Missouri returns to politics as usual

By Aristophanes

There’s a new sheriff in town.

On Friday, Republican Eric Greitens resigned his post as governor of Missouri. Taking his place is the former lieutenant governor, Mike Parson, who previously served as a state lawmaker and Polk County sheriff.

Parson, also a Republican, assumed his gubernatorial duties just minutes after Greitens’ abdication.

Though Parson’s predecessor brought scandal and controversy to the governor’s mansion, stories the American Unionist has previously covered, the Show-Me State’s newest chief executive is a much more temperate fellow.

Parson is the go-along, get-along type, an old-school conservative of a bygone era — or so it sometimes seems in the age of Trump.

Parson supports tax cuts and Second Amendment rights, but not to an excessive degree. Last year, he voted against repealing state-administered low-income housing tax credits, putting him at odds with then-Gov. Greitens. And he’s unlikely to prolong the education-related standoff between the executive branch and state Senate, a body in which he served for six years.

More troublingly, Parson is a traditional conservative on cultural issues, as well. Specifically, he doesn’t seem to care much for homosexual activity. As the editorial board of the Kansas City Star wrote Tuesday:

In his public role, Parson must be a leader for all Missourians, willing to fight for the rights of everyone in our state.

But a January 2017 interview he gave to the Baptist magazine Word&Way is raising concerns about whether Parson will stand up for LGBT people. Parson, a conservative Baptist himself, addressed what he termed the difficulty of “the homosexual issue,” saying that “this sort of activity” is wrong.

“I’m old-school,” Parson is quoted as saying. “I know how I believe, I know what’s going to happen to these people.”

Sigh. Though Parson is certainly allowed to maintain his own personal moral and religious beliefs, it’s improper for him, as a statewide public official, to ridicule the private acts of thousands of Missourians.

The “I know what’s going to happen to these people” language is particularly problematic. It’s utterly dismissive, and almost threatening, even.

But Parson, by and large, respects the office he holds. Although he is far from perfect, he is unlikely to plunge the state into constitutional crisis — once a legitimate worry under Greitens’ tenure.

Look on the bright side: Parson is a man of dignity. Consider this excerpt from a March editorial appearing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Parson might not be the boldest personality to grace Missouri politics, but Missourians historically have preferred steadiness to flash in their governors. Parson is a man of conviction who draws a firm line when his principles differ from those of his fellow Republicans.

In a Post-Dispatch op-ed March 11, Parson didn’t hesitate to oppose President Donald Trump’s efforts to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, citing free trade as the source of 85,000 export-related jobs in Missouri and warning that “without ready access to international markets via agreements like NAFTA, our ability to export goods would be seriously compromised and our economy would suffer.”

Trump has threatened repeatedly to cancel the accord entirely if Mexico and Canada don’t renegotiate its terms. As we’ve argued editorially, NAFTA is a boon for Missouri agriculture, and Trump is flirting with disaster if he thinks no NAFTA is better than the currently beneficial terms. Parson echoed those concerns.

Parson has shown he is willing to stand up to members of his own party when he feels they aren’t acting for the good of his state. That’s emblematic of strong leadership.

After 17 months of Greitens-fueld shenanigans, Missouri’s return to staid Republicanism, with all the problems that itself may bring, is still more than welcome. ■

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