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Gridlock produces better LA govt than leftist agenda

As the run-up to the inauguration of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards proceeds, increasingly the left and its media allies will try to propagate the narrative that the best policy outcomes will come from the Republican-led legislature bending to the will of the new Democrat governor, ignoring the flaw fatal to that argument.

My Advocate colleague Stephanie Grace attempts this in defending the attempt of Edwards to swing the election of House Speaker to a Democrat, despite the fact that Republicans have about 60 percent of the seats in the body. This affront to the notion of majority rule and popular representation she justifies on two bases, that it has happened before and it would provide for more “productive” government.

I addressed that first notion recently, pointing out that when the minority Republicans corralled the job in 2007 they trailed Democrats by just one seat and no party had an absolute majority, the only time this occurred in modern House history. A precedent of a party as small as the House Democrats today nevertheless having one of its own made chamber leader did occur during Republican former Gov. Mike Foster’s second term, but Foster himself did not differ tremendously in ideology with the then-majority Democrats, having been one himself right up to his first election.

But nowhere in Louisiana history has a governor so at odds with a substantial majority party on issues installed his minority party ally to lead a chamber. The average Louisiana Legislature Log score (higher scores meaning increased voting conservatively and/or reformism) for House Republicans over the past eight years was almost 70, while for Edwards it was about 30 (Democrats averaged 47, so Edwards turned out much more liberal/populist than even his own caucus). Simply, no historical precedent exists for such an action.

Grace’s second point deserves scrutiny, as the left commonly utilizes it when in the minority. She declares that the “people” want not a deadlocked process, but one where “the governor and Legislature … team up and solve problems,” such as chronic budgetary difficulties, higher education funding, and acceptance of federal government money for national policy wishes. She sees the chances better at attaining these goals without Republican leadership potentially blocking a governor of the other (preferred to her) party.

Perhaps the public does desire these goals. But the sleight of hand here, and horrendous assumption, is that the Democrat governor’s liberal preferences provide the best options. If these include higher taxes and more spending in general, and more specifically items such as expanding Medicaid, increasing taxpayer spending on higher education without significant reforms, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, etc., these disserve the state, its taxpayers, and its public in general, even as some special interests may benefit.

In this case, divided government helps the state because this prevents enacting poor policy. There’s no inherent good to a “productive” government, especially when it produces inferior governance as a result. We don’t live in a Hobbesian world where bad government is better (to tweak the idea slightly) than inert government. Good governing results from inaction when the stalemate prevents inflicting harmful measures upon the polity.

Of course, this understanding violates the left’s definition of “bipartisanship,” which in its formulation occurs when conservatives, even when in a majority, accede to the demands of liberals, never the other way around. Failure to do so, “obstructionist” behavior, results in “unproductive” government, betraying a bias that the best government is the government that governs the most. Naturally, liberals obstructing conservatives for rigid ideological reasons, as witnessed in the federal government since 2011, escape condemnation by the left’s double standard.

Note also how “gridlock” resides in the eyes of the beholder. No gridlock need exist if Edwards bows to the will of the people in not raising taxes, in reducing spending and cost-ineffective tax breaks, and in not trying to reverse, despite his campaign rhetoric suggesting otherwise, beneficial policy decisions of the past eight years.

Making a Democrat speaker increases the odds of poor governance going forward in the next four years. A higher probability of gridlock happens with a Republican speaker if Edwards intransigently clings to ideology. Given only these two choices, the latter as a whole leaves Louisiana better off.

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