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EDITORIAL

Pence, Gregg and General Assembly supermajority

Friday, October 12, 2012 - 12:01 am

Gregg must be a compromiser; Pence can afford not to be

In their first debate Wednesday night, Republican Mike Pence and Democrat John Gregg both stressed the need for bipartisanship, but Gregg wasn’t buying it from Pence. As Indiana House Speaker, he said, he earned a reputation as a moderate who could work with both sides of the aisle. Pence, on the other hand, has been one of the far right’s “lead attack dogs” when it comes to Democrats.

The truth is that Gregg must be a compromiser and a moderate if he’s elected. He will be working with a House and Senate dominated by Republicans. Pence, on the other hand, can afford to be a passionate conservative, sticking to principles instead. Many of his proposals will get a friendly reception without any particular effort at persuasion on his part.

The only real question still unresolved is just how strong the GOP control of state government will be. Senate Republicans already have a supermajority, and they aren’t likely to lose it. The House is just a handful of seats away from Republicans having that much power. If the GOP is that powerful in both the House and Senate, Democrats will lose the only tool they had left this session: the ability to stop legislative activity by walking out.

A Gov. Gregg working with a supermajority and a Gov. Pence working with a supermajority would be two entirely different political animals. A Gregg administration would be cautious and probably not very productive. There would be the possibility of near deadlock if he signs a lot of vetoes. A Pence administration, on the other hand, would be very active and more philosophically driven. Many of the GOP’s positions on social issues – abortion, gay marriage, creationism – would find their way to bills landing on the governor’s desk.

Republicans who hunger for those supermajorities should beware of the dangers in getting what one asks for. The admonition that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” does not just apply to one part. Complete dominance can breed both arrogance and complacency. The lack of meaningful opposition means that serious challenges to dubious propositions would have to come from Republicans. Counting on that possibility is risky. House Speaker Brian Bosma, for example, has said that neither Pence’s tax-cut proposals nor Gregg’s would get an automatic pass. But, realistically, how often and how strongly would he buck Pence?

None of this should matter to individuals, who should vote for the candidates who suit them, regardless of the overall implications. It’s interesting to contemplate, though.