Recent poll indicates state electorate is ready for a new directionMore than half of Wisconsinites say that the state is heading in the wrong direction, according to the most recent Wisconsin Survey poll (PDF).
Only 37 percent say that the state is heading in the right direction, while 56 percent say the path we’re on is the wrong way to go.
Scott Walker’s approval ratings almost mirror that sentiment. Just 43 percent of citizens approve of his performance, while 55 percent disapprove.
It’s with those numbers in mind that cause many on the left in the state to be more optimistic about the Democratic Party’s chances in 2018. Indeed, looking at more polling numbers within the survey shows a potential shift to the left.
Dissatisfaction among the electorate is evident. So which issues are most important to the people?
The economy and jobs ranks highest on a list of priorities, with nearly four in ten Wisconsinites citing it as their top issue. The broader topic of politics takes second place (21 percent), and education rounds out the top three (12 percent).
Democrats can capitalize on all three of those issues. On the economy, they can point out that Gov. Walker has failed dismally to make good on his promise of 250,000 jobs to the state. But much more than that, Democrats need to demonstrate that they can produce a stronger and more vibrant economy through demand-side strategies and investments in communities throughout the state.
On the issue of “politics,” it’s clear that Wisconsinites are sick of the division that Walker and Republicans have brought to the statehouse in the past half-decade. Providing the electorate with examples on how they can be better trusted on the issue, Democrats can seize on this dissatisfaction with solutions that will benefit the state overall. These include getting monied interests out of politics, creating a less partisan system of redistricting and eliminating gerrymandering, and possibly other reforms to the system that show a nonpartisan commitment to electoral integrity.
It’s also clear that more funding for education is desired by the people. After Walker cut hundreds of millions of dollars from local schools, communities across the state took matters into their own hands, proposing and passing referenda in favor of raising their own property taxes in order to fill in the gaps. Now Republicans are proposing a limit on those referenda also, essentially placing public schools across the state in a stranglehold to raise funds. Democrats can provide a different path forward -- restoring funding from the state coffers, thereby alleviating the pressures that local school districts can’t always deal with on their own.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has to provide a clear vision for Wisconsin’s future. It can’t be a vision that’s anti-Walker first, party principles second; instead, Democrats have to generate enthusiasm for their ideals, and convince the state’s voters to support them.
Fortunately, on the important issues of the state’s economy, politics, and public education, Democrats in the state have a prime opportunity to show that they can move Wisconsin toward a positive direction in the years ahead.