Overnight, Wisconsin morphed itself from being a "blue" state into a "red" state.
Republicans swept to victory, claiming the Wisconsin governor’s seat, a U.S. Senate seat, two key Congressional seats and control of both houses of the state Legislature.
At first glance, Tuesday’s results seem absolute. However, they raise many questions that will be answered over the next two years:
- What will be the immediate priorities of newly elected Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker? How will he balance the state budget?
- Can Walker really create 250,000 jobs over four years, as he has promised? How?
- Who will Walker take with him to Madison to fill his cabinet?
- Will Walker be able to stop the federal high-speed rail project in Wisconsin, as he has promised? If he does, will the private companies that have been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for the project file lawsuits against the state? (Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle did his party’s brand no favors by sealing the rail deal with the feds at the 11th hour behind closed doors.)
- As Walker departs for Madison, how will Milwaukee County deal with its dire financial condition, its catastrophic Mental Health Complex, its strapped public transit system and the O’Donnell Park parking garage tragedy?
- And what about Rebecca Kleefisch as lieutenant governor? (Love her or hate her, the self-proclaimed "Mama Grizzly" who likened gay marriage to marrying a table, a clock or a dog will be one heartbeat away from being Wisconsin’s governor.)
- Who will emerge as the leading Republican and Democratic candidates to succeed Walker as the next Milwaukee County executive? (Keep your eyes on State Rep. Jeff Stone, Sheriff David Clarke Jr., county parks director Sue Black and State Sen. Lena Taylor.)
- Will Tom Barrett seek another term as Milwaukee’s mayor? If he does, will he be challenged by Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines Jr.?
- How long will it be before a bill to allow conceal-and-carry of weapons is proposed in Wisconsin? (Remember, the last time the Republicans controlled the state legislature, they sent two bills to allow conceal-and-carry in the workplace to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who vetoed both of them.)
- How many Congressional Republicans will adopt the "Roadmap" of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), who is calling for drastic changes to Social Security and Medicare?
- What, exactly, did outgoing Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold mean in his concession speech when he said, “It’s on to the next fight. It’s on to the next battle. It’s on to 2012.”?
- Will President Barack Obama recover from stinging losses in the mid-term elections? Make no mistake, the Obama administration is in a precarious position. According to CNN exit polling Tuesday, 45 percent of voters are happy with Obama’s performance, while 54 percent disapprove. That’s the same territory Clinton’s numbers were in back in 1994 exit polls, when 44 percent of voters approved of the job he was doing, while 52 percent were unhappy. Back in 2006, the same numbers for President George W. Bush were 43 and 57 percent.
Will incoming U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson be successful in “repealing and replacing Obamacare?” Throughout his campaign, Johnson called Obama’s health care reform bill "the biggest assault on personal freedom” in our lifetime. However, when asked at the Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon about which parts of the reforms he would overturn, Johnson sidestepped the question. Would it be the part that prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions? Or the part that prohibits insurance companies from dropping people when they become gravely ill? Or the part that allows children to be covered under their parents’ plan until they are age 27? Or the part that closes the Medicare “doughnut hole” for prescription coverage for seniors? Johnson has declined to specify any of those provisions for repeal.
Keep in mind, many of the Tea Party voters who propelled Johnson and others into office this year do not seem to be of the mind to tolerate compromises by their candidates. They are loudly and proudly principled on issues such as lower taxes and smaller government.
- Can a divided federal government accomplish … Anything? Republicans can no longer sit on their hands and cry, “No!” at every sentence Obama utters. They have been elected to govern. And to do so, they will need to reach across the aisle to compromise.
We need not have political harmony for this country to flourish. However, it would be nice, for a change, to have some civility and an acknowledgement that both sides can bring some good ideas to the table.
Because they do.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.