Sometime next week Tennessee governor Bill Haslam will make his annual state of the state address.
His address will be about far more than the state of the state.
It will be a lot about him. One of the biggest productions of his stint as governor was his introduction of Insure Tennessee, his effort to insure 280,000 Tennesseans not eligible for the insurance subsidies of the ACA and not eligible for Tenn Care. He worked really hard to make it make good sense. He tried to extremely hard to explain to people who had a phobic reaction to the term Obamacare that it was not Obamacare. He tried hard and was successful in making a deal with the federal government that would not cost Tennessee a penny and that would bring Tennessee tax dollars back to Tennessee and provide an economic boon more significant than the Volkswagon plant. He did all these things.
He thought good sense mattered and it didnt. Fear did matter and no one wanted to take a chance on facing a primary challenge and being targeted as soft on Obamacare. People wanted it to go away and it did. In one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my entire life a core proposal from a sitting governor with a hugely favorable rating was massacred by his own party. Not only did it not win. It didnt even win a vote on the floor.
He threw up his hands and said their was nothing he could do. He talked about educating legislators more as if the problem was that they did not know what they were voting on and seemed unaware that the problem was that they did know what they were voting on. In the end it was all about politics and little else.
The problem was not that he lost. The problem was that he thought he couldnt fight and 280,000 people who depended on him, 280,000 people who thought someone cared and someone thought justice and fairness were important were left holding the bag.
He still says there is no point in trying. He doesnt think he can make a difference. He doesnt understand that by doing this he has put a bulls eye on every one of his legislative proposals. Bullies are seldom content with one victory. Any proposal that runs counter to the legislature now has an asterisk on it. **Please pass this bill but only if you really want to.*** He blinked and backed down on Insure Tennessee and in the process not only the bill but lost a lot of his credibility and his leverage to move the state forward in a way that he wants.
He says that he still thinks Insure Tennessee is a good idea but without action does that even really matter. Is it anything more than trying to put the blame somewhere else?
My problem is not that Insure Tennessee lost or even that it may well lose this time. My problem is that there was no fight. People may say he couldnt have won and was only being realistic. Politicians who are willing to sacrifice their principles on the altar of realism are a dime a dozen.
It did matter. It still does. I am one of the 280,000 people and it would have mattered to me and it would have said more about the state of the state than all the speeches he will ever give.
He will talk next week. Whether he knows it or not he is talking as much about himself as he is about Tennessee. Will he even mention Insure Tennessee? I dont know. Many people hope he will. Many people think he wont.
I hope he knows that he is talking to far more than legislators. I hope he knows he is talking to me, talking to you….talking to 280,000 who are far more interested in whether or not he will ever talk for them.
Governor Haslam Ron Ramsey is a terrible governor. I did not vote for him. I voted for you.
It is time to be the Governor. Please. Please be the Governor.