Anyone claiming that the recall election and the failure of the political left to cut short the governor’s term was a major loss is seriously deluded. We could go on and on attempting to analyze the contributing factors that led to the stunning defeat, but it would be an exercise in futility. Those of us on the left have to accept the results and look to see what is on the horizon for future issues and contests.
The general election coming up in November will determine the direction of political discourse for the following two years. If the Democrats are able to capture a majority in one of the two legislative chambers, probably the State Senate; then the Republicans agenda will be put on hold until they can again gain complete control. However, if the Republicans gain control over both chambers, then the agenda will move forward. The major issues that Republicans are interested in are as follows:
- Modification or termination of the recall law
- Converting the state to a Right to Work state
- Privatization of government services
- Modification of Public Education
- Electoral College Assignments
Recall Law: This may be the only piece of legislation to gain bipartisan support. There will be a strong push to remove recall from the state constitution or at least modify the conditions for recall. One major argument for removal of the Recall Law is that it is redundant to Section 17 of the State Constitution, impeachment.
Right to Work: This may be one of the most contentious issues. The main argument will be focused around economic recovery and job creation. Evidence will be presented that the RTW states were less impacted by the last recession and recovered faster. This is a key piece of legislation for the supporters of the right. If passed, this would be the final nail in the coffin for organized labor in the State of Wisconsin and significantly weaken organized labor nationally. Therefore, organized labor will ramp up to fight the legislation, again bringing national attention to the state.
Privatization: This has been a key goal of many on the right. In the push for reduction of the size of government, privatization will be presented as the tool to accomplish it. Along with the push to privatize, there will be a move to change the current state retirement program. The political right wants to eliminate the fixed benefit retirement to a 401 k style retirement. This will be a hard fought battle between the remaining public workers and the various administrations.
Another selling point for privatization is that it will increase the formation and staffing of private enterprise to take over the service delivery of the previous state provided direct services. The state will transform itself from service delivery agencies to contract management and supervision agencies. Only essential services will be retained by the state and I foresee conflicts arising between the state government and the federal government
Modification of Public Education: Just as in the battle over privatization, the right will push to extend the Charter School Program and Voucher Program state wide. Also, income caps would be removed and all citizens would be able to participate. One argument for such a move will be the creation of new education providers, including for profit providers. There will be a change from “brick and mortar” education to cyber schooling in many areas. This will require a statewide graduation examination and much teaching will be to the test.
Electoral College: This is an important change for the right. In a state that is so evenly divided between the right and left, a winner take all system, such as the state has now; is seen as a weakness. The proportional assignment of electors would increase Wisconsin’s importance in electing Republican presidents. The right is willing to give up electors from the major urban areas, Milwaukee and Madison, for the surety of capturing all the rest of the state electors, giving them a consistent majority every four years.
What I have outlined is only the tip of the iceberg. There will be individual pieces of legislation that will have significant impact on selected programs and policies. I can foresee a continued modification of regulations around the DNR, insurance, tort reform laws and major changes to the entitlement programs.
If the left wants to remain viable, it is time to get prepared for the upcoming regular legislative session after the fall elections. I would strongly suggest that research be done and arguments constructed and perfected. The political right will come at the left with their “guns ablaizen”.