Editor’s note: The following is a “blow-by-blow political strategy script” memo written by Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman to Republican Wisconsin gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker and Mark Neumann regarding their opposition to high-speed rail in the state.
Memo to GOP Candidates for Governor
RE: Political Strategy re High-Speed Rail
Phase 1: Campaign
Continue relentless condemnation and ridicule of Milwaukee-to-Madison high-speed rail investment. Continue to emphasize that rail transportation is a socialist plot to rob Wisconsin residents of their freedom and sovereignty. Use rail as prop for all the evils of big government.
Avoid any talk about the billions of tax dollars spent on expanding freeways or the decades of public subsidies that have been directed to highway travel. Never mention the economic benefits of rail investments, the jobs these investments can create or the fact that many Wisconsin residents do not drive cars because of disability, age or economic circumstances. Never mention that gasoline prices may increase significantly in the near future.
Avoid any mention of the fact that the $823 million federal investment in high-speed rail cannot be redirected to freeway expansion or highway projects.
Remind voters that freeways are free and rail transportation will end civilization as we know it.
Phase 2: Inauguration (January 2011)
Lead off inaugural speech with solemn pledge to stop Milwaukee-Madison high-speed rail construction. Repeat evils of rail and emphasize that you will save civilization from the scourge of rail travel and the big government it represents. Repeat pledges to cut taxes and slash public services including corrections, aid to public schools, the University of Wisconsin system and shared revenue to all those cities incapable of living within their means. Make sure everyone understands that none of this cutting will include freeway expansion or highway building since cheap gas and free roads are a fundamental right of every true American.
Phase 3: Progress Report (news conference one month into administration)
With a very serious and somber tone report that over the last month you have asked the best legal minds in the state to find a way to stop Milwaukee-to-Madison high-speed rail construction and cancel all contracts let to date – but that the legal experts have informed you that it cannot be done unless the state agrees to reimburse the federal government for all funds expended to date and to reimburse the contractors for all the lost profits and cancellation penalties contained in their contracts. You report with great reluctance that construction must therefore proceed because the state cannot afford to stop construction. Be sure to emphasize over and over that this is the legacy of Jim Doyle who has saddled the citizens of Wisconsin with a multi-million dollar federal investment in new infrastructure. Finally, note that President Obama and big government are really to blame and that you did everything you could to stop this investment in Wisconsin’s future.
Do not mention the phone calls from the CEOs of the Wisconsin consulting firms and contractors who were awarded rail contracts and do not mention the fact that they urged you to keep construction moving forward because this project will employ thousands of their employees. Deflect any media questions about campaign contributions from employees of these consultants and contractors. After all, you know that these contributors are only interested in good government.
After the news conference, call your former campaign operatives, Charlie (Sykes) and Mark (Belling), to conduct phone interviews on their radio shows. Again, emphasize how angry you are in being unable to undo the high-speed rail project. Be sure to lay all the blame on Jim Doyle and President Obama. Don’t worry, Mark and Charlie won’t be too hard on you, for you know you are “their guy” and you can do no wrong.
Phase 4: Ribbon Cutting (January 2013)
Organize ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Madison train station. Make sure hundreds of workers who have been earning family supporting wages working on the rail line over the last two years are in attendance. They will be very appreciative.
Your remarks should emphasize that with gasoline prices at $6 per gallon and the Wisconsin unemployment rate at 12 percent, you are pleased that your administration was able to deliver this $823 million stimulus project on time and on budget. Read a long list of the jobs created by the project and the amount of wages paid to Wisconsin workers. Single out the Talgo factory in Milwaukee and congratulate the 300 workers who have built the six train sets that will begin operating in the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison corridor. Be sure to mention that the gleaming Talgo trains are a shining example of what private enterprise can produce when the restraints of big government are lifted from the entrepreneurial spirit.
Make a surprise announcement, to wit: that you have just signed a full funding agreement with the federal government to begin construction of the high-speed rail line from Madison to the Twin Cities. Emphasize the thousands of construction jobs that will be created and the economic development that will occur in Wisconsin communities along the line. Mention that this new line will make the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Twin Cities corridor the economic engine of the Midwest and the five-hour travel time between Chicago and the Twin Cities will revolutionize travel within the state. Make frequent references to your priority of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and that your administration’s prime directive is putting Wisconsin residents back to work. Show that this project is all about jobs.
Following remarks board the train for the one-hour trip to Milwaukee. Sit down and enjoy the beautiful Wisconsin scenery, relax in the comfortable seat (check your emails using the on-board WiFi) and make repeated remarks about how smooth, quiet and fast the ride is (be sure to wave to the thousands of well wishers along the line, some of whom have been out of work since your inauguration and would love to work on the line to the Twin Cities). You might want to reference the blizzard that the train has encountered in Waukesha County just as lunch is being served (add humorous comments about Wisconsin winters). Point out how rail travel is a great all-weather mode of transportation (do not mention the cars in the ditch along Highway 16 that you see from the train window).
Upon arrival in Milwaukee (on time despite blizzard) repeat program.
In Milwaukee you may get some media questions about your campaign promises and your inaugural speech. Deflect the questions. Just point out that circumstances have changed and it is your responsibility as governor to get Wisconsin residents back to work and that is exactly what you intend to do every hour of every day. You might want to mention that we need to invest in our future and that we cannot rely on cheap gasoline anymore. Don’t worry though; no one remembers campaign promises or inaugural speeches anyway.