How Wisconsin Could Show Washington The Right Road Ahead

As we continue on this transition phase in Washington DC, it is the perfect time to offer some sage advice to Mr. Trump and the Republicans in Congress. It is essential to use history as a guide and to learn from previous experiences to make the road ahead smoother. As Republicans get ready to have full control of Congress and the White House, there are some lessons that need to be learned. This is a unique opportunity to craft and push through some conservative legislation and work on fixing a multitude of issues that have a great need to be addressed. Failing to take advantage of this golden opportunity would be a tragic setback to our republic and to the many Americans who voted for a real change of direction. The Republicans and Mr. Trump need to remember Scott Walker and Wisconsin as they move ahead in the upcoming year.

The Scott Walker story is interesting and worth learning from. He was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly for nine years before deciding to run for Milwaukee County Executive in 2002. The previous County Executive, Tom Ament, resigned due to a county pension fund scandal. For those who aren't well-schooled on Wisconsin politics, Milwaukee County is a liberal Democratic county, and far from one where residents there cast votes for a conservative Republican. Although the office is a non-partisan position, Walker ran as a vocal conservative and promised to bring some fiscal responsibility back to Milwaukee County. He won 57% of the votes in 2004 and stunned most pundits by being able to run on conservative principles and ideals in a staunchly liberal county. He was elected again in 2008 with 59% of the votes. In his eight years as Milwaukee County Executive, he held the line on taxes and turned a $3.5 million deficit into a surplus. He gave back half of his salary in his first term, nearly $60,000 a year, because he believed strongly in leading by example and standing firm on conservative principles.

In 2010, Walker threw his hat in the ring for Governor of Wisconsin. After a failed run in 2006, this time he won by defeating Democrat Tom Barrett, 52% to 46%. Now, Governor Walker was ready to bring that same brand of fiscal conservatism that served him well in Milwaukee County to the entire state. Just weeks after being inaugurated, he proposed the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. This was to be the signature piece of legislation to reign in unions and try to bring some fiscal responsibility back to Wisconsin. The bill eliminated many collective bargaining rights for government workers and required unions to have a yearly vote for recertification. It also forbid unions from automatically deducting union dues from government workers' paychecks. This drew the ire of the unions and liberals across Wisconsin and led to the well documented protests in Madison. Several Democratic Wisconsin State Senators fled Wisconsin into Illinois to protest the bill. The Republicans in Wisconsin held firm, despite a string of liberal protests and challenges, and passed Act 10. Governor Walker and the Republicans in Wisconsin also successfully pushed through a voter ID law and made Wisconsin a right to work state. In 2012, the liberals forced a recall election and tried to take out Walker and a couple of Republican state legislators. Walker won the recall 53% to 46% and became the only governor to beat a recall in United States history. He was then elected once again in 2014, by roughly that same margin of victory.

The lesson to be learned is that conservative principles and ideals are winning values if they are pushed and solidly stood on. President Obama remarked to Republicans in Congress back in 2009, "Elections have consequences". He and his fellow Democrats used their power and control to push through Obamacare. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Mr. Trump and the Republicans need to learn from Scott Walker and Wisconsin. Yes, elections have consequences. This isn't a time to compromise on conservative principles and ideals. The Democrats will whine and moan loudly throughout the next several years. They will have to be ignored. Far too often, Republicans have compromised conservative principles in order to placate the left. That is partly how our republic has put itself in this dire position we find ourselves today. Opportunity is knocking and Mr. Trump and the Republicans need to answer the door and welcome it with open arms. If they follow the playbook of Governor Walker and Wisconsin, they will be on the right road to a brighter future. The question is, will they?


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