Gov. Mitch Daniels’s call for a “truce” on social issues was, at the time, a source of confusion. It wasn’t apparent what the terms of a truce would be — would it include the Mexico City Policy? Supreme Court nominees? And how did it square with Daniels’s impressive pro-life record as a governor?
Now that Daniels has signed a bill that will have the effect of prohibiting Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds, it should be clearer what the truce would entail.
If a truce on social issues meant that Daniels wouldn’t endorse any far-reaching legislation on social issues, he wouldn’t have signed the bill — as many people speculated he wouldn’t. But he did, and the bill represents as big an achievement, in terms of socially conservative legislation, as any 2012 contender could boast. Only Texas and Missouri have similar laws preventing government funding of organizations that perform abortions.
With the law in place, it seems clear that the truce never meant anything more than a softening of rhetoric on social issues and a relative prioritization of fiscal issues. In a way, the episode demonstrates the potential wisdom of that approach.
While Daniels did not push for the bill and even suggested that he didn’t want it to get in the way of other state business, he can still take credit for it. His popularity as governor and his success in picking candidates and fundraising led to the GOP expanding its majority in the state senate and increasing the number of Republican representatives in the house from a minority to a 60-40 majority. Granted, 2010 was a wave election for Republicans, but it’s not at all certain that Republicans would have had the numbers and political capital that they have now if Daniels’s governorship had not been so successful up to that point.
In other words, would a stridently socially conservative politician like Rick Santorum, or even Mike Pence (who will probably be the next governor of Indiana), have put himself in a position to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood? It’s a question worth asking, especially when considered alongside Daniels’s legislative achievements in other important areas, such as school reform.
It’s hard to get excited about a truce. But if it’s part of a larger strategy that has led to the enactment of actual pro-life legislation, it deserves consideration. After all, it’s much hard to govern successfully and build political coalitions than it is to bash President Obama on social issues or make grand but unrealistic promises about the future.