During the 2010 elections, not only did Republicans running for federal office across the country milk high unemployment numbers for optimal outcomes, Republican candidates for statewide office did too. Ultra-right conservatives brimming with tea party zealotry swept like Huns into governors’ mansions, bringing with them tea sopped Republican legislative majorities. Almost to a governor, they immediately began implementation of radical, ideologically motivated transformations of their state governments, quickly installing long-cherished conservative agendas that punished political opposition, privatized everything that hadn’t been before, handed tax windfalls to corporations and the wealthiest at the expense of everybody else, not only shifting the tax burden but targeting education, first-responders, transportation, seniors and the middle class along the way.
Whether actually succumbing to the illusion that November’s election results were not a referendum on a sour employment market but rather voter endorsement of conservative radicalism, or simply not caring what the message had been or what the voters wanted, these governors, like miniature Robsespierres set in motion their respective Reigns of Terror. With variation from state to state, the common agenda points were eradicating unions, gutting public employee pensions, raising taxes on seniors, along with slicing their programs, cutting education spending and assistance to the needy, while in the process laying off large numbers of state workers. So much for the Republicans’ faux-concern about jobs.
Perhaps the intention was to hit hard and hit fast, damn the political consequences, believing mistakenly that what was done in haste could not be undone with equal rapidity. Ideologues seldom care what anybody thinks, bloated with righteous conviction their way is the only way. But if these Republican governors and their legislative majorities did care and still do, their constituents are currently sending them their response in the form of a mountain-sized thumbs down.
Much of the early notoriety went to Scott Walker and his band of fellow Wisconsin Republican fundamentalists. Many of those legislators now are facing recall elections during the summer, and the governor is likely to face his early next year. Starting the Kill the Unions movement and taking away promised teacher pensions has made him fairly reviled in the state of Wisconsin, though with a 43% approval rating and 54% disapproval he’s less unpopular than other prominent Republican Visigoths. Compared to Rick Scott of Florida Walker is Mr. Congeniality. Scott’s approval number is 29%, with 60% disapproval. He won the people’s hearts by cutting education spending by 10%; cutting 1,690 Corrections jobs, an overall elimination of 8,700 state jobs; granting 4 billion in tax cuts to corporations, cutting state contributions to Medicaid and forcing welfare recipients to take drug tests. But his crowning achievement in earning the animus of fellow Floridians was the purely, and meshugana ideological decision to reject 2.4 billion in federal aid to build a high-speed train running between Orlando and Tampa, a rejection that costs the state 24.000 new jobs.
Fellow travelling union buster John Kasich, governor of Ohio threw K-12 and higher education overboard, along with a third to a half of finances going to local governments each year in order to subsidize coddling tax rates for corporations. Those local communities either must offset the losses by raising local regressive taxes or face losing many local services residents have been depending on. His unpopularity is now competitive with woebegone Rick Scott’s, approved by only 33% of Ohioans, while disapproved by 56%.
Rick Snyder of Michigan is about as popular as Stalin, primarily because he’s acting like him. His plan allowing himself to declare an emergency, appointing an administrator to replace mayors and city councils in local communities is eye-popping reform, you must admit. These coup-by-governor emergencies would of course nullify all existing local agreements and contracts with public workers in cities and towns, a sort of Rawandan teacher pay reduction method heavy on the machete. He’s also beloved for making up for giving an 86% reduction in business and corporate taxes by taxing seniors’ pensions. His current numbers are 33% positive, 56% negative.
Chris Christie of New Jersey is supposed to be the Republicans’ gubernatorial golden boy, with everyone on the right from Karl Rove to Ann Coulter begging him to save the day by inserting his huge political girth into the Republican presidential field of sleepy little people. Unfortunately for his disciples, after doing the usual Republican number on state teachers and workers, and rejecting federal money designed to expand and improve the subway connection from New Jersey to Manhattan for thousands, or maybe millions of Jersey commuters, and in the process add a gazillion jobs, his numbers now stand at 36% approval, 56% disapproval.
I believe it’s possible to detect a trend here. I also believe it’s possible to make the judgment these have not been what one might call popular revolutions. You could say these guys are making the most of the little time they may have. These uniform right-wing agendas from state to state have been offered to citizens by their radicalized governors, and the voters and citizens have reacted by heaving up on the governors’ shoes.