Wisconsin citizens may see a change in politics as usual and a renewed focus on economic policy after broad Republican victories in Tuesday’s elections.
Republicans managed to claim not only the governor’s office but also swept both chambers of the state Legislature, which could alter the state political landscape.
These victories will likely lead to dramatic changes in public policy in Wisconsin, said Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin, in an e-mail to The Badger Herald.
After Scott Walker beat out Democrat Tom Barrett for governor and plastics manufacturer Ron Johnson triumphed over incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., Republicans will most likely begin work on revamping state economic policy, according to Dietram Scheufele, a communications professor at the University of Wisconsin.
The Republican activism that played a large role in the political shift of power throughout the state could influence the direction of the new party leadership.
“The Tea Party movement played a significant role yesterday,” Burden wrote. “Tea Party rallies are where Ron Johnson got his political jumpstart earlier this year.”
Republicans will most likely attempt to focus on the economic issues that helped propel their campaigns.
Republican focus on economic responsibility is likely what drew voters to cast their ballots for them in the first place, Scheufele added.
“I think we’ll see the Republicans trying to deliver on the only issue that mattered to most voters and that they expressed their concern about, and that is the economy,” Scheufele said.
These wins may be more about current economic problems than the electorate’s preference for one party over another however, which could limit serious Republican changes in the State Legislature, Scheufele said.
Most likely, new Republicans will look to shape an alternative economic system because that is what voters came to the polls for, Scheufele added.
However, some party-wide campaign promises may be difficult to follow through on.
Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said promises of fiscal cuts during Republican candidates’ campaigns may be difficult to accomplish.
Once Republicans start looking at the budget, McCabe said, they will discover every program has its advocates and any cuts could lose them voters.
According to McCabe, Republicans might even over-interpret election results and have a “Sally Fields” moment – “You like me you really like me!”
However, most voters just want a shake-up in economic policy and are seeking dramatic change.
“Voters are simply angry about the status quo,” McCabe said.
McCabe also said he believes voters are tired of politicians who are more worried about the interests of corporations and lobbyists than the average Wisconsin citizen, and this could influence the way new Republicans pursue policies in office.
In general, voters have become tired of party politics, McCabe added.
Scheufele said during the legislative years leading to the next election cycle, voters are likely to vacillate between one party and the other because they have little other choice in a two party system, regardless of new Republican policies.
As Republicans work to revamp policies and agendas, Scheufele said Wisconsinites could see the emergence of third party candidates.
The 2012 election may have dramatically different results, according to Scheufele, should voters think they have more choices in the political process.