Business climate would benefit from truce in partisan war.
THERE ARE TWO WAYS of interpreting remarks made by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, reported statewide by the Associated Press.
One, in the wake of a bitter year of recalls and the November gains nationwide by Democrats, the governor has reassessed his style of governing and his ideological foundation and concluded a more collaborative climate is what the people want.
Or, two, faced with re-election in 2014 and harboring ambitions beyond Wisconsin’s borders thereafter he has concluded that unbridled ideological confrontation could prove hazardous to his political health, so he’ll at least try to appear more accommodating.
WALKER TOLD THE Madison newspaper he intends to pursue a less confrontational agenda going forward, primarily pinned to issues directly related to job creation and economic growth.
“We’re not going to do things that are going to bring 80,000 or 100,000 people into the Capitol. It’s just not going to happen again,” Walker said.
That’s a good thing, assuming it’s true.
Walker will have an early test, on the mining issue. During the short time Democrats controlled the Senate a special mining committee was headed by Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville. That committee came up with good information and good ideas in pursuit of a bipartisan deal, knowing full well Republicans would recapture the Senate in November. What happens now will be a clear indicator of Walker’s sincerity. If mining legislation moves in a collaborative bipartisan fashion, believe him; if not, skepticism is in order.
IF THERE’S one thing investors dislike, it’s uncertainty. The battles in Madison, followed by recall after recall, resulted in a tumultuous political environment that could not help spilling over into the economic climate.
That may help explain why some changes Walker initiated improved the state’s business image substantially, but did not result in anything close to robust job creation. Image does not necessarily lead to investment in the midst of a roiling storm.
So Walker’s promise of creating 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term appears thoroughly beyond reach. In fact, his own administration now says he’ll be lucky to get half-way there.
OBVIOUSLY, THAT’S NOT the kind of ammunition Walker would prefer to hand an opponent going into a re-election campaign. Toning down the ideology and governing with a more moderate hand could calm the waters, ease jitters and encourage growth.
It also would square better with the mood of citizens. Elsewhere on this page readers will find a commentary by AP’s National Political Editor Liz Sidoti, citing evidence of just how frustrated citizens are with the ideological extremes of America’s political class. Politicians court the center as elections near, then immediately peel off to the left and right wings when the ballots have been counted — an obvious form of bait-and-switch. Polls show 3 of 4 respondents want both sides to work together to forge solutions, and sink into cynical despair over the ideologues’ refusal to do so.
If Walker does have his long-range vision focused on a national horizon, broadening his appeal with moderate swing voters would not be a mistake.
TO GET THERE he’ll have to actively discourage a few of the fierce partisan warriors in the Republican-controlled legislature, who already are showing the will to push the ideological edges while they still control all levers of power. Since the election a number of them have floated all kinds of ideological trial balloons — killing the independent Government Accountability Board; changing recall rules; ending same-day voter registration; passing right-to-work; changing the electoral vote count; targeting immigration issues; tighter pro-life restrictions; and more — one even picked a silly fight over Kwanzaa observances, for heaven’s sake.
That’s not to say all these ideas are without merit. And some fall right into the governor’s ideological wheelhouse.
But Wisconsin needs a period of political peace to encourage investors to stop sitting on their wallets.
We applaud the governor for indicating an intent to throttle back the partisan steamroller and refocus the machinery of state government on economic issues. An improving job picture will do more for Wisconsin citizens — and Walker’s ambitions — than anything the partisan warriors could produce.
All that begs the question, of course, about what citizens might get from a re-elected Scott Walker.
But that topic’s for another day.