Why I Opposed Right to Work Legislation in Indiana This Year

 

[Editor’s Note: I wrote to Governor Daniels yesterday explaining that he’d riled up quite a few folks here at Ricochet and asked him if he’d like to explain his decision to oppose the right to work bill that was proposed by the Republican legislature in his state.  I didn’t expect to hear back right away from a man who’d just had shoulder surgery, had to contend with Democrats walking out of his legislature, and was preparing to fly to Washington for the National Governors’ Association annual meeting, but –lo!– he wrote right back. Below, his response as e-mailed to me. –Diane Ellis, Ed.]

Diane, I’ve explained myself in the home state press for weeks, but since you asked:

Here in Indiana we have a very extensive 2011 agenda that these critics, if they took the time to look, would strongly applaud: another no-tax budget, an automatic refund to taxpayers past a specified level of state reserves, sweeping reform of archaic and anti-taxpayer local government, reduction of the corporate income tax, and the most far-reaching reform of education in America, including statewide vouchers for low and moderate income families.  We laid all this before the public during last year’s elections.

Into this a few of my allies chose to toss Right to Work (RTW).  I suggested studying it for a year and developing the issue for next year.  No one had campaigned on it; it was a big issue that hit the public cold.  I was concerned that it would provide the pretext for radical action by our Democratic minority that would jeopardize the entire agenda above, with zero chance of passing RTW itself.  And that is exactly what has happened.

We’re not giving up on the agenda we ran on, but this mistake presents a significant obstacle.  RTW never had a chance this year and now the task is to make sure that it doesn’t take a host of good government changes down with it.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @Sisyphus

    Thank you for the explanation, Governor. In the absence of supporting polling data or election feedback, having the patience to debate and consider the will of the governed does seem prudent.

    Not being in or from Indiana, the threat of non-cooperation from the minority party lacks specificity. Is anyone in the room familiar with minority tactics as they apply to Indiana?

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Well said, Governor. It’s easy for folks who don’t live in Indiana and don’t know much about your agenda and the consequent political challenges you face to carp. And frankly, many of them didn’t even know that you’d taken on public sector unions six years ago.

    I’m glad you cleared the air.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Diane, thanks for contacting Governor Daniels. We sure get a lot of value for $3.47 a month.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong
    Kenneth: Diane, thanks for contacting Governor Daniels. We sure get a lot of value for $3.47 a month. · Feb 24 at 10:49am

    We’re going to pull that quote and use it in our next investor’s fundraising deck!

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MelFoil
    Kenneth

    etoiledunord: RTW, I consider a dignity-of-Man issue, just like fighting slavery was 200 years ago. You do it whenever and wherever possible. To me, it’s never a backburner issue. I don’t want unions forcing me to do anything, whether it’s staying home from work, or giving them money so they can give it to my political enemies. If they were really of service, they wouldn’t have to force people to join. · Feb 24 at 11:47am

    Right to work is an issue that affects about 7% of the population – those currently enrolled in private-sector unions. Governor Daniels has bigger fish to fry for the people of Indiana. · Feb 24 at 11:52am

    Well, we all have a hill that we’re willing to die on, and RTW is mine. Modern unions reek of socialist conformity, and I hate everything about them. Period.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @LowcountryJoe

    Whether it’s Right to Work, trade liberalization, reforming the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security, etcetera, some things are worth championing. One can make excuses for not doing the politically tough things by suggesting pragmatism, wishes of constituents, or picking one’s battles but that will only make the smaller things just as tough while nothing worth doing [or, rather, undoing] get done/undone. Besides, if one has been elected, they’re already representing their constituents…until the next election. Perhaps the voters will actually re-elect you if you grow a spine?

