A number right-wing Washington, D.C. politicians have headed back to their states as newly-elected governors. And their behavior, once they leave Beltway fantasyland for the real world, shows just how out of touch today’s conservative ideology is with solving real problems. For instance, as a congressman, Ernie Fletcher was a reliable vote for Bush administration cuts to health care and Medicaid. Now, as governor of Kentucky, Fletcher told Fox News in January that he’s “very concerned about any cuts” to Medicaid proposed by the President. Similarly, as a congressman, Bob Riley was a reliable vote for Bush-backed tax cuts to the richest 1 percent of the country. But as governor of Alabama, Riley pushed a statewide initiative to raise taxes on the rich and wealthy corporations.
But perhaps the biggest hypocrite of all is Mitch Daniels. As President Bush’s Budget Director, Daniels was a top point man in ramming massive tax cuts for the wealthy through Congress, and gutting spending for critical programs. Now, as governor of Indiana, he is facing the ramifications of his actions in Washington — and proposing exactly what he railed against. See for yourself:
THEN:“It’s especially risky to talk about let alone a jack up today’s level of taxation.”- White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels, 2/5/02NOW:“Gov. Mitch Daniels called for a one percent income tax increase to help balance Indiana’s budget.”- Indianapolis Star, 2/20/05THEN:“[Mitch Daniels] is truly committed to cutting back the size of government.”- Cato Institute fellow Stephen Moore on Daniels efforts to gut spending on safety net programs, 1/20/03NOW:“Instead of immediately shrinking state government [upon becoming governor, Daniels] expanded it, creating a Department of Child Services.”- NY Times, 2/20/05
In some ways, it is laudable that Daniels and other right-wingers are embracing more progressive positions. But the sincerity of their ideological conversion is dubious — they are merely up against budgetary reality, and desperate for solutions.
And that is exactly why what they are doing is so dangerous to conservative hacks like Grover Norquist. The actions of Daniels and his fellow converts, motivated by a need to address reality rather than push ideology, provides proof that the progressive agenda can better address America’s real-world challenges.