BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett

“The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.”~Arnold Palmer

In all the kerfuffle that resulted from Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves flip-flopping his position on Common Core in Mississippi, there was one commentary that stood out as bizarre–well, partly bizarre. Much of it was just plain predictable.

Y’all Politics writer Frank Corder rarely misses an opportunity to hate on anyone who thumbs their nose and refuses to bow down in awe to the political gods of his choosing. But his latest article wears blinders as it walks past similar comments from multiple political and policy commentators to settle in on taking to task . . . wait for it . . .

Senator Chris McDaniel.

I bet you’re shocked, right?

Multiple writers and publications from across the state including the Mississippi Business Journal and the usually Tater friendly Daily Journal in Tupelo referred to the Lt. Governor’s reasoning on changing his mind about Common Core as “political pandering”. Yet, it was Corder who settled in on the use of the term from McDaniel only. He even took me to task for suggesting the McDaniel led Senate Conservative Coalition deserved credit for being the first to see Common Core for what it is, a federal takeover of education standards.

He writes:

SCC leader state Sen. Chris McDaniel used the news to accuse Reeves of “election year pandering” after standing in their way last session. “The Mississippi State Senate Conservative Coalition has stood strong against Common Core from the beginning,” McDaniel said in a statement, “and the Lt. Governor stood in the way and dismissed our efforts at every turn.”

No one who follows the Legislature or Republican politics in Mississippi as of late expected anything less from McDaniel. He desperately wants Reeves to give him a hat tip.

Former McDaniel senatorial campaign staffer and SCC communications advisor Keith Plunkett, among other McDaniel faithful, was quick to join the state senator’s chorus line on Twitter using phrases such as, “But who had the courage to speak out against bureaucracy based on principle first does matter,” and, “…let’s give credit where it’s due.”

Corder’s focus on refighting a battle that has become all too predictable from Y’all Politics would be expected at this point. But the next leap he makes illustrates perfectly the split between Conservatives and government loving Republicans. He surmises that Reeves was not really pandering but showing “practical leadership”.

Ah, yes. We ‘other’ guys are so desperate for the attention that we simply aren’t practical.

In the lexicon of terms that hide a more honest meaning “practical leadership” can also be defined as “lack of commitment”, or at best “management of circumstances”. Leaders push to create movement, not just respond to circumstance. Look at any successful leader in history, whether they be a leader of nations or a leader of the local Rotary Club, and you won’t find many who leads based on the vision of practicality.

What is “practical”, however, is trying to position yourself politically and then attempting to save your political hide when things go the other direction. Remember, it was the Lt. Governor who just last year held a political event in Tupelo to support Common Core.

Leadership, on the other hand, is about shared values and a vision for promoting those values. And yes, it’s about giving credit where credit is due when those values are rightfully promoted.

The members of the Senate Conservative Coalition showed support for local and parental control of education by traveling the state tirelessly over the past year to talk about the dangers of Common Core. They fought against it by supporting an amendment to defund it in the Senate earlier this year knowing full well they would lose, which they did 39-11.


Self-absorbed politicians interested in power don’t fight battles they may lose. Leaders understand that attempting to be seen as personally and politically perfect in the moment is not the goal of service. Service requires doing the hard work needed today to meet the goal in the end. The Senate Conservative Coalition helped push the ball down the field and promoted the values of parental control of education, despite losing in the short term. That is leadership.

Does anyone dare think we would be where we are today were it not for the courage of these 11 leaders? Does anyone think that the Lt. Governor would have ever been forced to do politically yesterday what he did had people across the state not taken action?

Reeves recent statement to reporter Steve Wilson says it all:

“I don’t believe I’ve changed my position,” Reeves told Mississippi Watchdog. “My position has been for numerous years now that I felt like we should monitor the implementation (of Common Core), but I don’t think you’ll find me quoted anywhere saying that I supported it.

Yes. He really said that.

In other words, the Lite Guv didn’t say anything to get himself in political trouble before even though his actions say something else.

I’m sorry. But folks see right through that. Leadership isn’t about nuanced political statements, nor is it about managing a bureaucracy. Leadership is about leading through action. It’s about gathering people around shared values and giving them actionable goals. It’s about fighting for something other than ones self.

So go ahead and associate me with the members of the Senate Conservative Coalition and count me as one who is ready to give them credit for their hard work. Obviously I have fought Common Core for years now. And I’m happy to have done it.

I’m honored to be a part of a team that supports decentralized government and takes action to move towards that goal.

As to the Lt. Governor’s conversion, I welcome him. But please, don’t try to convince us this about some recent federal overreach regarding Oklahoma. Common Core has always been about federal overreach and it has been made abundantly clear for years now.

The Lt. Governor of Mississippi isn’t elected to serve Oklahomans. He is elected to serve Mississippians, and it is Mississippians who have been working their rear-end off to get elected leaders to back away from the bureaucracy and stand by the values we hold dear.

It took a lot of study for many of us. My own work on Common Core began back in September of 2011. It also took a lot of blood, sweat and tears by dedicated citizens and parents like Heather Fox, Don Hartness, Brandi Correro, Rob Chambers and Rita Anderson just to name a few.

They know and have said time and again that Common Core is an abysmal failure. They have seen it first hand. They know it is just another bureaucratic experiment in a long line. They know it has never been tested, proven, nor has it ever been “state-led”. It is and always has been consultant and lobbyist led. And it is and always has been a partnership with the federal government to gain control over states responsibility of developing education standards and to further remove it from the responsibility of local communities and parents.

Give credit where it’s due: to the parents and to those who had the courage to act upon the vision to do what was right despite the consequences. They are fighting for something greater than themselves.

There is much more to be done. But, the changing of the political winds we see regarding Common Core is the result of the hard work of many over the course of the past three years. It can’t be grasped so easily as a quick political point now by someone who never showed any courage to fight it when the odds were overwhelmingly in favor of failure.

Glad to have you on board, Lt. Governor. But, you have to do something before you get a gold star.

About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

4 thoughts on “PLUNKETT: Practicality is for bureaucrats. Leadership is about sharing values and vision.

  1. Thanks for the article. Resonates with ‘reality’. Visited that Y’all Politics blog once—–nuff said. No reality, no objectivity. No need for his blathering when we have superior alternatives like MCD and MSPEP!

  2. Thank you so much for this article, Keith. I have been following and reading your articles on Common Core for quite some time, and, as usual, you are spot on!

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