Wisconsin just can’t make up its mind. On the same night we helped re-elect President Barack Obama and elected Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., both obviously Democrats, we once again turned sole control of the state Legislature to the Republican Party. What does this mean going forward?
The first indication of what this will mean is watching what happens as the state works to prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Currently the Republicans have left themselves almost no time before a Nov. 16 deadline to decide whether the state wants to be in charge of a health care exchange required by the new law for small businesses and individuals to purchase health insurance. The cause of this small window was a decision by Gov. Scott Walker to stop planning for implementation, hoping a defeat of Obama in the presidential race would lead to a repeal of the law.
With that point now moot, the state risks relinquishing control of the exchange to the federal government, which would join the $38 million the state lost out on when Walker decided to stop implementation last year.
The gains made by the Republicans may very well lead to more decisions that hurt Wisconsin made for partisan reasons. The recent redistricting decisions, made unilaterally by the Republican-controlled Legislature likely played a part in their successful attempt to regain total control. Strong Democratic voices like former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz have accused the Republicans of gerrymandering the redistricting process.
In the Assembly, Republicans now hold a sizeable 60-39 lead and in the Senate will most likely hold an 18-15 advantage pending a possible recount, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Redistricting likely played a role in those wins, but it certai+nly doesn’t account for a 21-seat advantage in the Assembly, and the loss of the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, sounded more like Assembly Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, coming more effectively to the center in the campaign than democratic opponent Susan Sommer.
The political future of Wisconsin, hotly contested the last two years, now has a surprisingly one-sided driver. Think about the dichotomy of having elected Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Baldwin in consecutive elections. That has to be one of the most contrasting pair of senators of any state in the country. Yet we find ourselves with a state government that currently has complete one-sided control.
In the extremely partisan times we find ourselves in, where the idea of a compromising federal government is a distant memory, and a compromising Wisconsin government disappearing not far behind, it is a real concern that one of our parties lacks any real decision-making power.
I’m concerned going forward. This Republican Party has shown little interest in the kind of deal-making that used to be typical in the Wisconsin Legislature. I had hoped a stable, divided Legislature might lead to a return to that kind of policy-making procedure.
I hope the Republicans at least tweak their approach and work toward the center, but I’m not entirely optimistic. The checks and balances of policy making have changed dramatically since the bipartisan successes of former Gov. Tommy Thompson. If anything is clear today in Wisconsin, it’s that one voice on either side can’t possibly represent all of us.
John Waters ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in journalism.