Trent England | November 5, 2014
Anti-incumbent? Not quite.
Was Tuesday’s historic election all about anti-incumbent, “throw the bums out” voter anger? The results say otherwise.
Innovative incumbent governors won, in many cases against the odds.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, of course, is exhibit A. The last time Wisconsin went Republican in a presidential race was 1984. When Walker first won in 2010, he faced a $3.6 billion projected budget shortfall. Instead of nibbling around the edges or fudging the numbers he decided to solve the problem, even though it meant taking on public-sector union bosses and their political machines. Walker won the policy battle, won multiple rounds of recall and court fights, and won a second term.
Gov. Rick Snyder in Michigan also won a second term yesterday. That state last voted for a Republican president in 1988. With Detroit making international news as a failed city, Snyder signed a bill to guarantee workers the right to choose whether or not to participate in and pay for unions. Despite lawsuits and utter hysteria on the political left, Snyder carried on and successfully made the case to voters for his reelection.
The list goes on. Neither Florida Gov. Rick Scott nor Maine Gov. Paul LePage were expected to win. Neither have gone along with the Obama Administration’s Medicaid expansion scheme. LePage is charging ahead to reform state entitlements and reduce dependency on government. Scott has made Florida a leading state on school choice. Both incumbent governor’s won.
In fact, the only Republican governor who lost yesterday was Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, who faltered on issues like blocking Medicaid expansion and reforming unions and pension plans. And the two Democrat governors who won most handily—Gov. Jerry Brown in California and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York—both at least flirted with standing against public-sector labor bosses and other advocates for ever-bigger government.
There was a reason the Framers of the Constitution kept the states when they created a new federal government. There was a reason why their structure was designed to keep most power within the states. Those governments are closer to the people and smaller, thus able to be more agile and responsive. It is worth remembering that, in the early days of the republic, serving in the federal government was considered boring compared with working at the state leve.
The victories of governors like Scott Walker and Rick Snyder are a vindication of that constitutional structure. They are also a reminder that we still do have, in the states, leaders who take risks, enact reforms, stand by their ideas—and win.
David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow
Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.