The subject line on an e-mail received last week from one of the major political parties’ state offices said, “Whoa—this is getting close.”
This particular e-mail had to do with the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin featuring incumbent Tammy Baldwin and challenger Leah Vukmir, but a person could insert the names of any candidates in a statewide race in Wisconsin and declare that the November election will be close.
That is just the way it is these days in Wisconsin and in the United States as a whole. The state and the country are virtually split right down the middle between people who generally vote Republican and those who vote Democrat, so it should come as no surprise when polls show that these races will be too close to call right up to election day.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this political climate.
One positive is that there is a built-in balance which continues to make both parties relevant. Imagine if for some strange reason one party simply dominated the other in support from the electorate. In addition to making for some dark days for the minority party, it could make those in power less accountable for their actions. In Wisconsin and many other states, elected leaders know that they are hanging on to their seats often by the slimmest of margins.
That also serves as a negative because job performance almost does not matter anymore when it comes time for the next election. A person could be doing a tremendous job in office but because of the 50/50 political split, it is anybody’s guess whether or not they will be kept in office. Imagine being a factory worker who does a great job but one day every two or three years the boss flips a coin to determine if that worker keeps his or her job.
Similarly, it almost does not matter what type of candidate the major parties put out there. As witnessed in some national elections in recent years, a candidate can have some significant character flaws and plenty of skeletons visible in the closet and still either get elected or come very close to winning.
But none of this provides cause to give up on being good citizens and staying involved in the governmental process. In fact, it provides all the more reason why everyone needs to do so. —Mark Sherry