The recounts in Wisconsin have wrapped up and, pending ongoing legal action, the election results will likely be certified soon confirming that Joe Biden has won the state by about 20,000 votes or 0.4% of the voters. The results tell us a lot about the current makeup of the Wisconsin electorate and what the Republicans will need to do to win the governorship in 2022.
The biggest message of the 2020 election is that the Wisconsin electorate is almost perfectly evenly divided. In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by about 23,000 votes. In 2020, with about 200,000 more ballots cast, Biden defeated Trump by about 20,000 votes. At the top of the ballot, the state is evenly split.
The state legislative results were less evenly split. The Republicans lost a couple of seats in the state Assembly, but still retain a substantial majority. The Republicans actually gained a couple of seats in the state Senate to give them their largest majority in that house in more than thirty years.
While Democrats will bemoan gerrymandering, those kinds of legislative majorities cannot be drawn by wily cartographers. Those majorities are a reflection of the fact that liberal Democrats have heavily segregated themselves into a few areas of the state and have become far more liberal. In doing so, the Democrats have moved away from middle-class and working- class Wisconsin and become the party of socialists, activists, and white-collar chauvinists who can afford to indulge bad ideas.
The 2020 election also showed that Republicans have made gains in most of the state. Trump increased his margins in the Fox Valley, central Wisconsin, northern Wisconsin, east-central Wisconsin, and in the rapidly growing Racine and Kenosha counties. The Democrats churned out huge vote totals in Dane and Milwaukee counties to win the state for Biden, but lost ground in almost every other area of the state.
In order to win in 2022, the Republican candidate for governor will need to appeal to those same Trump voters with the kitchen table issues that matter. First, a strong economy is good for all Wisconsinites and a strong economy is a diverse economy. Republicans must focus on championing the industries that matter to people who do not live in Madison and who do not have a college degree. Manufacturing, tourism, hospitality, construction, mining, milling, etc. are businesses that have provided family-supporting livelihoods for generations of Wisconsinites.
In particular, Governor Evers has spent the better part of a year ignoring the plight of small businesses with his dictatorial orders. Republicans must fight for the tavern owner in Fifield and the ski hill operator in Wild Rose. Fighting for them does not mean offering them a handout. It means getting government out of the way so that they can make a living.
Many Wisconsinites have seen the indifference of government throughout the ’Rona Recession. While government forced businesses to close and people out of work, many government employees continued to receive their full pay while not having to work. Schools closed, but teachers were paid. University of Wisconsin campuses sent kids home but kept the tuition and housing fees. Wisconsinites do not want to see their fellow citizens suffer, but they do want to see the suffering shared equally by government.
Republicans must work to make government accountable to the people it serves. Many of the people who voted for Trump did so because they felt that their government no longer served them. Republicans must champion government service in the humblest sense of the phrase. Republicans must champion a government that works for the people.
Specifically, too many of the public schools in Wisconsin have shown that their priority is not serving the kids or the community. Their priority is serving the employees and unions. Against the best scientific guidance, too many public schools have whipsawed between models and left parents struggling to educate their own kids while juggling their jobs. Too many public schools have made it clear that education is not really that important and that when there is a health concern, every kid can be left behind.
Republicans should focus on providing educational choices for families when their public school abandons its obligations. School choice, charter schools, virtual academies, homeschool support, etc. are all viable options for families that deserve public funding. Billions of dollars for education. Not one cent for empty schools.
Wisconsinites deserve a pragmatic, frugal, hardworking governor who works for the issues that impact their daily lives. Most Wisconsinites just want to earn a living, provide their kids a good education, enjoy a good fish fry, root for the Packers, and be left alone. The next Republican governor must work for them.
Everything but tech support.