My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:
Gov. Scott Walker is a smart, conservative, savvy politician who has managed to win elections and assemble an impressive resume of conservative achievements over his political career.
Knowing that, it is almost inexplicable why he is choosing to lurch to the left and base his 2018 re-election campaign on the Democrats’ playbook of government gravy and targeted handouts.
The secret to Gov. Walker’s electoral success is no secret at all. He wins elections because Republicans and conservatives turn out in record numbers to vote for him. Very few Democrats voted for Walker. Slightly more moderates voted for Walker than his opponents in the past three gubernatorial elections. But Republicans voted overwhelmingly for Walker and turned out in incredible numbers — especially in the heavily Republican counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington.
The reason that Republicans and conservatives have enthusiastically gone to the polls to vote for Walker is because he ran on a bold, conservative agenda and delivered on that agenda. During Walker’s two terms as our governor, he has amassed a conservative record that is unmatched in the nation. Budget surpluses, Act 10, concealed carry, Right to Work, elimination of the state property tax, welfare reform, education reform, tax cuts, repeal of prevailing wage, frozen tuition at UW and on and on. Any one or two of those accomplishments would be a proud achievement for any governor, but Walker can claim them all.
But while Walker has been mentioning his impressive conservative record on his re-election campaign trail, he has also been touting some blatantly leftist talking points and proposals.
During his State of the State speech, Walker proposed using the state income tax system to give parents a handout at the expense of all taxpayers. It is the kind of proposal that Bernie Sanders would love and is a gross handout of taxpayer money for the purpose of currying votes.
Under Walker’s proposal, the state would take about $122 million in estimated tax overpayments in the current budget and give it to parents at the rate of $100 per child — irrespective of whether or not the parents paid any state income taxes. He packages the proposal as a “reform dividend” that returns the projected budget surplus to the taxpayers. His proposal is actually a crass handout to parents in an election year at the expense of all taxpayers. If it were truly a “dividend,” Walker would be returning the entire surplus, once it is actually realized, to all taxpayers.
Walker is also touting things like more governmentspending on education, a state mandate that healthinsurance companies cannot deny coverage because of a preexisting condition and other talking points that are more commonly found in the speeches of his Democratic opponents.
Some speculate that this new blue hue to Walker’s campaign is a reaction to the recent special election in Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District where a Democrat won a seat that a Republicans held for many years.
But the real worry for Walker should be what happened in the special election in the 58th Assembly District. That election revealed a substantial enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats in the heart of Walker Country.
The 58th Assembly District is overwhelmingly Republican that usually has very high turnout. In the special election in the 58th, only 12.5 percent of voters cast a vote. Of those, only 56.6 percent voted for the Republican when, historically, 70-80 percent of the electorate votes Republican. And the Democrat actually won the city of West Bend.
What should be keeping Walker up at night is not that Democrats and moderates will not vote for him. It should be that his Republican base is not enthusiastic about voting this year.
Instead of resting on the conservative successes of the past while touting a more liberal future, Walker needs to get Republicans enthusiastic about voting for him by writing the next chapter in Wisconsin’s conservative reformation. An agenda that actually reduces state government spending for the first time in generations, eliminates the state income tax like seven other states and reduces the regulatory burden on Wisconsinites to unleash their economic potential is something that Wisconsinites and Republicans can get excited about.
Gov. Walker has a proud record of conservative successes, but politics is often more about “what are you going to do for me now?” Walker’s answer to that question should not be his government picking winners and losers through preferential government handouts. His answer should be to continue to improve the state for all Wisconsinites by getting government out of our way.