Barbour redefines power of the office

Barbour routinely has been winning his way with the Legislature throughout his time in office, even though constitutionally the legislative branch should hold all the cards. He has done it by a variety of political tactics. His ability to communicate issues in his terms, his bringing party discipline to the process and his control over Republican senators has changed the balance of power in Mississippi. Legislative power has been diminished.

While legislators in the past usually told the governor how things were going to be during his term, that is no longer the case. It was thought that Barbour’s control of the Senate might diminish somewhat with Barbour’s lame–duck status and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant election. Not so.

It was apparent Barbour called the shots throughout, to the point that House negotiators were complaining that struck deals and compromises with senators didn’t mean anything without daddy Barbour’s approval.

The public is largely disinterested in the details of budget fights. Generally many voters just see a lot of squabbling and waste of time – the children fighting.

But there was far more at play here. Barbour took a what should have been a publicly unpopular position – a hard-to-understand, complicated plan to tax hospitals – and won again.

He used every ounce of pressure and brinkmanship to push legislators to his position. They didn’t like it, but they passed it because they had to. Democrats have yet to figure out how to beat him.

David Hampton
Clarion Ledger
7/12/9