Morris: The Bulls in the China Shop

December 12, 2022

by Leo Morris

Poor Eric Doden.

The Fort Wayne businessman has been hugely successful in large part because of his ability to maneuver through bureaucratic government mazes. He calculated that his close ties with the ruling class, an early announcement and a campaign war chest approaching $3 million might give him an easy run as Republican candidate for governor.

But as familiar as he might be with the club, he is not yet a member, and those who already belong are too busy working out job swaps to worry much about a barbarian at the gates.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term, so he might run for the U.S. Senate seat that will open up because Sen. Mike Braun has decided he’d rather be governor. Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch also reportedly wants the job, and there are hints that 3rd District Rep. Jim Banks might jump in.

If Holcomb seeks the Senate, he might face Attorney General Todd Rokita, U.S. Reps. Trey Hollingsworth, Victoria Spartz and, oh, yes, Banks. Oops, this just in: Former two-term Gov. and outgoing Purdue University President Mitch Daniels might give it a go as well, which would really liven things up.

All those people, for both races, are Republicans, of course. Democrats in Indiana are such a weak force in statewide politics that it’s not worth even talking about them. Despite pretty poor approval ratings – 48.7 percent for the governor, 42.5 percent for the General Assembly – the GOP manages to keep power all in the family. Like a fractured, dysfunctional family in which the relatives squabble over the estate after the patriarch has died without leaving a will, but a family nonetheless.

At the national level, the ruling class at least lets voters pretend they matter by passing authority back and forth between the two parties, and for awhile there it seemed as if it were truly becoming a family affair.

George W. Bush, who inherited the presidency from father George H.W. Bush, was ready to pass the baton along to younger brother Jeb, governor of Florida. Bill Clinton handed off to wife Hillary. Two great dynasties going head-to-head – it would have been epic!

But along came a stink bomb named Donald Trump, who threw the establishment into absolute chaos, and the country had four years of a political bull running amok in the Washington swamp’s china shop. The establishment dispatched him easily and quickly, naturally, so now we have Joe Biden as a place keeper while things return to normal.

Chelsea Clinton, 41, and Jenna Bush Heger, 42, are waiting in the wings, so we can only hope the dust has settled before they take their rightful turn,

Some scholars, by the way, think “bull in a china shop” might come from Aesop’s “ass in a potter’s shop,” which is quite the fable. An ass belonging to a gardener complains to the gods about his lack of food and asks for a change in masters. He is transferred to a potter, but he asks for another change because of the heavy workload. Finally, he is transferred to a tanner, the worst master of all, and regrets having ever spoken up.

A Middle Ages version of the story tells of monks who prayed for the death of their abbot, who gave them three courses at a meal but not enough to satisfy their hunger. He dies and is replaced by an abbot who gives them only two courses. Finally comes an abbot who allows only one course, and one of the monks prays for him to have a long life lest they all starve to death under another successor.

We all should wish Joe Biden well, we really, really should.

And in Indiana, we can only hope the new governor, whichever Republican it is, won’t add too much to the state’s embarrassing $6 billion surplus and will leave the state at least as stable as he or she found it.

The goal should be to be as unthreatening to fellow Hoosiers as Henry Smith Lane, surely the governor who did the least harm to his state. He was elected in 1861 when voters truly did not matter in certain races, before the 17th Amendment allowed them, instead of state legislatures, to select U.S. senators.

Lane told his running mate, Oliver Morton, that if their Republicans took control of the General Assembly, Morton could assume the governorship and he would move on to the Senate.

And that’s just what happened. He served as Indiana governor for two days.

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at


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