Here is my full column that ran yesterday in the Washington County Daily News.
Since President Donald Trump was elected Democrats and their liberal allies have been predicting that Democrats would win a sweeping victory at the polls this November. Dubbed the “blue wave,” the Democrats have history on their side. The opposition party to the president traditionally wins big electoral gains in the midterm election following the president’s inauguration.
While Democrats are still likely to win more elections than they lose this year, the threat of a blue wave appears to be diminishing. Trump’s rising approval rating, the booming economy, the prospect of peace in North Korea and a host of other factors are sucking some of the strength out of the wave.
The reason there might be a blue wave, or perhaps a blue ripple, is not because millions of heretofore Republicans have suddenly become Democrats. It is because Democrats are more energized to vote as they focus their hate around the figure of President Trump. Hate is a powerful emotion that drives a lot of people to the polls. But as we saw in Wisconsin when the Democrats fixed their hate on Gov. Scott Walker, it is not always enough to win elections.
There were two special elections last week in Wisconsin districts previously held by Republicans. A Republican won one and a Democrat one. Given that both districts are considered Republican-leaning, the results lean toward the Democrats, but it belies the notion that there is a gigantic blue wave that will sweep Democrats into power over all opposition. These special elections indicate that candidates still matter. Hard campaigning still matters. Local issues still matter.
Walker is running for his third term and is rightly running on his record. Most Wisconsin Republican incumbents are doing the same. Republicans are right to run on their record because it is a powerful record of success. Wisconsin is far better off than it was before Walker assumed office and Republicans won control of the Legislature. Taxes are down. The state budget runs a surplus instead of a deficit. Unemployment is at an alltime low. Job participation and incomes are rising. And the Republicans have enacted dozens of important reforms from concealed carry to Act 10.
It is a marvelous record, but it is not enough to get Republicans energized and flocking to the polls like they did in 2012 and 2014. What is sorely missing from the Wisconsin Republicans’ message is a vision for the future. While it may not be fair, politics is not about what you have done. It is about what you are going to do next.
If you go to Walker’s campaign website, it has some great details about his historic conservative record, but is scant in detail about what he wants to do in his third term. The Assembly Republicans’ site touts their “Forward Agenda” from 2016. A tour of the sites for incumbent Republican candidates offers much of the same.
If Wisconsin Republicans want to get their base excited and energized to counter the Democrats’ enthusiasm, they need to present a bold vision of what voters can expect if they return Walker for another term and Republican majorities to the Legislature.
For example, here are some things that I, as a conservative member of the Republican base, could get excited about: Cut spending. Don’t just bend the curve down or cut the rate of spending increases. Republicans should actually pass a budget next year that will spend less than the current budget. It is a corollary to Parkinson’s Law that government spending will always fill the budget allocated. That is part of what drives increasing budgets. Republicans should aggressively cut the budget to reflect what Wisconsinites can afford instead of what bureaucrats want to spend.
Once spending is cut, Wisconsin Republicans should end the income tax. It may sound insurmountable, but it isn’t. Nine states manage to function without a tax on regular income. Wisconsin Republicans have certainly shown themselves to be capable enough to enact comprehensive reforms and this one would be welcomed by anyone with an income in the state — including many of our seniors on fixed incomes who find themselves fleeing the state to afford their retirement.
Republicans should reform Wisconsin’s welfare system. In an age of full employment, there is no excuse whatsoever for every able-bodied person who wants to work to get a job. And if they do not want to work, the taxpayers should not be forced to pay their bills. Wisconsin Republicans have made some reforms in this area, but there is a long way to go.
There are many more great conservative reforms waiting to be enacted. If Wisconsin Republicans want to stay in power come November, they will need to articulate for Wisconsin’s voters what they intend to do with that power. Now is not the time to celebrate the past. It is time for Republicans to announce the future.