Dispatch: The Capitol
Can the GOP Strike Again?
By Deb Jordahl
Wisconsin Republicans found solace in November's election results. Despite a Democratic tsunami that gave Barack Obama a whopping 13% percentage-point lead in Wisconsin, Assembly Republicans held their losses to five seats, while their Senate colleagues nearly gained one.
That means Republicans only need to pick up four seats in the Assembly and two seats in the Senate to reclaim majority control in 2010.
While a GOP victory is clearly within striking distance, striking is not the Grand Old Party's strong suit, and since there's no such thing as a bloodless coup in politics, this deficiency represents a serious liability.
Whatever happened to the voice of fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, less government and more personal freedom? It was replaced by GOP leaders increasingly beholden to a lobbying corps burgeoning with their former colleagues and staff that pushed just about every cause the GOP base loves to hate, from subsidizing ethanol to raising gas taxes.
Republicans' reluctance to throw (or land) a punch is the result of being in charge of government for so long; they literally can't remember how they got there.
To wit: Only three of the 46 Assembly Republicans have experience serving in the minority party. In one way or another, Wisconsin Republicans have held power since 1986, when the Assembly Republican Minority leader, Tommy Thompson, was elected governor.
Does anybody remember Tommy's Assembly reign as "Dr. No," fighting back tax increases, government regulation and the welfare state?
Over the last seven years, Gov. Jim Doyle has left a long and winding trail of broken promises: to reduce the size of government, balance the budget without raising taxes and run a clean, competent and open government.
But the GOP has yet to find its voice as the loyal opposition, and it seems every time it comes close to rising up, it is dragged down by those back-scratching friends in Madison.
It's tough to take on the establishment when you become the establishment. The good news is that the GOP can no longer make that claim. The bad news is that they need to find new friends. My recommendation: Get a dog.
Deb Jordahl is a conservative strategist and consultant. She blogs at www.wpri.org.