Most incompetent state leadership in the US? These 6 governors make the case

Most incompetent state leadership in the US? These 6 governors make the case
Image via Screengrab.

There is a battle right now for the absolute worst governor in America and, unsurprisingly to readers of this website, all the top contenders are from the Republican Party. Let’s review.


South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

First up is South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. She resisted stay-at-home orders in April, leading to a massive outbreak. In June, she released a video calling for "more freedom, not more government" while lashing out at the media. In July, she hosted Donald Trump himself for a no-mask appearance that was more of a campaign rally at Mount Rushmore. Noem had previously asked Trump to overturn the ban on fireworks around the monument. The ban went into effect after a pine beetle invasion devastated the area, leaving lots of dry timber to fuel fires, and because of concerns that fireworks debris was poisoning groundwater. Never mind it all, Noem and Trump wanted a big show of freedumb with no masks, even during one of the worst health crises in American history. For what it’s worth, there were rumors Trump liked her so much he was considering replacing Mike Pence with Noem, although people in Trump’s orbit later shut that down.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds

Next up is Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds: another governor who resisted shutting things down to flatten the curve and then oversaw a spike, mostly in agricultural sectors where immigrants working at meat processing plants bore the brunt of the outbreak. Today she is drawing the ire of teachers and school administrators after she abruptly changed the state’s policies and demanded students attend in-person this fall for at least half the regular school days. As noted in the Des Moines Register, this has sent parents and teachers into "chaos." The paper notes it is the “most concrete misstep in addressing the next school year. It throws into chaos families' expectations about school as they continue to confront rampant uncertainty about COVID-19 in many other aspects of their lives.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

And now we head further south, where the top contenders all reside. Crossing over the Mason-Dixon line, we have Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia. He rode into office on a wave of voter suppression, suppression that he directly created and implemented in his previous role as secretary of state. Kemp proudly resisted shutdown orders until the data clearly showed that the virus was beginning to spiral out of control. We were fully into the month of April and full-blown efforts to “flatten the curve” when Kemp held a press conference saying he’d just learned asymptomatic people could spread the disease, something the rest of us were all aware of because we listened to the scientists from the start. Making this even worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are headquartered in Atlanta. All he had to do was consult with literally anyone at the CDC for this information.

And when Donald Trump saw his poll numbers beginning to slide and started barking about ordering everything to open back up, Kemp was right there to lead the charge. When Trump’s charge to reopen was criticized and his numbers slumped even more, he quickly threw Kemp under the bus, criticizing him for reopening too soon. Even today, as the science is clear as day that masks are critical in reducing the spread of the disease, Gov. Brian Kemp has the gall to sue Atlanta for requiring masks in the city. Bless his heart.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt

Oklahoma Republican governor Kevin Stitt bragging about being at a crowded restaurant with his kids while Covid rages
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt flouts mask recommendations with his family

When that COVID wind came sweeping down the plains, Gov. Kevin Stitt largely refused to wear a mask. Sure he was telling folks in March they were "safer at home," but over on his Twitter account, he was proudly defying expert advice to stay home, avoid indoor spaces, and wear masks, sharing photos of his family out to dinner in a crowded restaurant. He has since deleted this tweet after announcing on July 15 that he is the first governor in the country to test positive for COVID.

And while the restaurant photo drew national attention, that same week he shared photos at a junior livestock show that took place indoors, with not a mask in sight.

Stitt was one of a handful of attendees to test positive since attending Trump’s hilariously disastrous comeback rally in Tulsawhich predicatbly sparked an outbreak in the Tulsa area.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

And now onto Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, or as he is now called on Twitter: Ron DeathSantis or Rona DeSantis. In late May, DeSantis appeared with Vice President Mike Pence in Florida to spike the ball, raging against the media for what he called “knee-jerk headlines” after images from crowded Florida beaches went viral. He was basically claiming victory over an enemy that was, in reality, just getting started. When he raged at the media on May 20, Florida was averaging 527 new cases per day. Today the Sunshine State reported 10,347 new cases, the sixth consecutive day in a row the state has exceeded 10,000 new cases a day. On Sunday, Florida topped 5,000 deaths. For what it’s worth, in early May, experts estimated Florida would have 5,440 deaths by Aug. 4. DeSantis brushed it off, calling it “conjecture.” Turns out that estimate was low.

Even with all of that, DeSantis is insisting schools remain open five days a week this fall. Today, Florida’s largest teachers union filed a lawsuit over the reopening order.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

And that leads us to the Show Me State of Missouri, where Gov. Mike Parson has shown himself to be a total buffoon. You might be thinking, even worse than DeSantis? I’m here to to sadly affirm this to be true. As a lifelong Kansas Citian (from both sides of this Kansas-Missouri state line), it is hard to understate just how embarrassed and frankly how frightened I am to live in this state right now. Like Donald Trump, Mike Parson seems intent on inflicting maximum harm on the residents of the state’s urban centers. From sending the National Guard to Kansas City during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests (which served only to turn up the temperature of protesters, instantly creating tension and conflict where there had been very little), to vowing to pardon the St. Louis couple who pointed guns at peaceful protesters as they walked down the street in front of their tacky St. Louis mansion if charges end up being filed in the case, Parson keeps lowering the bar.

Then there was the embarrassing display at the White House, where he slathered praise on Donald Trump during a made-for-television July 7 meeting on reopening. His comments were widely mocked both nationally and back home in Missouri. Shortly after traveling to D.C., Parson returned home for a steak fry event—no masks, no social distancing, and with most of the programming taking place indoors. This happened in mid-July 2020, with all the information we have about how this disease spreads.

And don’t even get me started on his steak cooking. What he did is a disgrace to good steaks everywhere.

From the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Parson’s leadership has been abysmal. As the entire nation was heading into a shutdown and every public health expert on the planet was cautioning for social-distancing, staying in, and avoiding indoor spaces, Parson was sending the exact opposite message to his constituents. This was Mike Parson on March 15.

No masks, indoor space, defying all public health experts: It is no wonder Missouri ranks dead last in state public health funding. And I do mean dead last, because Missourians die due to these budgetary decisions.

Finally, in an interview on Monday with conservative radio host Marc Cox, Parson insisted children go back to school full-time and that children who contract COVID will simply be sent home. “These kids have got to get back to school. They’re at the lowest risk possible. And if they do get COVID-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals. They’re not going to have to sit in doctor’s offices. They’re going to go home and they’re going to get over it.”

And that, my friends, was the icing on the freedumb cake for me and why I had to move Mike Parson to the top of the list. Where does Mike Parson think those kids are going? They are going home to mom and dad. They are going home to grandparents who live in the home. They are very, very likely to spread it to their teachers and support staff. Where are those adults supposed to go? What are the protocols when a teacher contracts COVID? Is there testing available in each school? How many substitute teachers are willing to take their place? Sen. Elizabeth Warren rightly took Parson to task for his comments on reopening schools, saying, “This is willfully endangering our kids—and entire communities—for political gain. Forcing schools to reopen without providing them with the resources they need to do so safely is reckless, dangerous, and the last thing we should do.”

So how does your governor stack up? Who did I miss? Sound off in the comments below. For those of you who don’t live in South Dakota, Iowa, Georgia, Oklahoma, Florida, or Missouri, what is it like having a governor who isn’t a mouth-breathing, science-denying, anti-life, authoritarian-praising, bad steak-cooking incompetent?

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