Leadership Versus Pandering

Let me begin with a disclosure: Michael Leppert–whose recent blog post I will be echoing/quoting–is a personal friend. I have friends with whom I disagree from time to time, but thus far, I’ve found myself in agreement with Mike about pretty much everything–at least, everything political. (The joys of golf, not so much…)

If you don’t subscribe to his blog, you probably should.

Mike’s recent essay, reprinted in the Capital Chronicle, made a point pundits all too often fail to emphasize: the positions candidates take during their campaigns for public office tell us a lot about how they are likely to perform if they are successful.

I’ve made this poiint, albeit not as explicitly, by noting that candidates’ stances on reproductive liberty tell us a great deal about their willingness to use the power of government to impose their preferred beliefs on individuals who don’t share those beliefs. (Or, in the alternative, their willingness to impose the beliefs of the base to which they are pandering.) That’s why I take such positions into account even when the office for which the person is running is unlikely to have any say in the issue–it’s an important insight into the world-view of that candidate.

Of course, there are situations that do call for the exercise of state authority over private behavior. An obvious one is public health, and Leppert’s essay focuses on recent pronouncements by our odious U.S. Senator, Mike Braun, who is vacating that office because he now wants to be Indiana’s governor.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun announced that he has co-authored the “Freedom to Breathe Act.” The federal legislation will ban the federal government’s ability to implement mask mandates for domestic air travel, public transit systems and schools.

Casey Smith reported for he Indiana Capital Chronicle last week on the bill Braun authored with three other Senate Republican colleagues. He first said in his Wednesday statement, “We’re not going to go back to the top-down government overreach we saw during COVID.”

Now, here’s the difference between Mike Leppert and Sheila Kennedy. When I read something as asinine as this, I just want to beat my head against the nearest wall and scream about logic and respect for science. Mike, to his credit, unpacks it:

This gubernatorial candidate has some kind of issue with “top-down” leadership? Even when he adds “overreach” to his canned statement, he is signaling how he would have led in 2020, or more aptly, how he would have chosen not to lead. Senator, in a crisis, “top-down” leadership is the name of the game. It’s the job for which you are running. And it is unlike filing dead-on-arrival legislation with three other members of congress looking only to “own the libs.”

After explaining what the purposefully mischaracterized studies actually say–that masks have demonstrably worked, but failure to comply with mask mandates caused thousands of unnecessary deaths–Mike writes that

There’s more to Braun’s statement. He added, “Congress needs to say forcefully that these ineffective, unscientific mask mandates are not coming back in any way, shape, or form.” Again, it’s not the masking, it’s the mandates that failed. Newsflash: Americans routinely resist governmental mandates. If there is a negative sociological companion to our culture’s independence, it often is our collective selfishness. Again, it’s not the masking, it’s our refusal to see how the selfless act of wearing one could help someone else.

But the pronouncement that Braun will not support mask mandates “coming back in any way, shape, or form,” telegraphs that if he faces a public health crisis as governor, he simply won’t lead through it.

It’s hard to disagree with the post’s conclusion:

The world learned plenty from COVID-19. The biggest lesson is to expect the unexpected. The next pandemic could be worse. It will likely be different. And Indiana has a contender for the office of governor who doesn’t want government to lead if or when it comes.

Indiana’s governor is already constitutionally weak by comparison to most states. We certainly don’t need a new one who wants to make it weaker.

Of course, let’s be honest. Braun doesn’t want to be a weaker governor–he wants to appeal to the ignorance and anti-science prejudices of the GOP base, in order to win the right to use the power of government selectively–to advance his own agenda.

That said, I have no idea what Braun’s agenda is, since we’ve seen nothing even approaching thoughtfulness or rational policy prescriptions from him during his single Senate term.

Apparently, like so many of today’s politicians, he just wants to be someone important, rather than wanting to do something constructive or useful.


