Yesterday was a fantastic day in politics, both in Wisconsin and nationally. The slew of Republican victories across the nation has flipped the Senate and grown the majority in the House to levels not seen since the early part of the 20th century. It was phenomenal to experience the midterm tidal wave of 2014.
Flipping the Senate is wonderful, to a fault. President Obama made it clear today that he has no intentions of really working with a Republican House and Senate. Indeed, he pointed out that “I’m the guy who is elected by everybody and not just from a particular state or a particular district” and that he heard the voices of voters who handed Democrats defeat after defeat. Yet in an illogical twist, Obama gave this odd shout-out to the electorate who stayed home yesterday: “To two-thirds of voters that chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.”
Obama is, as Noah Rothman says in this piece at HotAir, asserting that he is “the figure with the most political legitimacy.” To clear-headed folks, this is laughable. Obama won both elections, yes, but a sizable portion of the nation either did not vote for him or did not vote at all. If two-thirds of the electorate staying at home yesterday is not a mandate for Republican wins the same standard applies to Obama. Or, at least, it should.
I confess I have a bias, but by far the biggest political victory of the night — and the one future Democrats have to worry about down the road — is the victory of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In four short years, Governor Walker has won three elections: the gubernatorial race in 2010, the recall in 2012 (making him the first governor in America’s history to survive a recall), and last night’s vote which gave him a second term. It is a remarkable feat that has rightfully garnered national attention. And if you listened to Governor Walker’s victory speech last night (warning: auto-play) you will notice that his attention is, in turn, focused nationally.
Democrats and their progressive allies — in big union labor, in environmentalism, in the abortion industry — have thrown everything they can at Governor Walker in an effort to destroy his political career. Why? Governor Walker had the fortitude to do what needed to be done to right Wisconsin’s fiscal ship without massive tax increases or cuts to services or massive layoffs or pension cuts. Governor Walker ran, and governed, on a principle of getting government out of the way and putting control (and money) back in the hands of the taxpayers. To do this, he and the Republican legislature in Wisconsin passed Act 10. This law limited the collective bargaining power of public employee unions and required contributions toward health insurance and pensions (the required contributions are far less than workers in the private sector pay, for the record). This freed up budgets at the local level (including municipalities and school districts) so that those budgets could be re-worked and things like state aid could be reduced to help undo a deficit that went as high as $6 billion.
If you paid attention, 2011 was fraught with protests and threats (someone threatened to gut Governor Walker’s wife, Tonette, “like a deer” because of his agenda). It culminated in the recall election of 2012. Governor Walker won that recall handily over Democrat challenger (and Milwaukee mayor) Tom Barrett.
The 2014 election was another bite at the apple. A chance for the Democrats and the unions and other progressive groups to run Walker out of office. Political wonks like me will understand what an impact Governor Walker’s loss would have on conservative politics: it would give progressives the political ammunition to say, “See? When you oppose us we destroy your career” and it would take years before we had another government — state or federal — with the spine to oppose those special interest groups.
So desperate were the Democrats to get Governor Walker out of office that they selected a candidate so incompetent she was dismissed from her position in her family-owned company (Trek) and her jobs plan was plagiarized, Mary Burke. They either didn’t bother to vet Burke or did the research and decided to hide it, hoping it would be enough to get her into the governor’s mansion. They did not care that Burke was a disaster when she served as Commerce Secretary under the Jim Doyle administration (2005-2007). They did not care that Burke couldn’t run a business that had millions of dollars in profits, let alone question her ability to manage the billions of dollars in a state budget. They were not bothered by her plagiarism. Or the fact Burke was so awful and divisive as a manager that employees threatened to quit.
Burke would “heal the divide” caused by Governor Walker. Except Governor Walker didn’t cause the divide. He governed, as he was duly elected to do. It was the Democrats and their union and progressive allies who took up the protests and the fleeing to Illinois and the wailing and gnashing of teeth because they didn’t like having to, as they’d say, pay their “fair share.” And if Burke had won, all of the good the Walker administration has done in Wisconsin would unravel. Not just statewide. But nationally as well. No one would dare threaten the power of the unions or their progressive cohorts because it would be political suicide to do so. The protest and the harassment and the uncivil behavior Wisconsin endured in 2011-2012 would be proven effective.
Instead, after sinking millions into various Democratic campaigns and after visits by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, both President and Michelle Obama, and Bill Clinton — nothing could sink the Walker re-election campaign. He is, truly, the Teflon Governor. Even the politically motivated John Doe investigations were unable to derail Walker’s return to Madison for a second term. Last night’s election was, for political wonks especially, a sight to behold.
The real work begins now. Today. In fact, Governor Walker had a cabinet meeting this afternoon.
This morning, I tweeted:
and I think this is a valuable message for Republicans to hear now that the midterm dust is settling. Not only because Scott Walker’s victory puts him in serious contention for 2016, but because his is a lesson that could benefit the GOP nationally in the long term: believe in, and govern on, conservative principles. And. You. Will. Win.
Articulate those principles. Govern on those principles. And. You. Will. Win.
Be for something and not just against something. And. You. Will. Win.
Small-government conservatism (even libertarianism) wins when it’s believed in and presented as a viable alternative to big-government progressivism (bordering on socialism). Progressive groups from around Wisconsin and throughout America threw everything they had at Walker because they know the above to be true. And they know when politicians run governments the way Walker has, progressive politicians and their pet causes lose. Walker opposes everything they envision government is or should be.
It’s been made clear by the White House that the Obama Administration will do whatever it takes to work around a Republican Congress in order to pass Obama’s agenda in the next two years. Bills passed by the House and Senate will be vetoed by Obama and he’ll have the audacity to get in front of the news cameras and cry about Republican obstructionism. The media will aid and abet these lies. So the GOP has to play smart politics.
[Insert nervous conservative/libertarian laughter here].
If they don’t, they set up whoever Democrats nominate in 2016 (no, I don’t believe it will be Hillary Clinton; but yes, I do believe it will be a woman) for an easy victory.
Failing to look to Wisconsin and Governor Walker to learn what needs to be done in the coming weeks and months is detrimental to the mandate (and it is a mandate, despite what Obama says) Republicans have been given. They must get ahead of the Obama Administration, and the media, and take their case directly to the American people. They must govern the nation like Scott Walker governed Wisconsin.
A guy who wins three elections in four years has some valuable lessons to teach. If we’re smart enough to learn from them.