In my column last week explaining why I will be unreservedly voting for President Trump, I reiterated the old axiom that actions matter more than words. One might further truncate that statement to just “actions matter.” The Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature should take note.
President Trump’s first term might go down as the most productive first term of any president since George Washington had to define the executive branch. Whether one agrees with Trump’s actions or not, one must stand in awe of the sheer volume of actions made by the Trump administration. From foreign policy to environmental policy to transportation to the military to regulatory reform to taxes to the courts, Trump has aggressively moved the federal government in a mostly conservative, sometimes populist, direction.
All of that action is why Trump’s supporters of 2016 have remained loyal to him and why he has won over many detractors like myself. For conservatives who had become accustomed and tolerant of elected conservatives heading off to Washington with a bag full of rhetoric and returning with apologies, Trump demonstrated what can be accomplished if one chooses to do so.
Governor Scott Walker earned fervent support for the same reason. Walker’s first term was remarkably productive. With the help of a Republican-led Legislature, Walker’s first term saw Act 10, tax cuts, regulatory reform, a budget deficit turn into a surplus, concealed carry, voter ID, right-towork, a tuition freeze for University of Wisconsin students, and so much more. When the liberals in Wisconsin forced an election to recall Walker, he actually won by a larger margin than the previous election. Many Wisconsin conservatives would have crawled through broken glass to vote for Walker because he did something that too few conservative politicians do. He acted. He moved the ball.
Several of the legislative Republicans who helped lead the conservative revolution in Wisconsin are still in office. They should heed the lesson of Walker’s second term. Walker’s second term was more tepid. He ran for president and softened his policy edges. Walker stopped aggressively moving conservative policies and began to coast a bit off of his first term in the expectation that his base would reelect him again in 2018.
As Walker demurred, his base waned. While conservatives still turned out to vote for him in 2018, the passion had ebbed from his support and too many of his supporters stayed home. If the same number of people who voted for Walker in the recall election of 2012 would have shown up in 2018, Governor Walker would be halfway through his third term.
The Republicans in the Legislature have the opportunity to act and are choosing politics over policy. Governor Tony Evers has been engaging in a flagrant abuse of power. When Governor Evers declared a health emergency and began issuing arbitrary orders, the Legislature is not without power to stop it. All they have to do is convene and vote to rescind the order by resolution. The rescission is not subject to a veto and would take immediate effect.
When Evers issued his mask order, the Republicans issued scathing press releases and did nothing. The mask order was politically popular and rarely enforced in Republican areas, so several Republican legislators decided to sacrifice good government to political convenience.
Now Evers has ordered restaurants and bars to limit capacity to 25%. This will be the death knell to numerous small-business owners who will not survive another forced restraint of their trade. Again, legislative Republicans are issuing stirring press releases, but they are doing nothing. Fearful of political retribution in a few Assembly swing districts, Republicans have ceded their power to the governor. If they are unwilling to use the power granted to them by their supporters when it is needed most, then their supporters should look for someone who will.
The Republicans in the Legislature have the opportunity to act on behalf of conservatives and representative government. They are choosing to do nothing. Such inaction makes it difficult to get excited about any of them getting re-elected.
(Owen B. Robinson is a conservative Wisconsin political commentator and former West Bend resident. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
The Republicans in the Legislature have the opportunity to act and are choosing politics over policy.