Voters say it over and over again: They prefer an outsider or someone who’s going to shake things up. That’s what real leaders do.
Some of that makes sense. After all, Washington is broken, right? Gridlock reigns. The two parties don’t work together. Why not go for broke?
If the cases of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and President Donald Trump have proven anything, it’s that coloring outside the lines is highly risky. If it works, there’s a place for you on Mount Rushmore — or maybe in the Hall of Famous Missourians.
If it doesn’t, you stand alone, and in the case of Greitens these days, utterly alone.
The man who campaigned on a theme of battling — let’s say it together now — “corrupt, career politicians” has absolutely nowhere to turn for help. Did you catch what just happened? Just three days after a St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge, the House announced a special investigative committee to peer into the matter in a possible prelude to impeachment. That was mighty quick.
Some Republicans, it seems, can’t get Greitens in their rear-view mirrors fast enough.
Greitens made the right calculation to win an election, but it was the wrong one to govern. He made a full-frontal assault on the political establishment in his home state and came up short. Now, there’s almost certainly no way to rebound, and his poll numbers are crashing. A new survey out this week showed that just 27 percent of Missourians had a favorable view of their governor while 51 percent held the opposite view. A full majority — 53 percent — said they believed Greitens should resign.
GOP officeholders are fidgeting while Democrats pound away at Josh Hawley, the party’s likely nominee for U.S. Senate and their main worry this year. “Josh Hawley Desperately Dodges Questions About Governor Greitens” read a headline on one email blast from the Democratic Party this week. “Josh Hawley Accepted nearly $50,000 from Governor Greitens” read another.
The beneficiary of all this chaos: Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill.
One top Republican thinks the Democrat with the most to gain is state Auditor Nicole Galloway, who’s also on the ballot. Someone’s got to keep that wacky governor in check, right? Her race may not mean much to you, but Democrats desperately need Galloway to win so that they can maintain a foothold among the statewide offices in Jefferson City.
Galloway would be in prime position to run for governor in 2020.
In Topeka, Brownback attempted to remake state government by starving it of resources. His failure is well-documented, and it’s led to a resurgence of moderate Republicans and Democrats.
At the end, Brownback also stood very much alone.
Trump’s unceasing courtship of controversy continues unabated, and he, too, has paid a steep price with some of the most abysmal early presidential poll numbers ever. This week, his job approval stood at 41 percent and his disapproval at 55 percent.
Short of the unexpected, a president as intensely divisive as this one is unlikely to ever reverse those numbers, and it’s strangling his presidency. Drain the swamp? Not yet.
The lessons here: Political experience before assuming a governorship or presidency is no panacea, but it may not be such a bad thing, either. Neither is playing inside the hash marks. When promises of sweeping overhauls crumble, the fall from grace can be long and lonely.