As the story of Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill continues to unfold, I am struck by the parallel between Wisconsin in 2011 and the nation as a whole at the beginning of 2009.
In President George W. Bush and Governor Jim Doyle, we have politicians who presided over a time of prosperity but did very little, if anything, to prepare their constituencies for the lean years. In both cases their successors have been able to point to these former leaders as the source of much of the current problems. Phrases such as, "drove us into the ditch," or, "now the adults have to clean up the mess," are common. In this respect, the Fitzgerald brothers of 2011 don't sound all that different from Nancy Pelosi in the 2006-2008 period.
In President Obama and Governor Scott Walker we have politicians who came to power right at a time of crisis. Both had legislative majorities that were, or likely will be in Walker's case, decisive. Both men used the early period in their tenure to push an aggressive agenda clothed in the language of crisis response. To their supporters this reasoning was credible. Their detractors, on the other hand, see long-held policy positions being foisted on the people in disguise. This is the "never let a crisis go to waste" school of political science. I think you can actually make the case that given their relative impacts, Governor Walker's special session may be more aggressive than Obama's twin legislative accomplishments of the stimulus and health reform.
It is still the case that we live in a closely divided country. This division can manifest itself in at least two ways: Election cycles that result in razor thin legislative majorities. Because the majorities are so small, it may not matter much whether these are passed back and forth between the parties or held by one party for an extended period. The alternative is a world in which every two years brings a large change in legislative majorities. When we have this case along with the election of an executive officer of the same party, we get the Obama/Walker effect.