Democrats claimed Wisconsin’s top prize Tuesday in defeating Gov. Scott Walker, but the election wasn’t the “blue wave” liberals had been anticipating. High voter turnout acted more like lightning strikes, with candidates from both parties getting zapped.
While Democrats outperformed in statewide races, including for Wisconsin attorney general, their hopes of gaining control of the state Senate fizzled. Republicans, in fact, picked up a new Senate seat, giving them a 19-14 majority.
Democratic dreams of taking over the U.S. Senate also were crushed Tuesday, as Republicans added to their majority there.
Democrats did flip the U.S. House, but Randy Bryce, their chosen one to take House Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat, lost decisively to Bryan Steil. Steil’s strategy was simple. All Steil had to do was not be Bryce, meaning not have a lengthy arrest record or history of missing child-support payments. Despite having a thick mustache that garnered attention from The New Yorker and other national media outlets, Bryce wound up with only 42 percent of the vote. So much for East Coast elites trying to tell Wisconsinites how to vote.
A danger in Tuesday’s split decision is that it will lead to gridlock. At the state level, we fear Evers will chip away at policies Walker supported that have boosted the economy. At the national level, Congress could become even more of a circus, with both parties wielding their power in destructive ways.
A glimmer of hope rests in both parties’ interest in improving the nation’s infrastructure. We’ve lamented on this page about Walker’s failure to invest more heavily in roads. Evers has said he’s open to raising the gas tax and taking other measures that would reduce the state’s reliance on borrowing to pay for roads. We suspect many Republican lawmakers would be willing to work with Evers on this issue, if not on others.
At the national level, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell signaled Wednesday he’d be willing to work with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on infrastructure legislation. If both houses of Congress can maintain their focus and not become distracted by President Trump’s eccentricities, Congress could accomplish something meaningful next session.
On health care, too, both parties have an opportunity to compromise. While Leah Vukmir claimed Baldwin wanted a government takeover of the health-care system, Baldwin has said she’s willing to pursue a bipartisan fix for ailing parts of the Affordable Care Act. Both parties say they support coverage for pre-existing conditions, and so there’s common ground on which to build legislation.
On health care and many other issues, Americans want solutions, not party rhetoric. And so we encourage these soon-to-be-formed split governments to put compromise ahead of gamesmanship, recognizing that Tuesday’s results showed neither side has a mandate to enact their agendas.