Commentary: Why discipline matters

By John Krull
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Republicans have plans.

And Indiana Democrats have concerns.

John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

That was the big takeaway from interviews I did with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (a Republican), Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, and House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin, D-Austin.

The interviews were for a radio program I host. They focused on the 2018 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

There were no big revelations from the conversations, but the thing that struck me the most was that the Republican leaders had clear public policy goals in mind – and they were moving in lockstep to achieve them.

When I asked Holcomb, Bosma and Long what the state’s biggest challenge was, I heard:

Workforce development, from Holcomb.

Workforce development, from Bosma.

And, workforce development, from Long.

They each talked about how creating and attracting a skilled workforce was essential to Indiana’s fortunes because having a deep labor pool would encourage businesses to invest here, thus elevating the standard of living for all Hoosiers.

One can quibble with the theory driving their agenda. The fact that Indiana is at close to full employment, yet wages have remained stagnant for many Hoosiers and poverty rates in some sectors of the state have climbed undercuts their thesis that business growth is a panacea.

But one must respect the single-minded determination with which they pursue their agenda.

Even when the conversation moved to other subjects – the opioid addiction crisis, for instance – the GOP leaders found ways to bring it back to their focal point. Bosma said one of the costs of the opioid epidemic was that their addictions rendered many Hoosiers unemployable, which creates economic vulnerability for others in the state.

Again, one can argue about the thought behind the policy – those who love Hoosiers who have addiction problems probably place a higher value on the lives, rather than the jobs, of the afflicted – but there is no mistaking what the Republican priority is.

And that is making Indiana the most business-friendly state in the country.

Every other consideration takes a back seat.

Democrats, on the other hand, have no such clear focus.

When I asked Lanane what Senate Democrats saw as the state’s top challenge, he identified the opioid crisis – saying, accurately, that it was destroying lives – and then veered to redistricting reform and putting an end to gerrymandering.

Goodin cited the upheaval in the state Department of Child Services first. (The agency’s leader resigned just before Christmas, saying budget cuts were threatening the lives of the state’s children.) Then Goodin said that Indiana must focus not just on bringing in any new businesses, but only those businesses that would pay Hoosiers a living wage.

There’s a link to these priorities, of course – a concern for the vulnerable and the dispossessed.

But that concern doesn’t make up an agenda. It doesn’t sound a bugle call to followers. It isn’t a rallying cry.

That, in part, is why Republicans have achieved such dominance – four straight victories in governor’s races, supermajorities in both the House and Senate, control of every statewide office but one U.S. Senate seat.

They know what they want to do with the power they hold. They know how they want to shape – and, in some cases, reshape – the state.

Democrats don’t.

They can identify places where the GOP blueprint for the state may hurt people who live here, but they don’t have a single cohesive, coherent alternative to offer Hoosiers.

As long as that is the case, Republicans will continue to win and Democrats … won’t.

Republicans have a plan.

Democrats have concerns.

There’s a difference – a difference that tells.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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