By Matt Pommer
The Wisconsin Republican landslide has pushed Democrats off the political stage for the next two years and perhaps for a decade.
Huge GOP majorities in the Legislature means Gov.-elect Scott Walker can ignore Democrats and get anything he wants from the incoming Senate and Assembly.
Wisconsin voters made it clear they aren’t interested in a bipartisan approach. The key Democratic legislative leaders — Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan of Janesville and Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker of Weston — lost re-election bids. Both earlier had been labor leaders.
During the campaign Walker said he’d appoint a bipartisan commission to make recommendations about reducing state spending. He might still do that, but it would be meaningless.
That’s because Walker is the man. He will submit a biennial budget in the winter, and voters expect him to define where government spending can be slashed and which taxes are going to be eliminated.
Madison is going to be a lot different from Washington. Gridlock is a likely outcome in the federal government. Republican leaders there say their chief goal is to make sure that President Barack Obama cannot win a second term. There will be plenty of finger-pointing in Washington by Republicans and Democrats blaming each other for gridlock.
Walker will have no one to blame. The days of saying that Democratic rule has harmed Wisconsin are coming to an end. Wisconsin is looking for an optimist who can deliver on promises of economic renewal.
The governor-elect would do well to leave the whining and complaining about outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle and his policies to conservative radio talk show personalities. The radio folks have a lot of shows to do between now and inauguration day.
Don’t be surprised if Walker and the radio-show hosts who helped elect him scale back expectations for the Republican-controlled government. The recession won’t end before Walker’s budget becomes law.
Recessions are national events. What makes it tricky for officials elected in the 50 states is they must deal with growing social needs triggered by job losses, fewer work hours, and the resulting reductions in private spending. That’s part of what Walker will handle in his budget bill.
None of the 50 governors should expect much help from the federal government. There will be plenty of pain to go around. Walker will get the credit — or the blame — for Wisconsin’s moves.
After the new state budget is enacted in June, legislative attention will turn to the redrawing of legislative and congressional district boundary lines. The new boundary lines will be drawn by Republicans alone, and that ought to keep them in power for a decade.
Unless, of course, they somehow screw up.
Matt Pommer worked as a reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.