The Thing that Frightens Me Most about Governor Haslam

The thing that frightens me most about Governor Haslam is that, if you listen to him, he’s very up-front about the fact that he has no fucking idea what he’s doing. Take, for instance, his response to the DCS clusterfuck of lawbreaking and dead-kid hiding.

“The death of one child in Tennessee is too many,” Haslam said in an emailed statement. “I am currently reviewing the data to better understand how we rank with other states when you compare apples to apples in how we’re collecting and accounting for the information. I’m also reviewing historical data for Tennessee.”

Let me just reiterate–DCS acknowledges they’ve knowingly been breaking the law for some great length of time and the Governor’s response is to “review the data.” See how we rank with other states. Well, my god, is there some acceptable ranking for “number of dead kids a state’s department of family services can illegally hide from state legislators?” Like, oh, well, Tennessee only hid 31 dead kids, but this other state hid 32, so we’re not doing so bad?

What should happen when you have a department breaking the law is that the people responsible for that department–who are responsible for the law-breaking–are put on leave until you can fire them.

But Governor Baby is busy running the state like a giant corporation, where we collect data and compare ourselves to our competitors and everyone sits around making and then passing around report after report. Things that should register as affecting real people are just data points to be theorized over.

Governor Baby, if he’s going to run the state like a business, should run it like a small business where, when someone in your company does something illegal, you act as if you, yourself, are responsible for stopping it and making it right, because you are.

But the difference between a small business owner–someone who’s out on the sales floor regularly, who knows everything about the product he’s trying to sell–and Bill Haslam’s CEO state-running model is that there are very few, say, John Deere dealers who think they can just step in to owning a Dairy Queen successfully without having to learn some really Dairy Queen specific skills. Nothing in your oil changing training is going to teach you how to put a pretty loop on the top of your soft serve, you know?

And yet, Haslam has been our governor for two years and he’s still not gotten his head around the fact that you can’t just swap CEOs of a state like you can of a corporation. Or that you can’t lead a state while keeping the reality of that state at arm’s length.

It’s time for Haslam to look our state straight on. Not compare it to what other states are doing. Not try to force it into some corporate model most people in the state have no experience with. But look at this state as it is right now and figure out how to govern this.

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