Why Elections Matter: A Tale of Two States

Chris Jankowski

8/15/2013 9:24:00 AM - Chris Jankowski

While “A Tale of Two Cities” focused on London and Paris, if Charles Dickens were writing political novels in the present day, he might choose to examine Wisconsin and Minnesota as “A Tale of Two States.” The historical election results of 2010 have had an undeniable contrasting impact in these two states that both the mainstream media and political prognosticators are beginning to grasp.

In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans realized unparalleled success, particularly in the Great Lakes states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin where Republican gubernatorial candidates were elected along with Republican majorities in legislative chambers. The result was a number of strong, swing state partnerships that ushered in a conservative response to the decidedly liberal policies pursued by their predecessors and from leaders in Washington, D.C.

However, just next door to Wisconsin, Republicans in Minnesota recaptured both chambers of the state house but fell just short in a contentious, three-way race for the governor’s mansion. This resulted in divided government until the courts drew a new legislative redistricting map unfairly favoring the Democrats. Following the issuance of the court’s map and prior to the 2012 elections, the Pioneer Press conducted an analysis that concluded, “If voters follow traditional partisan voting patterns in the November election, DFLers would pick up one additional state Senate seat … the analysis showed DFLers could regain control of the House.” On Election Day 2012 Democrats took sweeping control of both chambers, returning government to liberal Democrats – and liberal Democratic policies.

During this same period, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the strong Republican majorities in both legislative chambers were implementing fiscally conservative policies. The stark contrast between those reforms and big-government liberal policies passed in neighboring Minnesota since 2010 was the topic of a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, which noted, “Politically speaking, Wisconsin and Minnesota are practically twins. They have voted the same way in the last seven presidential contests. They gave President Obama almost identical victory margins last fall. They share a common border, a common heritage, and the highest election turnouts in America. Yet based on how they are being governed, you would think they were two different planets.”

Whether intentional or not, the Journal Sentinel is aptly making the point that elections have significant consequences.

In Minnesota, a combination of divided and liberal governance has resulted in major tax hikes and expanded union rights. In Wisconsin, four years of conservative governance has led to the largest income tax rate cuts for taxpayers in over a decade, the marginalization of public sector unions and their stranglehold on the state budget and the expansion of school choice and voucher programs.

Minnesota is suffering the consequences of liberal, economically-hostile, anti-business policies while Wisconsin is reaping the benefits of the tough choices made and reforms implemented by Governor Walker and Wisconsin’s legislative leadership.

Since 2010, Minnesota has suffered embarrassing credit downgrades by three of the country’s largest credit ratings agencies, has increased taxes by more than $2 billion and has seen its rankings in CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business index drop nine places since 2009.

Wisconsin’s 6.8 percent unemployment rate is down 2.4 points since January 2010. A full 94 percent of Wisconsin job creators believe the state is headed in the right direction as opposed to 10 percent in 2010, according to Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and the state has climbed four spots in CNBC’s ranking system.

The Minnesota-Wisconsin story is not over, but the key differences highlighted by the Journal-Sentinel between the two similar, neighboring states once again demonstrates that elections have consequences. And the early but clear success of the bold, fiscally conservative reforms implemented by Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislative leadership once again demonstrates that free markets and personal freedoms continue to benefit society more than calls for bigger government and more regulation. From our perspective, someday the diverging paths taken by Minnesota and Wisconsin after the 2010 election will make a fascinating political science case study proving the importance of electing Republican representatives to office and demonstrating the effectiveness of commonsense, fiscally-conservative Republican policies.