A Dangerously Reasonable Governor

April 02, 2013

I like the governor of my state more than I thought I would when he was elected, and that’s a problem for him.

When Bob McDonnell was running for governor, I had the impression he was a hard right apostle of the worst elements of the Virginia Republican Party.  Just about all I needed to know was that he did his graduate work at Christian Broadcasting Network University, which has since changed its name to Regent University.  In a state that is home to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, that is a telling marker.  I assumed the worst.

But, in my casual attention to state politics, I kept noticing how outraged I wasn’t.  I don’t support most of his policies, but his tone is different than I expected.  And while it’s sometimes difficult to tell if a governor has been successful – the usual barometer of economic success doesn’t really have much to do with his actions -- I do feel like McDonnell has tried to govern the state in a responsible manner.

His four years of seemingly reasonable governance was topped off with a major transportation plan that was generally balanced. It’s hard for me to judge the details, but it seems to address some real problems that had been lingering for years.  But to the horror of many Republicans around the country, there were some modest revenues in the plan.  (It turns out building roads isn’t free.)  This got McConnell uninvited to the Conservative Political Action Committee conference.

Ideally in a democracy, when your candidate loses, you can have a sense of respect for the winner.  Many Republicans nationally seem to reject this idea of respectful opposition to President Obama, as many Democrats did for President Bush.  That McDonnell engenders that feeling is good for our state.

All of this balanced moderation, and praise from Democrats, has put a temporary halt to talk of McConnell running for President.  The Washington Post is running an NCAA-like bracket for 2016 presidential candidates and McDonnell didn’t even make the top 16 Republicans.  From my point of view, that’s a good thing. The Governor is a very conservative guy, and I probably disagree with him on 90% of issues.  But he’s a serious person who seeks to govern his state, avoids demonization and irrational drama, and might just appeal to centrists across the country.  Thank God his fellow Republicans seem bent on keeping such a potentially strong candidate from getting the presidential nomination in 2016.

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