As a student of and participant in politics and government I have learned many things. For instance, some in elected office allow power to imitate the cozy confidence that can only be born from preparation. Reading Dar Danielson’s Radio Iowa blog, I sensed Governor Terry Branstad and his staff might have snuggled up to this false comfort.
The Governor’s comments earlier this week bother me. He started with, “What people need to know is, this governor has dealt with a lot of emergencies and I don’t like to deal with emergencies, but if you have one, I’ve never been afraid to act and do what’s necessary to protect the safety and the well being of the citizens of this state.”
I harbor a pet peeve about people referring to themselves in the third person, but that is not what bugs me the most here. Yes, Governor Branstad served sixteen years as governor in a previous stint and he is no stranger to crises and difficult issues. However, his record as a survivor and even a leader does not mean Iowans should sleep easily simply because he tells us he is in charge. Branstad needs to do the job and, as important, he needs to communicate with the people of Iowa about what he is doing to prepare our state for the challenges yet to come.
I am happy to hear the Governor is convinced “there’s not gonna be a shut down” of Iowa government should the Legislature fail to pass a budget by July 1. But, I am fairly certain Iowans did not elect Terry Branstad because of his ability to predict the future. They elected him because they believed he would place a steadier and more reasoned hand on the tiller of government than did the previous occupant of the office. In a democracy it takes more than gut instinct to be a leader – one must build consensus and that takes communication.
Many have been harping on the Governor to release his written plan for how his administration would continue operating government if the Legislature fails to enact a budget. Come to find out, Branstad hasn’t prepared one. He dismissed criticism about this with, “There is no written plan. I do in my own mind understand that in times of emergency the governor can and will act, and I always have, and I will if that happens, and you’ll see that on the 30th.”
Besides trusting his clairvoyance, Branstad wants Iowans to blindly accept his mental power as plan enough. I think Branstad is a smart guy, but we should not be willing to cuddle up to that comfy blanket of his no matter how soft he tells us it is.
It is good politics for an elected official to communicate with the people he serves. Doing so creates a bond and a confidence among voters that the official is in touch and prepared to handle the job. More important, people deserve to know about an elected official’s plans. While they cannot be intimately involved with the making of every decision, they should be informed of the process.
If the people take the word of a leader and trust without question, they shirk their responsibility as participants in a democratic society and will be left to criticize only themselves if and when those they elect make bad decisions. Over the years Governor Branstad has waxed on repeatedly about Iowans’ unique capacity to band together to make a difference, yet on the eve of a potential crisis he is telling us he alone will take care of us. With seven days left to pass a budget, I am not sure we should accept his optimism about the capabilities of the Legislature or his assertions about what he has in mind without verification and examination. I doubt that blankey of his will be big enough for all of us if he is mistaken.
(A Personal Note: I have sat on this piece for two days, unwilling to press the submit button. I think this is due to the fact I genuinely respect Governor Branstad. He is honest, passionate about public service and committed to doing what he believes is right. By posting this piece, some will say I think otherwise. While I do not, I am baffled by his approach to this situation. It seems counter to the guy I know and to the guy who ran for office touting a belief in open government. Perhaps, I don’t see the whole picture here, but something doesn’t seem right here. My apologies if I am proven to be yet another blogger who spouted off without all of the facts. I just called this one as I saw it.)