February 24, 2017

Wisconsin Is a Model of Success

Gov. Scott Walker has the Badger State headed in the right direction.

About two years ago, as the 2016 presidential campaign began to ramp up, many pundits and political observers thought one of the best GOP candidates for reversing the damage done by Barack Obama was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. After all, not only had Walker won his election in a consistently Democrat state, he overcame a recall attempt and won re-election despite everything the Left and their unions threw at him over three campaigns. And he did it while enacting conservative policy.

After a brief period atop the polls, it turned out that Scott Walker wasn’t the strong, charismatic candidate many thought he would be, and he became an early casualty of the overcrowded Republican field. As for Wisconsin, Donald Trump surprisingly carried the Badger State in the 2016 election — the first GOP candidate to do so since Ronald Reagan in 1984 — and some of the credit surely goes to Walker and his successful reforms.

Walker’s early departure from the GOP presidential sweepstakes gave him time to focus on some of his to-do list before he seeks another term. The key item on that list is welfare reform, with the idea of expanding work requirements to include able-bodied adults with school-aged children that receive food stamps as well as childless adults on Medicaid. Also in the works: a pilot program to place a work requirement on able-bodied adults in public housing.

This effort to assist recipients of public assistance in extracting themselves from dependence echoes a similar program in Maine, where Governor Paul LePage put rules in place requiring able-bodied food stamp recipients to work, enroll in job training, or volunteer part-time to continue receiving benefits. In the 18 months after adopting the rules in 2014, the number of able-bodied people on food stamps dropped by over 90%. So reform is a workable idea, and Walker just might have the political capital to make this happen in a state significantly larger than Maine.

Yet while LePage has been successful despite being a sort of brash, shoot-from-the-hip governor, Walker has let his record do the talking, allowing the opposition to be the ones making the controversial statements and pulling outrageous stunts like fleeing the state to avoid constitutionally mandated duties such as voting on budget bills.

Taking a few pages out of the Wisconsin protesters’ playbook, statists around the country have been disrupting recent townhall meetings held by Republicans and holding marches and other events in order to create the perception of a groundswell of opposition to the GOP agenda of ObamaCare repeal and so forth. The Leftmedia are happy to report on these events and highlight these dubious tactics. But if Republicans stay the course and adopt smart policies, they could quickly render the so-called “Indivisible” group as powerless as the Wisconsin unions are today.

As David Freddoso writes in the Washington Examiner, it was the success of Walker’s ideas that silenced even his harshest critics. “You can’t withstand an angry, bitter, heckling opposition without changing things in big ways and giving people a few months to appreciate the benefits of what you’ve done for them,” Freddoso argues. “You have to have enough faith that your ideas will work, and implement them in a smart enough way that they won’t fail because of your own incompetence.” Given that Scott Walker has moved the state of Wisconsin from a solid-blue political hue to a lovely shade of purple in just a few years, success in this endeavor could restart that presidential talk again. And don’t forget: Walker hasn’t even turned 50 yet, so he can be a viable player for several years to come.

For all the controversy of Trump’s election, it should be kept in mind that, like Walker, he was elected to be a reformer. If Trump can restore some power to the states, the ones with conservative leadership like Wisconsin can be the success stories America needs to see and believe in.

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