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If this prediction list sounds like a Republican fantasy football team, that’s because, well, Republicans control everything in this state. Don’t blame me. The voters did that.
Granted, there will be developments that no one could predict in 2015. I mean, who could have predicted last year that a Stradivarius violin would be stolen, that a jetliner would vanish without a single trace, and that a local cop’s use of force would spark such dramatic protests across the nation? No one would have predicted those things, probably. Other key events – such as gay marriage becoming law in Wisconsin – were probably inevitable, but not many people saw them coming when they did. In retrospect, the Walker victory was obvious due to the utter paucity of the Democratic candidate’s resume, the general unpopularity of the president, and the immovability of the Wisconsin electorate.
The Republicans in Wisconsin right now only have one thing to act as a rudder on their ambitions – Gov. Walker’s presidential run. The ever political Walker will gauge every decision based on whether it helps or hinders him in a presidential primary. This could put him periodically at odds with the Republican majorities in the Legislature in 2015. Or it could just temper them.
But I think the Republican instinct will be to eliminate old foes, targeting pots of liberal power where they still exist.
- A stray cat will wander onto the Brewers’ field at spring training. The Brewers will adopt it.
- Just kidding on the first one. That would be too obvious, right?
- Walker will announce a run for president this spring or summer. There’s no downside to him doing so. It’s a free shot. And if he doesn’t pull it off this time, he elevates his national standing for the next time. Or the time after that. He’s running.
- Walker won’t win the presidential primary. But he has a shot at the vice presidential spot. There could be a Bush-Walker ticket for Republicans in 2016. Think about it. Bush is ahead in the polls, although a month is a lifetime in politics. Yes, people have Bush fatigue, but there is no clear frontrunner, and Jeb seems his own man. Yes, Bush is considered a squishy pro Common Core moderate by Republicans, but that’s true of others in the field. He can raise a lot of money, and, critically, he can appeal to the Latino demographic, a key constituency that Republicans must start competing for if they want to win national elections. Florida and Wisconsin work geographically. Walker seems fresh (to a national audience) whereas Bush is dynastic. Conservatives like Walker, while they don’t trust Bush. It works. Also, I predict Bush will skip Iowa. He doesn’t want to be the next Giuliani.
- Walker will kill the Kenosha casino, in February. For one, he wants Sheldon Adelson’s support in the presidential primary. Adelson, a casino magnate, has opposed the Hard Rock Seminole enterprise in Florida before. The Menominee Nation votes overwhelming Democratic, whereas the Potawatomi are regarded as Republican friends. The casino jobs could be unionized (this ties into right to work). For what it’s worth, I support the Kenosha casino. Wisconsin needs the jobs. Furthermore, the Menominee Nation is the state’s poorest and is tops on many markers of social ills. I thought entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency were something Republicans applauded. Minimally, I want Walker to stop the taxpayer dollar spigot flowing to that Michigan law firm and make up his mind already.
- The DOT’s crazed budget request will be slashed, and there will be a new DOT secretary.
- Right to work will die in the state Senate by two votes. And those two votes will come from outside of talk radio country. Walker’s tepid response to right to work will give these legislators cover.
- The "jock tax" will pass narrowly, saving the new Bucks arena by a thread. The Bucks owners will avoid being seen with Obama at all costs.
- The Government Accountability Board is toast. The GAB was in Republican crosshairs before, because of the Does and other things, but then came the non-partisan audit report that found the GAB basically just decided to ignore the law. And not tell anyone about it. And about a signature Republican concern (voter fraud) no less. This gives Republicans the opening they want.
- Republicans will rewrite John Doe laws in a dramatic way against the opposition of prosecutors who say they use them to combat violent and drug crime not just politicians.
- Someone will start a recall against John Chisholm, but it won’t work. Still, Chisholm will face growing opposition from both the right and left. He’s triangulated now between conservatives ballistic about the Does, and liberals ballistic about the Hamilton decision.
- The state Supreme Court will drive a stake in the heart of the Doe once and for all using the Judge Peterson rationale.
- The "legislate Shirley Abrahamson out of office bill" will pass, even though Republicans will belatedly realize that setting a retirement age of 75 for state Supreme Court justices will mean a slew of conservative justices will be out next (Roggensack, Prosser …) Then, they will realize that their candidate against Ann Walsh-Bradley, Jim Daley, is no spring chicken himself. He’s 64, which means he could only serve one term. So they might make the cut off 85. I oppose this bill. It seems too nakedly political to me. If a retirement age really must be set decades after the voters directed it, make it 90 so as not to affect current justices. If the justices become so infirm they can’t do their jobs, I trust the voters to oust them. After all, Scalia is 78, and he doesn’t seem mentally incapable of doing his job.
- Get ready for "Nightmare on Act 10 Street Part 2" or, depending on your perspective, "Act 10, the Sequel." I support Act 10. However, I believe the next target will be the UW System, where I work. It has a massive budget, and there’s a big budget shortfall that Republicans somehow have to meet. Some Republicans perceive the UW as a pot of Marxist profs who never see the inside of a classroom (I said some Republicans think that, not that I think that). It’s not that the system should be exempt from any reforms. It’s that Republicans will go at the UW with such gusto that they may spark an outcry that could lead to walk offs. The UW wins if it defines the issue as being about destroying the tradition that brings you Bucky Badger. The UW loses if it defines the issue as being about destroying professors’ ability not to teach because they want to do esoteric research the public doesn’t understand. I say this because I think the amount professors teach versus research is going to be a key issue in 2015 in the Legislature. I value scholarly research AND I value teaching. UWM, where I teach, is critically important to this city and state’s future, as so many of our grads remain in the local workforce. However, I think it will be quite a sturm und drang.
- The Milwaukee trolley will die, under the weight of triangulation between the conservatives who hate what they derisively have dubbed a "choo-choo" and a newly forming liberal opposition that thinks we should focus on alleviating poverty.
- Mayor Barrett, facing an opponent on the right and opponent on the left in the upcoming mayor’s race, will increasingly move to the left on a host of issues in 2015. Remember, this time one of his opponents is Bob Donovan, not Marvin Pratt. Barrett isn’t going to be able to run as the moderate this time with Donovan in the race. The addition of Joe Davis in the race as well triangulates him and will make him more desperate to curry favor with liberals. So he will take actions that fit that political reality.
- Brad Schimel will announce a major statewide campaign against heroin.
- The U.S. Supreme Court will decide that gay marriage should be legal in every state (granted that decision could come in a few years, not this one, but I think it WILL come). The SCOTUS will find Wisconsin’s Voter ID law constitutional.
- Russ Feingold will announce a grudge match against Ron Johnson. Russ Feingold will win.
- Mike Tate will step down as chair of the state Democratic Party. I mean, how many losses can one guy endure?
- Some prosecutor somewhere will find a way to charge Bill Cosby with something. Prince Andrew, too.
- There will be another major hack – this one of American government.
- ISIS will take over Baghdad, and terrorists will make major inroads in Africa. (This one belongs in the category of, I really hope I’m wrong.)
- Sheriff Clarke will make it clear he wants to run for another office. Maybe against Gwen Moore.
- The missing plane will stay missing.
- There will be a major expansion of school choice in the state.
- The Journal Sentinel will move to an online paper only on weekdays, while retaining a Sunday print edition.
Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.
She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.
Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including Patch.com, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and Wispolitics.com. She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media Milwaukee.com, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.
Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.