They say all politics are local. I know this old political adage is true in many respects, but I tend to focus on the bigger picture. Whatever topic I may be researching, writing about or reading about, I lean toward the larger perspective; a holistic overview if you will. So much of my political writing is at the Federal level, or at least has national appeal or impact. However, I thought I’d delve down a few levels into the deeper caves in the political canyon to see what we can expect from the newly elected Republicans.
The Republicans came to the battle on November 2, 2010 riding a horse called Fiscal Discipline and wielding Tea Party forged swords with Cut Spending inscribed on them in exorbitantly priced gold lettering. They stormed the Governor’s Houses of states across the land, tore through House and Senate Districts leaving a trail of decapitated Democrats (and some Republicans) in their wake. When the dust settled, 11 formerly Democratic Governorships were in Republican hands and Republicans increased their positions in state legislatures by 680 seats, including taking over 19 states.
Voters had spoken out clearly, railing against government spending on stimulus, health care (although almost all of that spending is in the future), corporate bailouts, extended unemployment benefits and the like. The economy and government’s role in it rang a louder and clearer bell than in any election since 1992, when Bill Clinton rode the infamous “It’s the economy, stupid” mantra to the White House. So the new Republicans understand this, campaigned on it and will address it in the New Year, right? Let’s take a look under the hood.
Sam Brownback, the former Senator who once put on a presentation of talking embryos on the Senate floor to protest stem cell research, is the newly elected Governor of Kansas. He was strongly backed by evangelical Christians and they have expectations well beyond balancing inflows and outflows of cash from the state coffers. Banning stem cell research and making dissolution of marriage more difficult is high on conservative groups’ agendas.
Scott Walker, the incoming Governor of Wisconsin has already talked tough on immigration legislation and banning embryonic stem cell research. Senator Grothman, also of Wisconsin, added “We’re not going to spend the next 18 months doing nothing but economic issues.”
In Oklahoma, where a Republican Governor replaces a Democratic one, Republican legislators are planning on bringing back previously vetoed legislation that would allow citizens to openly carry firearms. Yee Haw!
Several states are already feeling pressure from conservative groups for legislation limiting abortion rights, including trying to limit private insurers from paying for it. Contraception coverage under Medicaid is in the spotlight as is sex education in schools and domestic partner benefits for state employees.
If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is bread and butter conservative politics, at least in the modern age. Talk tough on government spending while you vote to raise the Debt Ceiling. Talk tough on deficits, even though you ran $400 Billion annual deficits throughout the Bush Presidency when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. Talk tough on smaller government in theory, without addressing a single program you will actually cut from the government ledger. Cut taxes of course, with the only plan to pay for the cuts the expected increase in tax receipts from an improving economy as a result of the tax cuts. Then dive headlong into the social issues that keep most hardcore conservative voters up at night; God, Guns and Gays.
I’ll go out on a limb, albeit a stout and supportive one, that what we’ll get from the newly Republican-controlled state governments as economic plans will be tax cuts and minor cuts in some government spending, likely by eliminating government agencies and the jobs that go with them. You won’t get any infrastructure spending, investment in R&D, education or anything along those lines. Then we’ll see lots of social legislation around marriage issues, abortion issues, sex education issues, the teaching of Intelligent Design or Creationism in public schools, and maybe some “Ten Commandments on display at the Statehouse” type of legislation.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this is a new era of Republican politics ushered in with the help of Tea Party conservatives who are mad, damn mad, about everything in government. I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not going out on that limb!