Some background: I am a politically independent, informed Wisconsin voter. I do not root for political teams. In fact, I hate it. I did not vote for Scott Walker in 2010. I will not vote for him in June, although I never would have signed a recall petition if asked. (Up until this point, he hasn't done anything worthy of petitioning for his removal. We'll see how the John Doe investigation plays out, but as of right now, he doesn't deserve to face this new election.) I am unsure if I will vote for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. He has run an exceedingly poor campaign and is not a terribly strong candidate. But I would much rather not vote for governor than to vote for the wrong person. (I'm still pretty proud of not voting for president in 2004.)
Walker has accomplished one profound, admirable feat whilst in office. He turned a projected budget shortfall of $3.6B into a projected surplus of $154M. Not too shabby. Most of this windfall has come from a bill forcing state workers to contribute to their pensions and medical benefits. Frankly, IMO, it is embarrassing that the state made it to 2010 without having public workers chip in for their medical benefits or pension funds, especially with the dire economic straits the state has been in for some time. Embarrassing. The move to force their hand on this was much-needed and long overdue.
That being said, this feat was accomplished by accident by implementing the governor's strategy, which has always been to weaken his party's political opponents. Unions make up a large base of the Democratic Party, and automatic dues paid by members make up a large portion of political contributions to members of that party. That's the only reason the governor went after this sector of the workforce. His main goal was to cut out the mandatory dues, and he passed legislation that accomplished this, although a court later threw out that provision of the law.
How do I know what the governor's intentions were? Well, he told Congress. He told Beloit businesswoman Diane Hendricks (who later donated $500K to his campaign) that his union strategy was "divide and conquer" before he could make Wisconsin a "right-to-work" state. He later lied about his intentions to Congress and admitted that many of the provisions in the law would have no effect on the budget. (Inexplicably, Barrett has yet to make TV ads pitting the governor's words to Hendricks against his own words to Congress.)
So, in light of this, let's take a look at some of the legislation that has been passed or proposed since the Assembly, state Senate and governor were all controlled by Republican interests. Remember, I'm not looking at results, here; I'm looking at intent. And when you stack all the bills back to back to back, the intent becomes overwhelmingly clear.
Collective bargaining bill passed. Union dues no longer allowed to be automatically deducted from paychecks. Political contributions to opposing party severely weakened.
Voter ID law passed. Despite only a handful of voter fraud cases in the state in the past two decades, voter fraud is deemed to be a "serious problem" throughout the state. This legislation was crafted to fix a nonexistent problem. The real effect of the bill is that it is expected to disenfranchise 4-6 percent of the state's voters, most of whom are the working poor, the elderly, students of voting age or minorities who don't have a legal ID, for whatever reason. These groups tend to vote Democrat, again, for whatever reason.
As a way to alleviate concerns for the Voter ID law, a free ID was offered to anyone who didn't have one. A noble undertaking, to be sure. However, DMVs were instructed to not tell ID seekers about the free provision unless they specifically request it.
Then, the order is given to close some DMVs in Democratic-leaning areas and to expand DMV hours in areas that lean Republican. This order was eventually scrapped because of public outcry, but, in my mind, the intent is clear and can't be interpreted any other way.
Redistricting gives the GOP another opportunity to gerrymander voting lines in their favor as much as the law allows. Every current sitting Democratic state senator is drawn out of his current district.
The Republicans who worked on the process were forced to sign oaths of secrecy while completing the new voting maps. Some voters were drawn out of being able to vote for their state senator in their expected timeframe because of logistics in timing and then moving districts; this is usually severely frowned upon. However, when you're making this kind of power grab, it doesn't matter who you step on to get what you want.
This new district setup left the state with nine conservative voting blocs and two liberal voting blocs (Madison and Milwaukee.) Then, in an obscene follow-up, a bill was introduced to change how the state's electoral college votes were counted during presidential elections.
This would leave the Republican candidate for president with a 9-2 or 8-3 advantage in every presidential election, even if the state's overall totals showed the Democrat with more overall votes.
Astounding, right? Incredible? You bet. Well, that's what our political process has devolved into. A knockdown, drag-out fight to weaken the other side with no regard for the citizens you represent. It just so happens that, in this case, the problem of the budget deficit was solved in the process. But I'm not sure I could ever support someone who solves problems as a side note to local/state/nation/world domination. Whether you can is a decision left up to you.