One story you might have missed from the last week was the musings of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as he reflected on how the nation can wrestle with its current problems. This isn’t brain surgery, as Ben Carson might say. It’s the simple observation that where Washington has failed miserably for several years now, the states have – in an inspiring large number – succeeded. A few of the highlights from his recent interview.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said dismayed Republicans should look to the states for hope.
“Many people are frustrated with Republicans nationally … but go down the line of Republican governors and you’ll see leaders who are more optimistic, more relevant, and more courageous,” Walker said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon.
The GOP has tried to figure out how to broaden its appeal to blue collar workers, minorities, and women in the wake of Barack Obama’s reelection.
The specifics of where governors are winning and Washington is losing – horribly – won’t come as much of a surprise to regular readers.
“We need to use language that is relevant to people—they’re concerned that their sons and daughters won’t have jobs, that their neighbor’s been out of work for six months, that their children and grandchildren won’t be able to afford this massive national debt,” he said. “In Wisconsin, we were realistic about our challenges, but optimistic about solving our problems.”…
The reforms emboldened Republican governors in the Midwest, a historic labor stronghold, to successfully take on union interests. Walker’s victory inspired Indiana and Michigan to become right-to-work states in order to compete for job growth.
“As conservatives we love competition; we don’t shy away from it,” he said. “The good news amongst Republican governors is that people have taken on the big reforms in education and budgets and entitlements.”
I believe this ties back very nicely to some of the challenges facing the GOP over the next decade which we’ve discussed recently, and Walker’s early work has highlighted them in a real world, functioning laboratory. It’s all well and good to say that business needs to be able to compete and thrive to support capitalism as a foundational principle of democracy. But it really does nothing for the person who is asking how they’re going to find a job or if they will keep the one they’ve been lucky enough to hold on to thus far. Walker managed to demonstrate how overly powerful unions were crippling the very engine which creates jobs and how – when they are held in check – business can bounce back, grow, and create the space and demand for additional workers.
Similarly, there probably aren’t many people in the country who would deny the need to educate the next generation and prepare them for the challenges of adult life. But rather than just railing about teachers’ unions as some sort of negative force in a free society, governors have drawn stark lines demonstrating how much of each person’s hard earned dollars are flushed down a rat hole producing very little return on investment. The alternative? School choice and local level control, not just as a theory, but as a system which delivers a profitable result to the working class parent.
This isn’t just some song of praise to Walker as an individual or potential future political animal – though he’s certainly earned any praise you may wish to lay at his doorstep – but as an example for others. To be successful, the GOP should be begin crafting a message which provides a demonstrable return on investment for voters, leaving the icing on the cake of constitutional principles for dessert.