Wisconsin politics is shaped by decades of a continuous partisan divide, making the state an incubator for tribal politics and deep divisions that define civic life in the state.
During four years of Republican Scott Walker in the Governor House, the politics of Wisconsin changed forever after the passage of the law known as Act 10, which restricted the collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.
This act generated state-wide protests, which worked as a catalyst behind the Republicans’ decline in the state.
The toxic political environment of Wisconsin reflects a larger threat to the American democracy and has once again started to emerge as the Wisconsin governor race approaches.
Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, has been facing challenges from the Republican majority in the House and Senate during the last four years, which was very much similar to what Scott Walker faced during his time.
Surprisingly, Evers also acted the same way as Walker by vetoing legislation introduced by Republicans, such as the GOP-sponsored election bill.
Both political parties have started an offensive campaign against one another, with Governor Evers seeking re-election and experienced Republicans like former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch entering the race.
Wisconsin Governor Seeks Re-election with no Difference to the Political Environment
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers failed to decrease the political temperature of the state, and things are pretty much the same as left by the former governor in terms of political understanding between Republicans and Democrats.
Governor Evers witnessed many challenges during his administration, including the pandemic and Kenosha incident and its aftermath. Many Democrats even feared that Evers could become a liability for Biden with his response to the Kenosha protests.
Evers tried to introduce police reforms in the state, but the measure was blocked by the Republican majority. His approval rating slid six points after he handled the Kenosha incident. Governor Evers had a golden chance for the party, and if he had acted carefully in the aftermath of the Kenosha incident, Biden could have won the state with a larger margin.
The COVID-19 response of Governor Evers also suffered due to the partisan divide in the Wisconsin state legislature. Republicans passed a COVID-19 response bill of $100 million, which was vetoed by Governor Evers.
In return, Republicans challenged every emergency order issued by the Democratic governor.
Eight months of a political tug and pull and four months of lawsuits against the executive orders, mask mandates, and closure of schools and businesses took Wisconsin to a critical point, and it became the third most suffering state of the country.
Governor Evers failed to establish a bi-partisan environment among the legislature, and the price was paid by the people of the state.
This decreased the approval rating of the governor. He not only failed to change the political environment of the state but also failed to bring change in the way people of the state spend their lives.
No relief could be granted to the people because of the partisan divide.
After spending four years with a Republican majority legislature, Governor Evers will once again go to the people of Wisconsin who elected him to bring change to the state, especially the political environment of the state.
The re-election bid of Governor Ever has no backing of prior performance.
His election campaign will mostly focus on targeting Republicans, while he failed to reach a compromise that would have served in the best interest of the people of the state.
Campaign Promises of Governor Evers: Some Fulfilled, Others Not
In his election campaign of 2018, Governor Evers made some promises to the people of Wisconsin, some of which were fulfilled while others never materialized.
Governor Evers promised to cut the middle-class income taxes by ten percent.
The budget passed under his administration had no sign of tax cuts. In the most recent budget for fiscal years 2021-23, Republicans proposed to reduce the 5.3% tax bracket on individuals earning $263,000 and couples earning $351,000. In contrast, the promise was to reduce tax for individuals earning $100,000 and families earning $150,000, and that too was in the first budget.
Evers also promised to increase school funding by $1.4 billion in the first budget; however, the level of funding was much lower than the amount promised.
The final budget shows an increase of $500 million, which is nothing when compared to $1.4 billion.
Evers also pledged to create tastoccx credits and other programs to boost lead abatement efforts. No money was kept in the state budget for abatement, and Wisconsinites are now looking towards the federal government to provide relief in this regard.
Nevertheless, it will be wrong to say that Governor Evers did not keep any of his promises. He actualized many of his promises, including increased spending on local roads maintenance, early childhood education, public transit, technical schools and the UW systems, and the creation of a blue-ribbon panel on agriculture in rural areas.
Tax cuts and increased spending on education would have changed the political scenario of Governor Evers, and the next election could have been a one-sided win for him.
Evers created problems for himself by failing to fulfill this promise and can face its consequences in the upcoming elections.
Republicans Goes Offensive to Win
Republicans see Wisconsin flipping with the decline in the approval rating of Governor Evers. Therefore, they are using every political tool they have in the campaign of Governor Race.
Republicans will be choosing their candidate through a primary, but Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch is currently considered to be the top candidate in the race.
A new Political Action Committee formed by longtime Republican Lobbyist Stephan Thompson is also pushing Rebecca Kleefisch to be the Republican candidate and will also help her by raising big campaign money.
Kleefisch is attracting the Republican voters using Donald Trump’s agenda and promoting conservative policies such as increasing police funding, banning sanctuary cities, and sending the National Guard to secure Southern borders.
Ironically, she promised to sign many vetoed bills of Governor Evers and to promote Trump’s agenda during her first few days in the office, following the example of President Joe Biden if she wins.
Democrats have lost many voters in Wisconsin due to the drop in approval ratings of Governor Evers and will suffer in the upcoming race.
Wisconsin Democrats need to build new rhetoric while also reaching a compromise with the Republican majority to fulfill promises in the future.
The political climate of the state needs to be cooled down, and Governor Evers could campaign on this rhetoric that he will try his best to decrease the partisan divide to work in the best interest of the people.