Dodgeball – Wan San Yip Unsplash

Shapiro’s Duck-and-Dodge First Year

Op-Ed by Matt Brouillette. This piece originally appeared at RealClear Pennsylvania.*

In the 2004 sports comedy, “Dodgeball,” we learned the five Ds of that sport: “Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and . . . dodge.”

In his first year in office, Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro has perfected these five Ds.

Campaigning for governor in 2022, Shapiro said that he’d take on big fights and bring all sides to the table. But his rhetoric was a ruse to hide his unwillingness to defend a position on important issues or wage those big fights. Indeed, Shapiro has shown that his true skill is ducking and dodging tough issues, all while seeking the national limelight.

Take Pennsylvania’s entrance, via a unilateral edict from former governor Tom Wolf, into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This carbon cap-and-trade tax scheme has drawn support from environmentalists but criticism from unions whose members stand to lose jobs. As a candidate, Shapiro received backing from both groups—so where did he stand on the issue?

He dodged the question. Instead, he brought a working group together. In late September, that working group concluded its deliberations, coming to no clear consensus on whether the commonwealth should join RGGI.

Shapiro then dodged the issue again, saying that he would wait for the outcome of a court ruling challenging Wolf’s authority to enter RGGI. A few weeks later, the ruling came down, striking down Wolf’s order.

Shapiro then appealed the ruling, supposedly out of necessity to protect executive authority. In other words, regardless of whether Shapiro believed that the state should enroll in RGGI, he wanted to prove that he could force Pennsylvania into the program if he wanted to.

Shapiro touted his willingness as attorney general to take on the Catholic Church and bring to light sexual abuse that had been covered up for decades. But when it came to sexual harassment allegations within his own administration, Shapiro’s office hid these charges for months, even allowing his now-disgraced former secretary of legislative affairs, Mike Vereb, to remain in his high-powered position.

Shapiro then ducked media questions. When he finally issued a statement, he avoided any substantive remarks, instead saying, “I can’t comment on any specifics.”

Lifeline Scholarships offer another example of Shapiro’s dodge, duck, dip, and dive strategy.

On the campaign trail, Shapiro pledged his support for freeing children from failing public schools. Yet, bowing to pressure from unions and union-backed Democrats in the state House of Representatives, Shapiro then announced that he would veto Lifeline Scholarships—even as he claimed still to support them. Attempting to duck any responsibility, Shapiro blamed lawmakers’ inability to work together.

The first six months of Shapiro’s administration were the least productive legislatively of any governor’s in the past 50 years. In the midst of a five-month budget impasse, Shapiro did nothing to lead, instead repeatedly maintaining that the stalemate wasn’t his fault.

He has neglected to lead on several of his supposed priorities, such as advancing regulatory reform and accelerating the reduction of the corporate net income-tax rate.

Amid all the dipping, diving, and ducking, one thing that Shapiro has not dodged is the national limelight. Indeed, it’s no secret that he’s set his sights on the presidency, and he’s working to raise his national profile in that pursuit.

From headlining the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention in September, to hobnobbing with Washington, D.C.’s elite while speaking at The Atlantic Festival 2023 in October, to multiple appearances on MSNBC and more, Shapiro chases national accolades and platforms wherever he can find them.

Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge—it may work for a sports comedy, but it’s no way to govern the nation’s fifth-largest state. It’s time for Governor Shapiro to do the job that he that he was elected to do, instead of evading responsibility as he eyes higher office.

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Matthew J. Brouillette is president and CEO of Commonwealth Partners. 

* Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash