Insight: Animal House

The 2010 mid-term elections are coming down to the finish line. Nationally, it appears increasingly likely that Republicans will gain enough seats to become the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives. The more likely question is how large their margin will be. In U.S. Senate races across the country, the polling gap between the candidates appears to be narrowing in an array of hotly contested states that will determine the party in control. Some pundits predict we might have an evenly divided Senate, with the Vice President casting the deciding vote on controversial matters that are not filibustered.

Closer to home, Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Walker continues to maintain a comfortable polling margin, and in legislative races across the state, Republican candidates are polling surprisingly well. It appears likely that Republicans in the State Assembly have a good shot at gaining the four seats they need for a majority, and there are hard-fought competitive State Senate races from Racine to Milwaukee and its suburbs, all the way up through northwestern Wisconsin.

Coming after stinging defeats in both 2006 and 2008, the 2010 Republican message of limited government and fiscal responsibility appears to be resonating with many voters this fall. Yet, a recent Rasmussen poll determined that in the view of a plurality of 43 percent of likely voters, neither Democrats nor Republicans in Congress are the party of the American people. Of voters not affiliated with a political party, a majority 51 percent do not think either party is the party of the American people, and not surprisingly, 49 percent of these voters see the need for a new third party.

What to make of this broad disaffection between the voters and both parties? Many will remember the film classic from the late 1970’s “Animal House.” The plot revolved around an errant college fraternity house, the Delta’s, and their on-going hi jinx that caused great consternation for their Faber College Dean. At one point in the film, the Dean places the Deltas on “double secret probation” as part of a plan to close the fraternity’s chapter and put an end to the nonsense.

The Rasmussen poll suggests that regardless of the outcome in the mid-term elections, those candidates who prevail will be sent to Washington, D.C. and Madison “on double secret probation.” The hi jinx of wasteful spending, out-of-control deficit budgets, and the never-ending stream of government regulation must end.

Our state’s and nation’s problems are serious, but they are surmountable. However, if we end up with divided government, on either level, the Rasmussen poll suggests the electorate will have no patience with partisan bickering and stalemate. Voters are demanding accountability in representation.

There will be battles between the parties, but let the battles be of ideas — constructive and meaningful debate over fundamentally reforming entitlements, pension liabilities and other areas of out-of-control spending. And while controlling spending must be an immediate priority, long-term robust, sustained economic growth is the ultimate answer to our state’s and nation’s economic well being, and that will come about through lower taxation and reasonable regulation.

As always, there will no doubt be surprises on November 2, 2010. We are living in a time of great social and economic uncertainty that has translated into unprecedented swings in electoral outcomes. But November 3, 2010 must be a day of certainty when the nation comes together, and when our leaders commit to the kind of responsible governance that has been lacking in too many quarters for too long.

Our founders created a unique Constitutional form of government composed of checks and balances between the branches of government. They had a well-founded suspicion of centralized government authority — particularly when it was not government representative of the people. This election promises to be a “check” on runaway government, and 2011 will hopefully be the beginning of a period when our American federal and state governments are rebalanced in line with the expectations of their citizenry.

The Insight Column is a weekly column that provides commentary and background information from WMC lobbyists on issues affecting your business. For more information on this topic, contact
James S. Haney , WMC President, (608) 258-3400.