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.