Quite a few friends have mine have posted "get ready for 2016" or "Republicans will lose in 2016" on Facebook over the last few days. That's a nice sentiment for an hour of despair, but it's not really true when it comes to Wisconsin.
Sure, national elections are important and people should work hard on them. Democrats have a nice, manageable goal of recapturing the U.S. Senate in two years. Given that Senate terms run six years, this year's election reflected the end of the Obama 2008 wave when the Dems picked up seats in several typically red states. But 2016 will mark the end of the 2010 wave for the tea party, and Republicans are liable to lose multiple seats in multiple usually blue states.
No, I won't be sad watching Ron "don't get too comfy in that committee chair" Johnson go back to private life.
But that isn't going to change things when it comes to Wisconsin's state government. The Republican gerrymandering of the Assembly is so tight that even a massive Democratic wave in 2016 won't get a majority.
With their victories on Election Day, Wisconsin Republicans increased their lead in the state Senate to 19 seats, leaving Democrats with only 14. This brings the chamber right back to where it was in 2011. To the person on Willy Street who got an "I LUV WI14" license plate: Good news, it is relevant again! Even if the Democrats pick up a seat or two in 2016, it seems a stretch that they will pick up the needed three seats with the current district maps.
Ugh, and Walker will be running for President by February. Let's say he makes it through the primaries -- that means in 2016, we are faced with a scenario where he either wins the White House (though that would finally be an election in which he's likely to lose Wisconsin) or Hillary does and he's still our governor. Either way, there’s no getting rid of him.
In the immortal words of the poster for the classic film Alien vs. Predator, "Whoever wins... we lose."
The 2016 elections will not be a magic bullet. This state is locked in to another four years of single-party rule. The biggest goal for Wisconsin Democrats must be either winning the governorship in 2018 or the state Senate in 2020, because both are going to be instrumental in determining the next round of redistricting. We cannot afford another midterm like this one unless we want to write off yet another decade. Those elections sound really far away right now; my as-of-now unborn child will be in kindergarten by 2020.
That doesn't mean the next four years have to be hopeless, and Wisconsin progressives need to focus on change they can create outside of the legislative chambers. Madison is often hyper-focused on the Capitol building; it is the center of our city after all, but it isn't the only place in the world.
We must commit to creating positive change in our community. We'll need it to counteract whatever ALEC legislation flows forth from the Capitol. We'll need nonprofits and volunteers to step up and compensate for the inevitable cuts to our schools and our tech colleges. We must pay attention to city and county races. More of us must follow Mary Burke's leadership example and get serious about our state's racial disparities.
There are plenty of challenges to overcome, but people do good work in every state of the nation, no matter who is in power. Wisconsin is no different.