New administrations have “growing pains,” especially those where the party in power changes. After running for governor for nearly five years, the McCrory administration appears to be falling into the “honeymoon” plague period that other administrations find themselves in.
First, off-the-cuff comments like the one that sparked the liberal arts debate in the NC higher education system. Granted, making the speaking rounds to conservative media like Bill Bennett is a duty of all Republican officeholders, but a hard transition for the newly inaugurated to make is from “campaign speak” to “governance speak.”
While some comments can be said in the heat of battle on the campaign trail, upon taking office, the wisdom and discipline of carefully crafting comments is as critical as it was during the campaign. The officeholder represents everyone, and not just the people who got them elected. A more careful approach is needed, especially when talking to like-minded ideologues.
But it’s not just communication that new administrations often struggle with; its appointees and the intense vetting that (ideally) should happen, and (realistically) will happen, no matter what others think.
Questions immediately were raised about the appointment of Dianna Lightfoot to oversee the state’s early education and child development division. Prior to her appointment, Lightfoot served as president of an organization that called into question the validity of pre-K programs, especially by accusing these programs of fostering “more dependency on the government (i.e. taxpayer) and more of an entitlement mentality.” Two days after her appointment, Lightfoot announced she would not take the job.
Shouldn’t someone have explored how it would look to appointment someone in charge of implementing programs she had previously criticized? One doesn’t need a public relations degree to see the problem.
But beyond that, the Twitter-trail that she left was something that should have raised the red flag of caution as well. In today’s hyper-media world, with instantaneous thoughts conveyed throughout the electronic universe, potential candidates for appointed (as well as elected) office know that one loose tweet could, indeed, sink the ship of state for them.
Getting an administration off the ground and running, especially for a party that has been out of the executive mansion for over 20 years, is no small endeavor. And learning the governing ropes, beyond the campaigning experience, is something that is a true bi-partisan dilemma as well.
Most famously, Bill Clinton’s early entry to repeal the ban on gays serving in the military set his first term administration badly off on the wrong foot, and pretty much evaporated any “honeymoon” time in his first months in office.
But in the rush to assume and start implementing their newfound power, it might be beneficial for first time office-holders to use a fundamental skill for just such occasions: think critically and dig just a bit deeper, rather than the momentary quick-gut reaction.