Like every other Philadelphian, I was astounded by the news that the cratered stretch of I-95 would be reopened to traffic in a veritable blink of an eye. How sweet it was to see good government in action.
As the state’s new chief executive, Josh Shapiro, remarked the other day, “When we work together we can get s— done.”
By spearheading the speedy response (with strong backing from fellow Democrat Joe Biden ), Shapiro basically put into practice his party’s 2024 campaign message. Minus the minor obscenity, it’s simple: We get stuff done.
As mantras go, “good governance is good politics” isn’t exactly new. But at a time when one party has devolved into a personality cult, when the cult’s devotees are willfully enslaved to an imbecilic criminal, when the cult’s House leaders are hooked on performative fascism (symbolic renunciations of the cult leader’s two impeachments, etcetera), high-profile Democratic governors, and especially the Democratic president, may have the upper hand.
The notion of actually doing the job might resonate with the non-cult electoral majority.
Shapiro is new to the job, but his early moves as a doer have already earned praise from conservative outlets like the Washington Examiner, which lauded Shapiro’s “effective, capable coordination with all levels of government (in the I-95 crisis)...city officials, city police, city fire, state police, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation all have worked together to lessen the road closure’s overall economic and emotional impact.”
More seasoned, twice-elected Democratic governors are getting stuff done. In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer has followed through on her campaign promise to “fix the damn roads,” and has signed measures to expand access to childcare, protect abortion access, create tuition-free community college programs, and pump nearly two billion bucks into cleaning up the water by replacing lead pipes.
In Illinois, J.B. Pritzker has turned a deep state budget deficit into a $3-billion surplus, and has signed measures to phase out carbon-generating power production and hike the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Whitmer, Pritzker, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom are all raising money for the national party’s ’24 races.
If independent swing voters care at all about getting stuff done, they need only note the federal job-creation stats, especially the new manufacturing construction (this year alone, $190 billion) that has been spurred by Biden’s signature achievements: the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the (somewhat misnamed) Inflation Reduction Act.
Roughly 100 battery and electric-vehicle plants are being built or nearing construction. It’s also noteworthy that the federal government is giving a hefty loan to the Ford Motor Company for the construction of three battery factories in Kentucky and Tennessee – red states will never vote for the president who’s bringing them jobs. But Biden is fine with that, because he’s focused on getting stuff done.
By contrast, just imagine (if you can bear it) how Donald Trump would’ve reacted to the I-95 closure if he were still in the White House. His response would’ve taken one of two forms: (1) “Pennsylvania didn’t vote for me, so I’m not lifting a finger to help,” or (2) “Pennsylvania voted for me, but it was stolen because bad things happen in Philadelphia, so I’m not lifting a finger to help.”
Revenge is the antithesis of effective governance.
If it’s true, as the polls suggest, that most voters want the parties to work together to get stuff done, Democrats indeed appear to have the wind at their backs – provided, of course, that they can blast their message out and compel voters to focus on substance, not MAGA sideshows.
How hard should this be? It’s the party that gets stuff done versus the cult of One.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at email@example.com