those who have any ties to leadership, like Ed Treacy and John Zody told me to go and support established people. That's why I'm not running against Buell and John Barnes is.

10:39 AM  
Blogger torporific said...

Hear, hear!

Welcome back.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Jezebella said...


10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

spare me the histronics. "slimey tactics" such as calling a 75 year lease a sale? I'd call it a sale. you might have mentioned that the "lease" also calls for no upgrading work to be done on state highway 30 for the next 75 years. That would be an entire generation bright eyes. My daughter would be 81 by then. Can you imagine an entire region of indiana not upgraded for the next generation? What were the roads like in your home town 75 years ago?

Perhaps you should put your photograph on the site so we can judge whether your opinions matter

12:16 AM  
Blogger Jezebella said...

Major Moves is not the exclusive road-building manual for the next 75 years. Just because it does not mention highway 30 does not mean it forbids later improvements, bright eyes.

4:44 PM  

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