Once Political B-Listers, Governors Lead Nation’s Coronavirus Response – The New York Times

Once Political B-Listers, Governors Lead Nation’s Coronavirus Response – The New York Times

The political process, Mr. Hogan continued, “is broken and needed a shock to the system. He said that while “it’s terrible it took this, maybe when we all recover we really can end some of the divisiveness and dysfunction.”

Mr. Trump, of course, has benefited from and fostered divisiveness since he began running five years ago. And given his penchant for showmanship and impulsiveness, he could have a difficult time sustaining any attempt at restraint, as his attack on Ms. Whitmer shows.

But the bigger question coming out of this crisis may be whether the new premium on competence and experience can lessen the polarization that has come to define American politics in this era.

With many in government and business predicting a terrible human cost from the virus as well as a national economic catastrophe, the partisan appeals to ideology and tribalism are bound to lose some of their salience, at least in the short term.

Nick Everhart, an Ohio-based Republican strategist, went even further, predicting that the severity of the virus would prompt “a shift from the political-outsider candidate era — where public service, having been in office and branded a career politician was a liability — to an era where that competence and experience of understanding how to manage government is seen as a plus and important litmus for handling the next crisis.”

The durability of partisanship in American history, even in times of crisis, and deep mistrust of institutions may test such an assessment. Most voters may return to their usual habits after the virus has been contained.

But for now, the country is turning to governors, some of them little known on the national scene, for reassurance and leadership in a fashion that sharply breaks from the Washington-centric lens through which government has been viewed in a period of national and celebrity-oriented politics.

For example, it would have been difficult to picture Mr. DeWine, a mild-mannered government lifer first elected county prosecutor in 1976, as a daytime sensation. But there he was on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday morning, appearing via satellite from Columbus.

“One of the things I’ve learned from doing this for 40 years is to trust my gut instinct,” Mr. DeWine said in an interview Tuesday night. “And my instinct all the way through this has been we’ve got to move faster.”

Former Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, a Republican who led the state for a dozen years, including through the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said, “Right now, the governors are in the forefront, and appropriately so, and presumably it will stay that way for some time.”

It has been many years, perhaps since the early part of Mr. Pataki’s time in office, since state executives occupied as dominant a role in the life of the country as the one they have been playing in the last few weeks.

And though governors have continued to exercise crucial influence within their own states — on defining issues like criminal justice, environmental protection, abortion and voting rights — they have faded as actors in national politics.

This year, not a single Democratic governor became a major contender for the presidency. And in the 2016 primary campaign, a long roster of current and former Republican governors were trampled by Mr. Trump.

But figures like Mr. DeWine, Mr. Inslee and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, each of whom have decades of government experience, may be some of the few leaders who emerge politically stronger from this crisis.

And it is not only on public health that governors are currently leading the way: With the coronavirus throwing the 2020 presidential primary calendar into disarray, state leaders have taken the initiative in drafting backup plans and alternative procedures for voting.

Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, a Democrat whose state already votes entirely by mail, has begun an initiative through the Democratic Governors Association to study alternative voting procedures to rescue her party’s presidential nominating contests, deploying aides to review where states might be able to greatly expand absentee voting or switch to mail-in balloting, people familiar with the effort said.

In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Brown said she was overwhelmingly focused on confronting the coronavirus outbreak in her state, but added that taking steps at the state level to protect the election was an urgent priority, without waiting on the federal government.

“Given, at least, the administration’s past track record on these issues, states need to take the lead to protect voter rights and access to the ballot,” Ms. Brown said. “And honestly, we need to take decisive action.”

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