Reluctant Conservative Voters Need to Get Out to Vote

Like many other conservatives in Wisconsin this midterm election, I am not an enthusiastic voter. Unlike in the 2010 election that turned state government decisively red for the past eight years, Wisconsin’s economy is good, unemployment is down (way down), and employers cannot seem to find enough workers to fill all the available job positions. Although Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators have been frantically reminding voters of all the fiscal policies they have implemented to help turn around the state’s economy, they just cannot get voters excited to keep them in office.

Democrats, however, are in high dudgeon over the presidency of Donald Trump, boosting what would normally be a typical midterm election advantage. Republicans, on the other hand, are apparently apathetically enjoying the good economy.  

Adding to the situation in Wisconsin, many conservatives in the state are justifiably frustrated with the lack of big ideas and bold policy coming from the entrenched GOP (i.e., the failure last session of a supposedly pro-life super-majority to pass a no-brainer bill banning the use and sale of aborted fetal body parts). Many of those conservatives may plan to stay home on Tuesday.

I understand the frustration, and share it in spades, but staying away from the polls would be a mistake. Despite my lack of excitement for the election this year, I will be voting with a sense of urgency because experience has taught me that the Wisconsin Democratic Party is as determined to overturn conservative social and individual freedom policies from the past eight years as it is to repeal conservative fiscal policies.

The following are just a few examples of what you can expect should the Democrats gain the executive and/or the legislative houses in the state on Tuesday. Most of these examples come either from existing bills introduced by Democrats this past legislative session or from their statements.

Abortion: Democrats would work to repeal the existing (nullified) prohibition on abortion in the state in short order given the new make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court. Twenty-one legislative Democrats introduced a bill last session that would do just that. They would repeal most of the abortion restrictions implemented by Republicans in the last eight years, making abortion legal until “viability” (a term their recent legislation does not define) or at any time during pregnancy if a doctor thinks it is necessary for a mother’s life or health. Thirty-four legislative democrats co-sponsored that legislation this past session. If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade in the next two years and return the policy-making decisions on abortions to the states, Wisconsin could still have legalized abortion throughout the entire pregnancy if Democrats are in charge.

While he was in the Wisconsin Assembly in 2013, Tony Evers’ running mate, Mandela Barnes, co-authored legislation that would have allowed the Department of Transportation to issue license plates that displayed the words “Support Planned Parenthood.” The fee for the license plates would have gone to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc. Although the fees were not to be used to fund abortions specifically, any money the abortion giant receives aids their bloody work. The legislation helps underscore Barnes’ commitment to the abortion provider.

Home schooling: Democrats would most likely look at changing Wisconsin’ home schooling law. Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) submitted a request to the Joint Legislative Council Committee early this year to review Wisconsin’s home education law. Her request referenced concerns of child welfare advocates that Wisconsin’s home education law does not require standardized tests, portfolio reviews or other “check-ins” in order to protect home-educated children from abuse, neglect or being “underserved” by their parents. The thought of legislative Democrats having free reign over the state’s home schooling should worry anyone who supports educational alternatives. In September of this year, one of Tony Evers’ cabinet members was quoted as saying, “Not to demean parents, but homeschooling is generally based on the concept that you come with the information or the pedagogy to be able to train a student, or in this case your child. Most parents don’t have that capacity.” The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) cabinet member, Thomas McCarthy, later said that his quote was taken out of context.

School Choice: A Democratic majority would likely eliminate or significantly handicap the parental choice programs in the state. In 2017, eleven Democratic legislators introduced legislation that, among other things, would phase out the parental choice program in Milwaukee, Racine and statewide—eventually terminating school choice in Wisconsin. These legislators want to eliminate the program despite the fact that an apples-to-apples comparison shows that choice students are outperforming their comparable public school peers and the enrollment caps on the choice programs necessitate the use of waiting lists for those students trying to get into the program.  

Self-defense and Firearms: The significant Second Amendment policies Republicans implemented in the last eight years would likely be some of the first targets for repeal if Democrats win on Tuesday. Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Mandela Barnes authored legislation in 2014 that would have removed the presumption of reasonableness in criminal and civil actions and the ability to award attorney fees, etc., from Wisconsin’s Republican-passed self-defense or Castle Doctrine law. The law gives a person who uses force to defend themselves in their own home, vehicle or place of business, an assumption of reasonableness if the situation meets defined parameters.

This past session, Democratic legislators introduced a bill that includes a ban on the possession of a semi-automatic rifle with the “capacity to accept a detachable magazine” that has a pistol grip. While it is unlikely that legislation banning the use of a common hunting rifle in Wisconsin would pass even a Democratic-controlled legislature, the bill is demonstrative of both the firearms illiteracy of some legislative Democrats and their bent for gun-control legislation.

These are just a few examples of the kind of legislation and initiatives state Democrats have waiting in the wings should they gain the majority and/or the executive on Tuesday. I may not be enthused about the current stagnation of Republican leadership in the state but I will not waste my vote when so much is at stake. I am voting on Tuesday for the right to self-defense, for educational choice and for the unborn babies and I am asking you to join me.

Amy is a freelance research writer with an emphasis on public policy who has worked in state politics for over a decade. She resides in Wisconsin with her husband and two children. She tweets occasionally @amysikma.