June 29, 2011
It is a rare thing to know you are seeinghistory as it’s made. It’s even rarer to be one of those making history, and rarer still to be making history deliberately for reasons other than self-interest.
But all three of those distinctions apply to Republican state lawmakers (sorry, no Democrats; not even one,) who laid their careers on the line—many of them before those careers were two months old—in order to put the State of Wisconsin on an honest fiscal footing and to re-establish the primacy of the private sector.
Long-time Capitol reporter Steve Walters captures the remarkable GOP freshman class of 2011 in an intriguing profile.
Walters notes, it truly is a new day: Nearly half the members of the Republican Assembly majority have been in office for slightly less than six full months, and these first-term lawmakers aren’t intimidated by the prospect that their careers could already be one-fourth over: They came to do a specific job and if it means they’re gone in January 2013, so be it.
There’s a saying in the Capitol: First-term lawmakers are most vulnerable. If they aren’t beaten when they seek a second term, the odds are they will be in office a long time.
That’s why past first-term lawmakers who have been protested, forced to take difficult votes that angered special-interest groups and who get “you’re a one-termer” taunts, have often nervously searched for face-saving compromises and tiptoed away from their campaign promises. That wasn’t true for these first-term Assembly Republicans. They adopted a different response: “Bring it on.”
“I signed up for exactly this,” Republican Rep. Michelle Litjens, of Oshkosh, said in a WisconsinEye interview last week. “I wanted to fundamentally change government in the state of Wisconsin.” “We all expected we were coming into something really, really rough,” added GOP Rep. Roger Rivard, of Rice Lake, whose district had been represented by a Democrat for 26 years.
It’s hard to imagine the legislature making these sweeping reforms without these bold and principled new leaders.