You’ve heard the tale. You know how it goes. It begins something like this: A supremely gifted governor, possessing unsurpassed political acumen, outsmarts and outmaneuvers his opponents for eight years, imposing his will upon often recalcitrant legislators, and in the process turns Mississippi’s constitutional “strong legislature/weak executive” governing model on its head.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. The standard reportage template for years among Capitol media types has been that of Haley Barbour cunningly getting his way by manipulating the Senate and bullying the House. As a corollary, this template casts Senate Republicans as spineless dupes, while House Republicans generally are made invisible.
As the Barbour epoch nears its end, legislative Democrats have embraced the legend of the invincible and irreplaceable governor. They reluctantly acknowledge Haley’s unprecedented (and, they think, unrepeatable) era of gubernatorial dominance even as they eagerly anticipate his departure from office. The unspoken implication is clear: Once Haley is gone, “normalcy” will return. That last is the myth part.