Pilot Editorial

Monday, February 28, 2005

Let the governor do what he will

This week, a mysterious bunch calling themselves "Team VoteVilsack" announced a website designed to twist Governor Tom Vilsack's arm, or whatever else they can get hold of, until he agrees to run for the state's top office yet again.

There's just a few problems with that.

One, Vilsack has repeatedly promised that he would run only twice, and then leave the office to new blood. He has been asked repeatedly if he might change his mind, and he's repeatedly pledged that he would not.

Two, Vilsack has achieved a pretty decent legacy in office, and pursued the ideas that brought him there. Change is not by nature a bad thing. The office does not necessarily benefit from career politics.

Three, the reason for this technological draft effort is all wrong from the start.

It seems not to be because Vilsack has done an exceptional job, or because he is needed to follow through with a particular issue, or because Iowans demand another electoral embrace.

It's admittedly because Democrats don't think they have anyone else.

One of the supporters of this draft effort, who like most, are speaking only from the closet of anonymity, says it pretty plainly in a statewide press statement this week.

"We believe all of the announced Democratic candidates will get blown out of the water in the General Election by any of the three leading Republican candidates. We believe Governor Vilsack is the only viable candidate to beat back a Republican push to take over the Governor's office."

It is, then, only about politics and control.

The people behind the website say they are "not connected with any political party or affiliation," but proudly splash about the names of former Kerry/Edwards Iowa campaign leaders and a former Iowa Democratic Party head among their number. That sounds pretty affiliated...

Perhaps the biggest problem with this draft is that they haven't bothered to ask the governor, first lady and lt. governor if they are prepared to be drafted.

In our estimation, Vilsack has been a capable if not electrically charismatic leader - powerful enough to have had his name bantered about in vice presidential circles. He is still a relatively young man, no doubt with many personal goals, interests and aspirations still to pursue.

Pledges in politics aren't worth all that much. Iowans shouldn't be too put off if Gov. Vilsack should decide to swallow his earlier inclinations and choose to run again.

Vilsack and his wife Christie have been very good to Storm Lake, and he is an energetic and issue-oriented campaigner - in short, such a decision would not be a bad thing for Iowa.

The deal is - it needs to be his decision.

This current draft effort and its website are seeking to force Vilsack, shame Vilsack, or whatever else it takes to hold the seat for Democrats.

The attitude is clear. Vilsack has to change his mind, or it will be his fault that his party is "blown out of the water."

In fact, it is stated, "Governor Vilsack must run" if the rights of ordinary Iowans are to be preserved. That's a big load to put on anyone, even a seated governor.

The draft leaders say they aren't doing to sit by and allow an important election to be lost.

Guess what, anonymous people, that will be the people's decision, anyway, just as it should be.

Vilsack should do what he wishes. People should vote for the best candidate, not based on party or incumbency or even websites.

And perhaps the meddlers should turn a bit of their attention toward developing a platform and grooming future leaders who can compete well after the Vilsack era has ended. The party has shown strength in statehouse elections, so the issues, if not yet the funding, are there to stay afloat.

It sure sounds counterproductive for them to say that no Democrat in the state stands a chance against any of the three main GOP contenders (if Vilsack chooses not to run). This kind of concession more than a year before the election comes around? Say it ain't so...