For Seinfeld fans, the episode that George Costanza was dumped by one of his girlfriends using the line “it’s not you, it’s me,” was an instant classic. What was classic about it was that George thought he had invented that insincere, blameless reason for why a relationship just wasn’t working out. And now, someone was using it on him.
I feel a little like that this week with Governor Mike Pence withdrawing his name from the ballot for reelection. I wanted Indiana voters to send him packing on Election Day, as I have consistently predicted they would. But miraculously, he found a better way to break up with us.
Donald Trump’s latest logic defying move gives me a chance to review why it was time for the Governor and Hoosiers to part ways. In a recent column by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, a Hoosier political pundit, he tells those of us who wanted to “Fire Mike Pence,” to be careful what we ask for. Actually, we should be happy we got it.
He is responsible for RFRA, and all of its related misguided, throwback ramifications. Every time he got a chance to lead through the self inflicted crisis, he failed. I am confident he would have fought progress here as long as he held office.
As governor, he repeatedly behaved as if he could thumb his nose at the federal government by simply refusing to abide by its clear authority. Not only are his defeats in court on matters like Syrian refugees and abortion expensive legal battles for the state, they are also damaging to the legacy of how government runs. Not liking what the federal government does is perfectly acceptable. Speaking out against it, likewise. Pretending Indiana can pick and choose when it will comply or not, however, is way out of bounds. In the fantasy land of the future, the one where Trump is president, I envision plenty of states and others refusing to obey. How ironic.
He let Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann get away from his administration. Oh how things would be different in Indiana government this week if this massive failing of Gov. Pence had not occurred. The disruptive mess of his winning The Apprentice game show for VP would have been far less deep and our governmental and political processes would both have been far better off as a result. I continue to believe that this parting of ways will turn out to be the most telling example of his inability to lead, and a national campaign might just bring that one back to a boil.
The quick list of the examples of his inability to lead is RFRA, Syrian refugees, abortion, Pre-K funding, Just IN (or Pence’s Pravda), and Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann. Did I leave anything out? Of course I did, but I’m limited by space.
The most important point to make here though is that there is only one item on that list that the governor backed away from after his mismanagement of them was clear. That was the state based news service, Just IN. He backed away from that brain cramp only after Republican legislative leaders made a public mockery of it.
Republican replacement gubernatorial candidates will be hopeful they can separate from him this fall by pretending they disagreed with him on some or all of these screw ups. But none of them actually did when it mattered. That is telling. Pence’s failings are about his ultra conservative ideaology in part, but his inability to lead is the gas he throws on that fire. And all of these new candidates could have led a little on these things already and haven’t. The absence of Pence’s political brothers and sisters speaking up in a timely manner on these items just feels like silent approval to me.
The buzz for Republicans since Pence’s courtship with Trump began a couple of weeks ago centered on the clear opportunity for victory they felt his departure from the governor’s race would create for their party. Democrats preferred to run against Pence, and Republicans are happy they get to replace him.
It was time for Pence and Indiana to break up. So we aren’t sorry that we are getting what we asked for. And after thinking about it for a moment this weekend, the only regret I really have is that we didn’t get to be the ones doing the breaking up.
In this case, Costanza said it wrong, so I will fix it:
Governor Pence: it’s not us, it’s you.