Of Heels and Heros

If Carol Molnau didn’t exist, Tim Pawlenty would have to invent her. That’s the implication of recent polls in the news.

On the one hand, only 32% of Minnesotans approve of the job being done by Transportation Commissioner Molnau. On the other, nearly twice as many (59%) approve of the performance of Molnau’s partner and boss, Governor Tim Pawlenty.

In professional wrestling, a “heel” is a villain created by savvy promoters to carry out a sinister story line. By design, heels aren’t as attractive or well-mannered as the hero wrestlers, so the crowd loves to hate them. And the more the crowd hates the heels, the more they love the heros that the promoters want to promote.

Whether intended or not, Molnau appears to functioning as Pawlenty’s heel. The polls show that deep and increasingly bitter citizen frustration about MnDOT’s long list of unmet needs is being directed at Molnau. This is great news for the Governor who has consistently vetoed and campaigned against the funding that could address that list. After all, one man’s heel is another man’s hero.

So why are DFL legislators so obsessed with ousting Molnau? Perhaps it’s true that Lt. Governor/Commissioner Molnau is inattentive, gruff and insufficiently informed about complex transportation issues. But will a new commissioner who is an attentive and pleasant expert have any more luck addressing Minnesota’s infrastructure needs?

Of course not. To meet transportation needs, funding is needed. And to get funding, the funding bills being sent to the Governor have to be signed into law.

The communications strategery lessons du jour? If you’re under fire, get yourself a heel. And if you’re looking for change, focus on the ring leader instead of the heel.

– Loveland