The Role of the Lieutenant Governor in Missouri
A few days ago, the Joplin Globe ran an editorial that discussed the micro issue of the relationship between Gov. Jay Nixon and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and the macro issue of the role of the lieutenant governor in Missouri government. It was a nice article, using a recent news issue as an opening to discuss a much larger question, which was a lot of fun to read and consider.
The Globe thinks that the political infighting between the governor and the lieutenant governor could be ended by having them elected on a ticket, as opposed to the current system in which they each run independently. Our current system has resulted in Missouri having a governor and lieutenant governor from opposite parties five times, or for 20 cumulative years, since World War II. From 1977 to 1993, we had different parties holding the two offices every year. The Globe is certainly right that changing that system might end the infighting, although the governor and lieutenant governor in Illinois were both Democrats, and they hated each other before the governor was forced to (how should I put this nicely?) step aside in preparation for a lifestyle change. But anyway …
Even though the Globe is correct that political sniping might decrease, I don’t support electing the lieutenant governor on a ticket with the governor. My antennas go up whenever anyone advocates making government run more smoothly so they can go out and get things done for the working people of this state! (The last sentence should be read aloud, like a politician giving a stump speech.) The Globe quotes former state Sen. Richard Webster:
He proposed that the candidates for the two offices appear together as a unit on the ballot, thus encouraging a spirit of cooperation and heading off the sort of political gamesmanship evident now.
I take P.J. O’Rourke’s attitude that preventing politicians from governing is like preventing a pit bull from eating your child, so needless to say I don’t give a whit about making government function more smoothly. (Streamlining government services in order to save tax dollars is a different story.)
When Missourians go to the polls on vote on the lieutenant governor, they know (at least, some of them know) that they are electing someone for two main jobs: to step in as governor during extreme circumstances (which just happened in 2000), and to serve as a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. If the people of the state want someone who belongs to a different party than the governor to serve in those roles, that should be up to them.
The fact is that Missourians chose Jay Nixon to be governor and Peter Kinder to be lieutenant governor. If they had run on a ticket, Missouri would have gotten a lieutenant governor that the majority of the state did not want to elect. I think that giving people the fullest choice possible, so they can elect the person that they wanted to elect, is the most important thing. If we have to live with a poorly functioning tourism board as a result, that is fine with me.