Outstater: The Holcomb Model

December 23, 2019

“(Gov. Eric Holcomb) isn’t too concerned heading into a re-election year, saying that maintaining momentum is just as important as starting it. ‘Here in Indiana, whether it’s bold or not or controversial or shiny, I’m fine not being part of the food fight,’ he said.” — “Holcomb Confident in Bid for Second Term,” Niki Kelly in the Dec. 22 Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

by Craig Ladwig

Angelo Codevilla of the Claremont Institute knows who will win the post-2020 election cycles — those in the “deplorable” places anyway, places such as . . . well, such as Indiana.

These, as you well know, are the places denigrated in urban and governmental circles as populated by dim proles— the common people In the excessively armed hinterland, in flyover country, huddled in villages scratching out a living amid the corn fields. Barack Obama liked to call therm “folks” as if he were familiar enough to be condescending.

Codevilla, though, would argue that such people, properly led, will make themselves known at the ballot box both here and nationally. He predicts that the mega issue that spelled election victory in 2016 will continue to grip the nation beyond 2020, and at all levels. He identifies it on this month’s American Greatness blog:

“From President Obama on down, the political, educational, media and corporate establishment had long since taken for granted that placing the opinions, interests, tastes and the rights of the rest of America on the same plane as their own amounts to ‘false equality.’ They had come to regard us as lower beings. No matter whether they attributed our purported inferiority to our alleged racism, sexism, etc., or just plain stupidity, they negated the possibility of common citizenship with us.”

Codevilla predicts that a new type of leader will come to the fore, more grounded, perhaps less brazen than Donald Trump. He lists what will be their attitudes and priorities:

“Since what the ruling class does is driven by its identity, whoever would lead us ‘deplorables’ must leave no doubt that his own (identity), at the very least, is in opposition to theirs. In other words, he has no desire to join the ruling class, or to be liked by them, that he understands the harm the ruling class has done to America, and that he is on the side of those who wish to save and repair what is possible to save and repair.”

Okay then, what to make of Eric Holcomb? If it is possible to argue that a seemingly kind, adept governor who will be reelected by a large margin is swimming against the tide, here goes . . .

The governor is Gilbert and Sullivan’s “perfect model of a modern major general,” the consummate magistrate, Norman duke, NFL commissioner, university president or whatever, attentive to the concerns of all in the room.

The governor is surrounded as all governors are by apparatchiks, men and women holding the best jobs of their lives and determined to keep them. These and many of the donors, party chairmen and the well-shod department heads in the governmental centers may be embarrassed by Hoosiers generally, or at least to the degree they fit Codevilla’s socio-political description. Indeed, they may see them as a political threat. They may yearn for a better or at least more malleable citizenry.

They aren’t going to get it.

Again, Holcomb will be reelected in 2020 but for reasons detached from his personal attributes or even ideology (if any). His administration has methodically co-opted or compromised all serious opposition (avoided the “food fights). In addition, thousands of new Republican voters, activated by Donald Trump, will vote a straight ticket this next time (much as a similar political character, the now retired Senate Pro Tem David Long, was reelected in 2016).

There won’t be a Holcomb mandate, only another four years of indoor work for the man from Indianapolis Pike High School. Nor will he have coattails. Nor is he the leader on which to build a broader base. Let’s be frank: The governor does not resonate with an increasingly worried outstate middle class, working men and women of all political disposition.

That may be because Holcomb has never “worked” in the way most Hoosiers think of it. That is not to dismiss six years as a Naval officer or a career as the key staffer for a range of state and federal officeholders. Those jobs required intelligence, judgment, skill and fortitude. But those jobs all had something else in common — an institutional payday. Eric Holcomb’s employers were not going to close shop as a result of market pressure or regulatory whim.

So we are back to it: Does the Holcomb model have promise? Is it, as he says, a simple matter of staying the course, of keeping one’s head down and not stirring up the natives, not frightening the horses?

No, that isn’t a strategy for these times. Indiana voters are waiting for someone who is decidedly — decidedly — in opposition to the almost hereditary ruling class in Indianapolis that the Holcomb model represents. Moreover, it will be someone with specific programs to correct the damage.

Voters increasingly will favor elected representatives who make clear they are on the side of those who, in Codevilla’s words, would save and repair what is possible to save and repair.

That won’t be Holcomb or anybody near him. You read it here first.

Craig Ladwig is editor of The Indiana Policy Review.


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