In 1998, I voted for J.G. Janos for Governor of Minnesota, and I was thrilled when he won. I had hoped that it would pave the way for a three-party system in my state (and beyond), and start to make room for political independents like me. He held lots of interesting and some controversial political positions, but most of them were common sense. There was a budget surplus, so he returned money to the taxpayers rather than raise entitlements; he proposed a unicameral legislature because he thought it was a waste of money for the state to fund a senate and a house of representatives; and he held liberatiarian positions on issues like prostitution, marijuana, and gays in the military.
Since he was the lone independent, some of use who elected him worried that he’d get bullied by the two major parties. But he didn’t, at least at first. He stood by his campaign promises and vetoed 45 bills in his first year, only three of which were overturned.
But after the first couple years of his tenure, the Republicans and the Democrats decided to hold their noses and work together. Their cause? To defeat everything the governor proposed and thus scuttle his — and any third party successor’s — attempts at governance. So, while the governor attempted to do what we’d elected him to do — namely, run our state in a common sense manner that defied conventional politics — the two major parties decided to stand in his way, regardless of the cost.
I supported President Obama’s candidacy for similar reasons that I supported Ventura. I thought that he might bring a fresh approach and some populist common sense to our federal government. Like Ventura, Obama has made some missteps and miscues in this first year, but mainly he’s been attempting to do what we elected him to do: clean up some financial messes, close Guantanamo, fix health care.
And yet, the politicos in D.C. are doing to him what the Minnesota politicians did to Ventura: they are choosing politics over governance because they think it’ll work, they think they’ll regain political power, and they think that Obama is weak and inexperienced enough to collapse under the pressure (Ventura did).
I for one hope that Obama has more tenacity than Ventura. I hope that he sees the long tail of history and rides out the partisan bullshit of Boehner/Pelosi/McConnell/Reid (and, honestly, I find Obama to be a far superior intellect to all four of those combined — whether he’s a superior politician remains to be seen).
True, the stimulus didn’t work as well as planned. And, yes, he was a bit ham-fisted in his first run at health care reform. But he has been attempting to do what we asked of him, while most everyone in the legislative branch of government has been worried exclusively about saving their own political skins.
At what cost? At the cost of governance. It’s really a pity.