  1. “Freedom to Breathe Act”?? What about my mother’s freedom to breathe on this side of the grave!? Being a lung cancer survivor and a COPD sufferer, how long do you imagine she would survive one of those Don’t Tread On Me asshats breathing her way unmasked in the middle of another outbreak?

    With freedom comes responsibility.

  2. Does anyone realy know the effectiveness of masks? Heres Fauchi saying store bought masks don’t help!
    CNN had him on and refuted what he later ssid, masks are up to an individual and no study could verify anything about masks. Wow! He gets paid $400k a year?


    We really should focus on what the voter wants in regards to abortion in relation to whether Braun becomes governor maybe?!

  3. My 21 year old neighbor attended Gen Con without a mask; he is basically fully recovered from Covid-19 but no way to know what, if any, after effects he may suffer from. I have continued masking when I shop and will continue to do so; will the Republicans resort to banning masks in public places or making wearing them illegal to get their point across. Not unlike their Pro Baby, vs. Pro Life, stance on abortion. Changing semantics does not change conditions. My 24 year old granddaughter, with a possible fatal seizure condition, against all medical advice, chose to try to carry her baby to term. She and my great-granddaughter died when she was 5 months along. We will never know the statistics of deaths of mothers with possible life threatening conditions and their babies who were forced to maintain their pregnancies. Neither will we ever know how many lives were lost by not wearing masks during the “killing season” of Covid-19.

  4. Maybe this is Braun’s agenda, or part of it: His family business is tree farming, isn’t it? I have often suspected that his “Trillion Trees” initiative, instead of a step towards helping to solve the problem of climate change, is in reality a ploy to enable clear-cutting old-growth forests.
    The ploy I have read about in the North West is that for every 10 new trees planted lumber companies cut down one old tree. The problem is that it takes 100 years for a newly planted tree to begin absorbing CO2 at the same rate as an old tree does.
    And, a tree farm is not a forest. It does not have the biodiversity of a true forest.
    If/when Braun is elected as governor, I expect there will be an unprecedented assault on our already diminished natural environment, and his family business will magically become even more profitable.

  5. We have allowed advertising to now become the most pervasive and strongest force in most of our lives. It can be argued that no advertising is the whole truth but most contains some truth. It’s the use of carrots with no stick. It guides our thinking because we like to believe that we are all independent souls and will respond negatively to any stick.

    Most advertiser know that there are groups more naturally susceptible to their advertising and those they label their “brand”.

    We label political advertising “propaganda”.

    There is the “republican” brand, many of whom also share the label “MAGA”, and there is alternatively the “democrat” brand too.

    Because new laws have to be popularly as we politically and eventually, constitutionally supported we give them brand names, like “freedom to breath”. The republican/MAGA brand only reads “freedom” which they have been led previously to associate with as what’s best for them.

    That’s effective republican advertising/propaganda. Political parties derive their “power” that way which has become another another republican brand trigger word.

    The Constitution is all about, instead, power for all of we the people collectively which humans label “freedom”. That’s become a democrat/liberal branded label.

    So, the Indiana Republican Party has all of the power there and now and uses it to their advantage in gathering even more power and employs bills as effective advertising to that end.

    No supprise. When the time comes when that state brand changes and/or the law is used to kill people in the next pandemic the Constitution and courts will castrate it. That will come eventually.

  6. James Todd, Mike Braun’s family business is a logistics company called Meyer Distributing. He does consider himself a “conservationist,” but one that loves to buy forests, cut all the trees down and then buy another forest and cut more. His bid for Governor is not only just “to be important,” but also get his road called the Mid-States Corridor built for him by INDOT and federal funds. He and several other Dubois County millionaires have been trying to get this road build for decades, and became even more determined once I-69 was completed through the state. The road has been given life through a Regional Development Authority created by legislation that Braun and state Senator Mark Messmer (Jasper) were able to get passed in 2017. Since then Braun was able to get Dubois County, the cities of Jasper and Huntingburg to put millions toward the road and many private donations of millions from business owners from Dubois County. People who live here are vehemently against it because the road will destroy their farms, homes, business and it will go through the Hoosier National Forest! That’s right, Mr. Forest Guy wants to put a road in the HNF because he loves his money far more than trees or the people of his own hometown and the surrounding counties.

    Braun as Governor will be a repeat of Pence, with a little less religion and a lot more pandering to corporate money.

  7. If Braun succeeds in moving from the Senate to the Statehouse, he quickly will learn that the ease legislators have in avoiding accountability is unavailable to governors. Constituents demand action in response to crisis. One can argue that mask mandates may have been over-applied or oversold, but the distinction above between issuing mandates and having them honored is true. The governors who ordered masks when Covid broke took that action because they were facing an unknown threat and masking was a ready option. Now many stress vaccination based on experience. Those governors took the best top-down action because that was their job.

  8. Thank you Teresa Kendall. Very clear explanation of an important issue. He does have an agenda; greed and personal gain.

  9. David Dawson – dream on – check out the recent activities of these govs – DeSantaclaus, Abbout, Sarah Huck, Noone….

  10. For you musician philosophers: here’s the majority Indiana culture.

    Cafe on the Corner

    At the cafe down on the corner
    With a lost look on his face
    There ain’t no fields to plow
    No reason to now

    He’s just a little out of place
    They say crime don’t pay
    But neither does farmin’ these days
    And the coffee is cold
    And he’s fifty years old
    And he’s gotta learn to live some other way
    At the cafe down on the corner
    With a lost look on his face

    There ain’t no fields to plow
    He’s busin’ tables now
    He’s just a little out of place
    And the meek shall inherit the earth
    And the bank shall repossess it
    This job don’t pay half what it’s worth
    But it’s a thankful man that gets it
    At the cafe down on the corner

    With a lost look on his face
    There ain’t no fields to plow
    He’s wishin’ for one now
    He’s just a little out of place
    All these soldiers without wars
    And hometown boys without a home
    Farmers without fields
    Dealers without deals
    And they sit here drinkin’ coffee all alone
    At the cafe down on the corner

    With a lost look on their face
    There ain’t no fields to plow
    They’re wishin’ for one now
    They’re just a little out of place

    Source: LyricFind
    Songwriters: M. McAnally
    Cafe on the Corner lyrics © Beginner Music

  11. They believe that they are just remnants of what’s left of their country and, at the cafe down at the corner, they’re fighting mad about recovering it under Trump like the saved Europe under Eisenhower.

  12. James has probably nailed Braun’s agenda, but he also has the support of ALEC (one of Koch’s dark networks). You don’t make it far within the GOP ladder without being endorsed by a Koch network.

    If I can get one more academic letter of recommendation, my thesis is why politicians cannot be moral leaders. In an oligarchy, they have to be followers first. If anything, they are middle managers, and we all know what that is like — full-on stress and always being wish-washy!

    Pandering with propaganda is the name of the game. Having a strong moral compass is a disadvantage in modern-day politics.

  13. The N95 mask is highly effective, but it requires a fit test to adequately seal off the mouth and nose, while allowing you to breathe. That’s why medical personnel are able to wear one for hours at a time. Other types of masks are varyingly effective, but some protection is better than no protection.

  14. It seems that politicians have decided to capture medical science with their own brand of medical science via their political treatment, as in, who pays any attention to the Faucis of this world? We politicians know best, and can sell our bill to a legislature if, inter alia, we insert the word “Freedom” in its title and harp about the “rights” we used to have in frontier days when one’s nearest neighbor may have lived three miles away and government regulation was unnecessary. Times have changed; most continents are full of people. Government regulation is necessary, and laws based on science rather than political whim are plainly the way to go in matters of public health. Mandates based on science? Yes!

