You Shouldn’t Need a Scandal to Learn Your Governor’s Name

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Everyone knows the socially responsible thing to do these days is to buy local groceries. Local eggs, local milk, local handmade goods — you name it. It’s good to put that money you’d spend anyway back into your community. But buying local is sometimes more expensive, sometimes it’s out of the way, and sometimes it means going to more than one store to get all your goods — no one-stop superstore shopping.

American’s political knowledge shows an interesting parallel — we don’t buy local when it comes to politics. Most people are in tune with President Barack Obama and major news on the national front, and many are at least somewhat in touch with major players in Congress, Senatorial elections, and major Supreme Court rulings like the recent Hobby Lobby decision. But as FiveThirtyEight so eloquently put it this week, American’s knowledge of and interest in many state’s governors is just sort of “blah” and “meh.” Some are more unheard of than others — many will have heard of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) as a result of the bridgegate scandal. But he was also on Jimmy Fallon’s talk show taking jokes about the whole series of events. That’s not something common to most governors.

FiveThirtyEight suggests the disinterest is due to the fact that many even living in states under governors don’t care about their governors, so it comes as no surprise that citizens in other states don’t have high interest in other state’s gubernatorial leadership. FiveThirtyEight then accumulated old data from 35 states’ polls to see which state governors have earned the least attention, or are “the most ‘meh’ chief executive[s].” They base this on “don’t know, don’t care, refuse” percentage of answers. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) — not shocking if you haven’t heard of him — had one of the highest percentages, at 28 percent.

After him came New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (D), Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) — who is new to the office — Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R), and Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R), all above 17 percent reporting that they don’t care, don’t know, or won’t answer. Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker (R), shows the lowest percentage (3 percent), followed by Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) and Texas Governor Rick Perry (R). FiveThirtyEight couldn’t find polls for quite a few states though, so results should be taken with a grain of incomplete salt. But ultimately, who is “leading in the Most Boring Governor competition” is besides the point.

The point is that local politics are vital, and not just local as in your neighborhood — though Ferguson proves that an involved public and a responsive government are vital for trust and a solid working relationship — but in your state. Congressional efforts, or lack thereof, receive an astounding amount of attention. An overwhelming amount of Americans’ frustrations are targeted at Congress and the president, which is entirely fair. But economic difficulty on a personal level is changeable on more than just the national level, and it would be useful to have some of that ire directed at state politicians to keep them toeing the line as well. Perhaps with that kind of direct attention, we would have fewer Chris Christie Bridge Scandals, or our state government would be kept under the kind of public eyes that would prevent these types of scandals. We all behave better with a little monitoring, as Snowden probably reminds you on your home computers each day.

Perhaps it’s because Rick Perry receives so much attention as a 2016 presidential possibility that he’s visible enough for the indictment taking place right now. A grand jury has ruled that there is enough evidence to place him on trial for abuse of power after he refused funding to a program led by a Democratic District Attorney he felt should have resigned after an incident with alcohol. Anyone else remember that time we elected George W. Bush despite that DUI? Hey, if we can elect Bush despite a DUI, Perry is probably hopeful we’ll elect him despite an indictment. This is why we should keep our eyes on the ball — and on politicians making choices that affect our states.

There’s only so much political controversy that can be stoked about Congress going on vacation while the borders are open before it become redundant — disappointing, but redundant. If our economies, job markets, and infrastructure are suffering at a state level, our state-level government would likely benefit from those many magnifying glasses. Although, while scandals may make for better news headlines, policy and objectives would be even better local fare to shop for.

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Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS