Tuesday, August 02, 2005

But I won't beat you as often as the other guy 

Both First Ringer and KvM are arguing that the entry of Mike Hatch into the governor's race would do for Tim Pawlenty's relationship with fiscal conservatives what fee-calling couldn't. FR makes the point.
Few conservatives enraged by Pawlenty�s taxing decision would hold their grudge long when presented with the prospect of Mike Hatch occupying the Governor�s office. Although Pawlenty needs more than the support of his base to get anywhere near the 56% approval rating of earlier in the year, increased conservative/Republican support alone could get Pawlenty back to the mid to high 40s and practically out of reach in a three-way contest.

Isn't this the problem, though? Doesn't anyone else think that this enters into the Pawlenty camp's calculus: "I may abuse our relationship, but I'm your guy, and if you don't support me you'll be stuck with someone far worse."??? That's certainly the message I heard loud and clear on Saturday from NARN brother John sitting to my left on the show.

Government has a bias towards spending more; this is a proposition that I believe conservatives and Republicans embrace. The bias works not because of the dark hearts of Democrats but because interest groups organize to gain from government what they cannot from the market, and the majority who would not pay for this are unable to organize effectively to block interest group or corporate rentseeking. (This is the lesson of Mancur Olson's early book The Logic of Collective Action, which was required reading in my grad school days and would be still for my students if I taught public policy.) Nobody is ascribing bad motives to Pawlenty -- though I have some questions on tactics, such as timing and the fee/tax dodge -- but the simple pressure of dealing with interest groups and the pressure they can bring through the Democratic state Senate. Those pressures might materialize in different ways, they might represent different interest groups, but the pressures will nevertheless remain.

What is needed for the fiscal conservative is an option, a pressure that countervails the power of the lobbyists, that has credibility as an alternative to Pawlenty. It does not bolster Pawlenty as a fiscal conservative for former party chairs to chastise those groups trying to help Pawlenty stay to the right. Calling him "the most conservative governor Minnesota has had" simply gives him license to continue to placate the interest groups and expand government. That may be the desire of the Republican special interest groups (you think they don't have any?), but it's not for the betterment of Minnesota taxpayers.

That presents two alternatives -- either run a primary challenge to Pawlenty, or let Pawlenty know that we aren't as scared of a Governor Hatch as we are of continued drift from this governor's mansion. Otherwise we'll continue to feel left behind every May, like somebody's monkey.