Pruning the political garden 

A Mitch Daniels Guide to Voting

A Mitch Daniels Guide to Voting

With so many political ads and so few distinctions between candidates, it’s difficult to find any of them memorable. But the Mitch Daniels “Every garden needs to be weeded every 16 years” proverb has risen above the din and gets my vote for best campaign slogan of the season.

Yet, in a brilliant stroke of irony, if voters actually take Daniels at his word and pull the political weeds in this state, his own party would face the largest political upset in memory.

Daniels’ manufactured Forrest Gump guise, replete with folksy turns of phrase, is consistent with the Republican tradition of packaging Ivy League-educated millionaires as country-bumpkins and passing them off as refreshing political alternatives.

But when this Princeton graduate flashes an ah-shucks grin and claims this is his first campaign, he’s either suffering from amnesia or lying.

Though this is the first time Mitch Daniels’ name appears on the ballot, his campaign career began in 1968 with his work on the unsuccessful U.S. Senate run of William Ruckelshaus.

The next three decades included three stints as campaign manager for Sen. Richard Lugar, and another political flop as co-chairman of the David McIntosh gubernatorial bid in 2000.

And while not busy running campaigns for others, Daniels found time to build his resume serving as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, chief political advisor in the Reagan Administration, executive vice president and CEO of the right-wing Hudson Institute and, most recently, as director of the White House Management and Budget Office, overseeing a $236 billion surplus plummet to a $400 billion deficit under another Republican faux bumpkin.

But the “Every garden needs to be weeded every 16 years” proverb isn’t simply part of a campaign persona. Daniels also means it as a voting strategy.

This too is highly suspect.

Mitch Daniels is running against a man who has held the office of governor for a little more than 12 months.

So where are the other 15 years?

Presumably, Daniels’ garden metaphor refers to the Democratic Party because it has successfully kept a candidate in that office for 16 years.

Since they’ve had, in his opinion, this power for far too long, it is the Democrats themselves he would like to see pulled from the state House garden.

Now here’s where it gets tricky.

Since 1978, Republicans have consistently controlled the Senate and the state purse strings — giving whoever sits in the Governor’s Office limited power at best.

Therefore, the most powerful politicians in Indiana are our 50 state senators, including the 25 who have been in office for over 16 years, seven of them for more than 30 years.

Ironically, this would appear to be the garden most in need of weeding.

Because Mr. Kernan has only been blooming where he’s planted for a mere 12 months, why don’t Indiana voters turn their attention to pulling the more permanent and powerful weeds rooted in the Senate?

Following Daniels’ lead, voters should concentrate on pruning longtime Republican Sens. Greg Server (32 years), Robert Bray (30 years), Patricia Miller (22 years), Thomas Weatherwax (20 years), Michael Young (18 years) and Beverly Gard, Marvin Riegsecker and Robert Meeks (16 years each), all running for re-election on Nov. 2.

Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the next election to weed out Republicans Harrison (38 years), Garton (34 years), Nugent (26 years) and Zalas, Landske, Wyss and Paul (22 to 18 years each).

But since we’ve started pulling political weeds, why stop at the Senate?

The House of Representatives could use some pruning as well, and these 100 seats are all up for grabs next month.

With all due respect to Republican Reps. Mangus and Espich, you’ve held your jobs since 1972, why not give someone else a chance?

Mr. Alderman and Mr. Pond, after 25 years we’re ready for a change.

And Reps. Ayres, Becker, Bosma, Buell, Budak, Burton, Turner and Walkins, we thank you for hanging around since the 1980s, but it’s time to go.

Unfortunately, weeding a proverbial garden is more difficult than it sounds.

Even if Daniels loses, the Democrats have essentially handed the Republicans a victory in the Senate by not even bothering to run candidates against many of these seemingly permanent fixtures in our state House.

Unless Indiana voters turn out in record numbers, pruning shears in hand, the Republicans are all but guaranteed continuing control of the Senate.

Seems the only way to pull all the weeds in our state House will be for voters to purge both parties and refuse to accept politics as usual.

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Laura McPhee

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