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @
    etoiledunord

    Kenneth

    etoiledunord: RTW, I consider a dignity-of-Man issue, just like fighting slavery was 200 years ago. You do it whenever and wherever possible. To me, it’s never a backburner issue. I don’t want unions forcing me to do anything, whether it’s staying home from work, or giving them money so they can give it to my political enemies. If they were really of service, they wouldn’t have to force people to join. · Feb 24 at 11:47am

    Right to work is an issue that affects about 7% of the population – those currently enrolled in private-sector unions. Governor Daniels has bigger fish to fry for the people of Indiana. · Feb 24 at 11:52am
    Well, we all have a hill that we’re willing to die on, and RTW is mine. Modern unions reek of socialist conformity, and I hate everything about them. Period. · Feb 24 at 12:04pm

    That’s fair enough. But don’t expect Governor Daniels to bend his priorities to suit your preference.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs
    Kenneth

    Well, that may be how it struck you. It certainly isn’t how I perceived it. · Feb 24 at 11:29am

    Well, no. Obviously. But you have made clear that you don’t really care about the social issues. His attempt to neutralize those wouldn’t bother you.

    The point is it does bother a huge portion of the base, which the next Republican nominee will need to win the White House.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong
    etoiledunord

    Well, we all have a hill that we’re willing to die on, and RTW is mine. Modern unions reek of socialist conformity, and I hate everything about them. Period. · Feb 24 at 12:04pm

    I agree, and I’m a union member. Part of my Writers Guild dues are kicked up to the AFL. Part of my paycheck is paying for the ham sandwiches they’re passing out in Madison.

    On the other hand, for me, it’s not as pressing a national issue as public union pension/benefit reform, tax cuts, budget slashing, and education reform.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs

    In other words, that portion of the base was already uneasy with Mitch Daniels. Right now they’re rallying enthusiastically behind Scott Walker.

    It was bad timing.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @PeterHintz
    katievs:

    But there’s also a national narrative unfolding. And if Governor Daniels hopes to enter the presidential race, he will have to appeal to the base nationwide.· Feb 24 at 11:22am

    Let’s hope he doesn’t throw all of his camaign promises under the bus in order to appeal to ideological purists who don’t even live in Indiana.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Member
    @AndreaRyan
    Mike Visser: …

    Mitch Daniels:

    Into this a few of my allies chose to toss Right to Work (RTW). I suggested studying it for a year and developing the issue for next year. No one had campaigned on it; it was a big issue that hit the public cold.

    Governor Daniels, forgive me for being naive, but why the heck would the state legislators launch this huge and incendiary effort without involving you in the strategy first and making sure you were all on the same page? Regardless of who did what, it makes you all look bad in the eyes of the rest of the country. It just looks bad and removes the spotlight from all your outstanding accomplishments.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Member
    @
    LowcountryJoe: Perhaps the voters will actually re-elect you if you grow a spine? · Feb 24 at 12:06pm

    Was that really necessary? Have some respect for a man of accomplishment.

    Besides, Governor Daniels isn’t eligible for re-election; he’s just trying to do his best for the citizens of Indiana.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe

    In my two posts on Daniels, I chose not to make much of the Right to Work issue because I knew that I did not know very much about the local situation. Before deciding what I think, I would want to hear the other side in Indiana.

    One thing is clear. Daniels failed to rein in his fellow Republicans. Whether they are out of control or he is remiss I cannot say. And he did make a statement to the press that seemed to all concerned to be in praise of the Democratic legislators fleeing the state. This may hurt him; it may be a blip on the screen. We shall see.

    I am struck by the failure of his admirers in the Ricochet community to address the question of his handling of the repeal of the Missouri Plan and court appointments. Is that, as I suspect, indefensible?

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong
    LowcountryJoe: Whether it’s Right to Work, trade liberalization, reforming the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security, etcetera, some things are worth championing. One can make excuses for not doing the politically tough things by suggesting pragmatism, wishes of constituents, or picking one’s battles but that will only make the smaller things just as tough while nothing worth doing [or, rather, undoing] get done/undone. Besides, if one has been elected, they’re already representing their constituents…until the next election. Perhaps the voters will actually re-elect you if you grow a spine? · Feb 24 at 12:06pm

    I agree. And Daniels is a perfect example. His popularity was in the low 30’s for his first couple of years in office — precisely because of his budget-cutting and union reform. But then, voters saw his plans work — they saw Indiana’s economy doing better than its neighbors — and voted him in for a second term. He won 58% of the vote in a state that went for Obama.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Member
    @CaseyWay
    Stuart Creque: Gov. Daniels, I am confused. You worried that Indiana Democrat legislators would be so provoked by RTW — something you say had no chance of passage — that they would take radical action. Why would you then be confident that school vouchers would be less inflammatory and be able to pass without precipitating the same radical response from Democrat lawmakers? · Feb 24 at 11:04am

    School vouchers would be less inflammatory because throughout the course of the election, the topic had been made part of the discussion. In the broader debate that is an election, the voters chose to vote with the party that argued for vouchers. They consented that this legislation might be a possibility. This is by no means to restrict legislation to election platforms or the contrary but the danger is a “We won the election. We write the bill” mentality. The election provided an initial reference point on which Daniels and his opponents could gauge public opinion and future strategy. RTW didn’t have this and now this point is set at Democrat walkout. I understand the frustrations from an outside viewpoint but I think the reasoning is sound, succinct, and frankly a smart approach.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Member
    @
    katievs

    Kenneth

    Well, that may be how it struck you. It certainly isn’t how I perceived it. · Feb 24 at 11:29am

    Well, no. Obviously. But you have made clear that you don’t really care about the social issues. His attempt to neutralize those wouldn’t bother you.

    The point is it does bother a huge portion of the base, which the next Republican nominee will need to win the White House. · Feb 24 at 12:08pm

    Really? Where else are you going to go? Vote for Obama? Sit on your hands?

    Empty threat.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Inactive
    @LowcountryJoe
    Peter Hintz

    katievs:

    But there’s also a national narrative unfolding. And if Governor Daniels hopes to enter the presidential race, he will have to appeal to the base nationwide.· Feb 24 at 11:22am

    Let’s hope he doesn’t throw all of his camaign promises under the bus in order to appeal to ideological purists who don’t even live in Indiana. · Feb 24 at 12:11pm

    Ideological purist = someone who champions for liberty and wants/expects politicians of the GOP stripe to do the same?

    Forgive me for trying to be a purist; trying to free myself from anti-liberty tainting where it exists.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Member
    @
    Paul A. Rahe: In my two posts on Daniels, I chose not to make much of the Right to Work issue because I knew that I did not know very much about the local situation. Before deciding what I think, I would want to hear the other side in Indiana.

    One thing is clear. Daniels failed to rein in his fellow Republicans. Whether they are out of control or he is remiss I cannot say. And he did make a statement to the press that seemed to all concerned to be in praise of the Democratic legislators fleeing the state. This may hurt him; it may be a blip on the screen. We shall see.

    I am struck by the failure of his admirers in the Ricochet community to address the question of his handling of the repeal of the Missouri Plan and court appointments. Is that, as I suspect, indefensible? · Feb 24 at 12:13pm

    It’s not our “failure”. We just don’t happen to share your animus towards Governor Daniels – perhaps the most successful Governor of the past several decades.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive
    @LowcountryJoe
    Kenneth

    LowcountryJoe: Perhaps the voters will actually re-elect you if you grow a spine? · Feb 24 at 12:06pm

    Was that really necessary? Have some respect for a man of accomplishment.

    Besides, Governor Daniels isn’t eligible for re-election; he’s just trying to do his best for the citizens of Indiana. · Feb 24 at 12:13pm

    Yes, it was, I think. Especially since he’s not eligible for re-election — a fact I did not know.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Inactive
    @IsraelP
    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Pseudodionysius

    I’m not sure what issues we shouldn’t cover in this thread — Paul Rahe has mentioned judicial appointments — but I want to ask a specific question about vouchers and school choice. Sol Stern writing in City Journal School Choice Isn’t Enough has changed his mind on vouchers, and believes that many are treating them as a panacea while ignoring the important issue of cirricular reform. I strongly recommend reading the whole article. Don’t think for a minute that he’s dismissing the importance of market incentives, but I thought I would trot out his example from a state we don’t usually associate with reform issues that Ricochet members can agree on — Massachusetts:

    Those in the school reform movement seeking a case of truly spectacular academic improvement should look to Massachusetts, where something close to an education miracle has occurred. In the past several years, Massachusetts has improved more than almost every other state on the NAEP tests. In 2007, it scored first in the nation in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading.

    Q: To what extent are your school reform efforts based on cirricular reform independent of market incentives?

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Inactive
    @IsraelP
    Israel P.: Well, it used to be just the weekly podcast and occasional articles that attracted my attention via Twitter. Now I see so many things to do. Must find Ritalin. · Feb 24 at 12:21pm

    And I put this in the wrong thread! LOL!

