It’s not often that someone’s greatest wish and worst nightmare occur at the same time, but for Gov.-elect Tom Wolf both are fated to occur the same day, hour and minute. Jan. 20 will witness the swearing in of the state’s new governor. For Wolf, the day will mark the culmination of a long quest for the office but also the beginning of a series of seemingly insuperable challenges — greater than faced by any new governor in modern times.
Pennsylvania, as the age of Wolf begins, faces a witch’s brew of political, cultural and fiscal crisis that will test Wolf from his first day in office. Any one of them might occupy a new governor’s agenda for most of his term. Wolf has to deal with all of them — and as the short, sad tenure of Tom Corbett showed — the clock is ticking for him even as he prepares to be inaugurated. It will only tick louder as time goes on.
Here is a short, but hardly sweet compilation of Wolf’s early to do list.
But that has changed following the infamous pay increase of 2005 that brought 54 new members to the state legislature, reinforced by the tea party 2010 election cycle that similarly caused a large turnover. The new lawmakers have been far more resistant to the old tactics, far less inclined to compromise, and far more reluctant to being led. They are conservative, Republican, ideological and sometimes fractious. This is the legislature Republican Corbett could not deal with; it is the legislature Democrat Wolf must deal with.
Pennsylvania voters now support gay marriage, a state law making it illegal to discriminate against gays in housing and employment, and medical marijuana. It’s an electorate not greatly excited by either the conservative agenda or its liberal counterpart. It trusts government very little while paradoxically expecting government to work. At the center of these contradictions is the traditional Pennsylvania moderate, neither fiercely ideological nor partisan, but more pragmatic, politically centrist, and interested in solving problems, and certainly in getting results. Increasingly, it will be looking to Wolf for those results.