    Thus Freedom to Breathe may become, in truth, freedom to die, and the maskless may be killing their friends, neighbors, and strangers at the supermarket. Such terms as “the jab” are helpful in selling death to the gullible who are anxious to demonstrate their rights, by gosh, and such public support, however ignorant, encourages politicians to capture new areas of human endeavor by the same or similar tactics. (See the dictatorial success of De Fascist in Florida.)

    Education has fallen prey in Indiana to such ploys as public monies are strewn throughout churches and individuals, curricular standards and educational outcomes are effectively ignored, no teaching of critical thinking etc., and We the People (and the shortchanged students) are stuck with the result(s), i.e., gullible adults who support the Brauns and Pences of this world after “graduating” from high school where they became knowledgeable in religious history but never heard of Aristotle or Oliver Cromwell.

    Let’s vote for a Freedom to Live in this crowded world and agitate for change, especially with the newdem, demanding and unknown world of AI just around the corner.

  15. Just when I didn’t think we would hear about masks again, Braun introduces the The “Freedom to Infect Others” bill!

    And yes John S, anything less than a properly fitted N95 mask will not prevent infection, but almost ANY mask will slow the spread of your infection.

  16. When I visited Japan 4 years ago, I noticed that a number of Japanese wore masks on public transit. When I asked why, I was told that it’s a way to avoid giving and getting the flu, colds, etc. How unique, I thought, that Japanese culture emphasizes the importance of community over self.

  17. Thank you Michael W. We could learn a few good things from the Japanese, but we learn nothing from anyone. My wife and I were the only ones on a recent flight to, and from New Jersey, and neither of us caught even a cold. I’ll stick to masking, thank you very much.
    ‘Greed and personal gain” are, far too often, the only agenda politicians have.

  18. Braun (no brains) is outraged by “top-down government overreach” regarding masks. I’m betting he doesn’t at all mind the decision delivered by the highest of the high Supreme Court regarding abortion.

    This from Heather Cox Richardson today: “The center-right think tank American Action Forum’s vice president for economic policy, Gordon Gray, had an answer. Ever since the debt ceiling fight was resolved, he told Joan E. Greve of The Guardian, ‘there’s a big chunk of House Republicans who just want to break something. That’s just how some of these folks define governing. It’s how their constituents define success.’ ”

    and this: ” . . . former representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) seem to wash her hands of the modern incarnation of her political party. ‘Putin has now officially endorsed the Putin-wing of the Republican Party,’ she wrote. ‘Putin Republicans & their enablers will end up on the ash heap of history. Patriotic Americans in both parties who believe in the values of liberal democracy will make sure of it.’ ”

    And so it goes . . . .. Let’s hope Liz is right.

  19. Speaking of pandering. Whodathunk Liz Cheney would become a hero to Democrats? Her husband makes a good case for the banishment of gun and is the poster boy for bad hunting instincts.

    Interesting choice of words wrt “ash heap”. The Cheney clan have made an ash heap of a lot of humans globally.

    The embracement of Cheney by liberals is indicative of the performative nature of the political mileue of today.

  20. Ian — Re: The embracement of Cheney and . . . Liz Cheney . . . a hero to Democrats?

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  21. A quick comment, since as a trained biologist I read the primary literature on masks.

    As Peggy pointed out, N95 masks are the most effective and must be fitted.

    But, most of the studies fall into two categories

    1) do masks stop penetration of virus sized molecules – maybe 40-50% – I don’t remember the exact numbers
    2) does putting a cloth barrier between a cage of infected animals and a cage of uninfected animals protect the uninfected animals – over 90% effective

    Statisticians don’t think about how viruses are sticky and it isn’t just their size.

    There were also some studies that showed masks were effective in the 1918 flu pandemic (comparing cities with and without mandates) – and those weren’t N95 – not at the 90% level, but still is wearing a mask too onerous for a 50% reduction in deaths?

    As for Braun – exactly – he wants glory and power to do what he wants, but not with the idea of being a “public servant” – he wants to serve only for himself

Comments are closed.