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs
    Kenneth

    katievs

    Kenneth

    Well, that may be how it struck you. It certainly isn’t how I perceived it. · Feb 24 at 11:29am

    Well, no. Obviously. But you have made clear that you don’t really care about the social issues. His attempt to neutralize those wouldn’t bother you.

    The point is it does bother a huge portion of the base, which the next Republican nominee will need to win the White House. · Feb 24 at 12:08pm

    Really? Where else are you going to go? Vote for Obama? Sit on your hands?

    Empty threat. · Feb 24 at 12:15pm

    If Daniels ends up the nominee, I will vote for him. I will support him.

    But until he’s the nominee, I will argue that someone who is firm on all three fronts of the basic war is our best chance of defeating Obama.

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Member
    @BrianWatt

    Governor Daniels – It seemed that earlier in the week that you remarked that it was a “legitimate part of the process” that Democrats leave the capital rather than address the RTW legislation put forth by the Republican leadership in the State House that has now been withdrawn. Today, the reports are that you have declared Democrat legislators’ absence “unacceptable”. Do you believe that the tactic of leaving the state resulting in the absence of a quorum is within the rights or either party in an effort to block or eventually kill legislation? Or should there be a remedy, perhaps a state constitutional amendment, to prevent this tactic in future?

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs
    Kenneth

    Paul A. Rahe: In my two posts on Daniels, I chose not to make much of the Right to Work issue because I knew that I did not know very much about the local situation. Before deciding what I think, I would want to hear the other side in Indiana.

    One thing is clear. Daniels failed to rein in his fellow Republicans. Whether they are out of control or he is remiss I cannot say. And he did make a statement to the press that seemed to all concerned to be in praise of the Democratic legislators fleeing the state. This may hurt him; it may be a blip on the screen. We shall see.

    I am struck by the failure of his admirers in the Ricochet community to address the question of his handling of the repeal of the Missouri Plan and court appointments. Is that, as I suspect, indefensible? · Feb 24 at 12:13pm

    It’s not our “failure”. We just don’t happen to share your animus towards Governor Daniels – perhaps the most successful Governor of the past several decades. · Feb 24 at 12:19pm

    Animus?

    Really, Kenneth.

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Palaeologus
    Paul A. Rahe:

    I am struck by the failure of his admirers in the Ricochet community to address the question of his handling of the repeal of the Missouri Plan and court appointments. Is that, as I suspect, indefensible? · Feb 24 at 12:13pm

    Richard Garnett didn’t find it so. He writes:

    Is Daniels really unworthy of conservatives’ consideration — is his understanding of the importance of judicial nominations really undermined — because he has not campaigned for a constitutional amendment, or because he vetoed a bill in 2009 that was more complicated than Carrie’s dissent suggests? (It was, in fact, little more than an effort by liberal Democrats in northern Indiana to secure reliably liberal judicial candidates in that part of the state and to fund an unnecessary and expensive new court.) I don’t think so.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @JosephStanko
    etoiledunord

    Well, we all have a hill that we’re willing to die on, and RTW is mine. Modern unions reek of socialist conformity, and I hate everything about them. Period. · Feb 24 at 12:04pm

    Extending the military metaphor, we all want to take that hill. If the CO orders the troops to sit tight and wait for cover of darkness, and you ignore orders and charge the hill all by yourself and die 10 yards from the trench, that’s just foolhardy and does no one any good. Victory requires enthusiasm, but also some measure of disciple.

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Member
    @
    katievs

    Kenneth

    Paul A. Rahe:

    I am struck by the failure of his admirers in the Ricochet community to address the question of his handling of the repeal of the Missouri Plan and court appointments. Is that, as I suspect, indefensible? · Feb 24 at 12:13pm

    It’s not our “failure”. We just don’t happen to share your animus towards Governor Daniels – perhaps the most successful Governor of the past several decades. · Feb 24 at 12:19pm
    Animus?

    Really, Kenneth. · Feb 24 at 12:28pm

    Yes. Just read his post. He is seething.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MatthewOsborn
    Israel P. · Feb 24 at 12:21pm

    Edited on Feb 24 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks for the heads up!

    • #30

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