The Lessons Learned From Wisconsin
After the 2010 election, I was scared that the tea party movement and the conservative resurgence had "jumped the shark," peaking too soon to attain its goal of sending Barack Obama and his policies back to Chicago. The Wisconsin vote this past week put that fear to an end.
The midterm elections had recaptured the U.S. House of Representatives for the Republicans. It upset in both congressional houses what had been a filibuster-proof majority, theoretically allowing a unified Democratic Party to pass any legislation it desired. That election also brought forth the first truly Republican North Carolina legislature in more than a century. Before Wisconsin, many Republicans, including me, were concerned that the post-Obama conservative tide had ebbed.
The Badger State became a test for modern tea party conservatism. Scott Walker was a bold governor who dared to challenge the most stalwart supporter of the Democratic Party, organized government labor. He did this in an effort to govern under the Republican principle that budgets needed to be balanced without excessive new taxes. And the best way to do that was to curb the power of government unions.
He did all this in a state that had not sent a Republican electoral vote to Washington since Ronald Regan. Such conduct was so dangerous to the left-wing power machine that it decided to make Walker an example to the nation that conservatives ought not bring their philosophy into the House of Labor. They then decided to gather enough signatures to demand the governor's recall, along with certain legislators on whom the governor depended for support.
The result was supposed to be a stern lesson for any politician who treaded upon the sacred ground of organized government labor. It didn't turn out that way.
The conservatives accepted labor's challenge. It was almost like a second Battle of Gettysburg. Conservative forces found themselves in a place unfamiliar with their cause and on ground they might not have chosen. But the enemy presented itself there. This time, the tea party, galloping across open ground, led a charge that could not be repelled. They made it past labor's stone wall and are now headed for Washington with the defenses of the left wing in tatters.
Some might say that the conservatives outspent the left. Perhaps that is true. But this was clearly a battleground chosen by labor and the left. They cannot now complain that their army was not ready for the conflict.
Moreover, each side spent enough money to educate all voters about the issues before them. When the airwaves are saturated with mutually destructive propaganda, voters tend to tune out the noise, voting their convictions. And those convictions were sympathetic to the 2010 conservative movement.
Now, President Obama was heavily criticized for not standing with his labor allies and campaigning in Wisconsin. He was similarly criticized for not joining in the effort to defeat the North Carolina marriage amendment, instead opting to oppose it the day after it was passed. Perhaps the Obama pollsters knew that the conservative resurgence that turned around Congress in 2010 is not only alive, but is continuing to expand its influence over the electorate.
Interestingly, the lesson of Wisconsin is important, too, for Republicans. Mitt Romney, the nominee apparent, is not a tea party candidate by any measure. His advisers often seem uncomfortable with some conservative ideas. Yet Wisconsin proved that shaking the "Etch A Sketch" to erase Romney's conservative primary positions may not be either necessary or advisable.
Wisconsin proved that dissatisfaction with the liberal agenda runs deeper than Obama's economic failures. Independent and swing voters have embraced conservative principles of governance like limited taxes and placing curbs on the pension and salary excesses of government labor.
Wisconsin was a state colored blue for many years past. Today it is state where the only things that remain solidly "blue" are the color of its crumbled cheese and its crumbling government unions.
The lesson of the Battle for Wisconsin is that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the 2010 conservative resurgence were greatly exaggerated. Reports on the influence of conservatives in the 2012 electorate have been substantially underestimated. It is lesson for both parties found in local tea party song: "We Ain't Goin' Away."
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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