Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Thoughts on the Wisconsin Recall Election...

I have for the most part, not  weighed in on  the effort to  recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.   Mostly  due to the fact that I live in London.  I was born and raised in Wisconsin, but  have not lived there, (and therefore not paid state taxes there),  for more than 15 years.   I did follow the  events  that lead to the recall effort,  via the national media coverage.   The popular movement to oust  Walker had momentum, a great deal of energy and a decent organization behind it.   Yet  as the dust  settled  late last night,  the news from my home state was  that  Governor Walker had won the recall election, and won it  rather convincingly.

The reactions have been fairly predictable. People on the left are shocked and depressed, and people on the right are overjoyed, all the while the political divide in Wisconsin remains as wide a chasm as it was before this whole saga started.

Obviously, I am not a fan of Scott Walker, and I would have been as happy to see him go, as many Republican friends of mine are, to see him stay. With the Wisconsin State Senate back in the hands of the Democrats, Gov. Walker will find it a bit more difficult to force through his agenda. So there is at least one bright spot for the Democratic Party this morning.  Yet the overall result of the Recall Walker effort, raises a number of very bright red flags for not just the Wisconsin Democratic Party, but for Democrats nationally, and for President Obama's  re-election campaign.

On the surface the race to recall  Scott Walker should have been a cakewalk.  Nearly one million people signed the petition to hold the  recall vote.   It was a truly popular movement  propelled forward by the largest outpouring of public dissent  since the  days of the  Vietnam War.

Yet the Democrats couldn't seal the deal Why? To a certain extent it highlights the cultural differences between the America's two main political parties. Specially how the two parties relate to their respective base voters.    The GOP pays attention to it's base.  The Democrats put up with theirs. The GOP understands that voters have short memories and even shorter  attention spans.   The Democrats are often far more enamoured of (or more often bogged down in)  the process, than they are focused on the results.

For the Wisconsin GOP/Tea Party faithful the issues were clear;  The hysterical, fat,  greedy and lazy  public employees were in bed with the loony lefty socialist Obama loving Union Thugs, and they were all out to destroy them.

The fact that the policies of  Scott Walker are as equally bad for them as they are for  everybody else really didn't matter.   For The Republican base  this wasn't political it was personal. So they fought back like it was personal.  The Democratic base, started out fired up,  but  there was no real large scale effort to keep them  engaged, so  they soon got bored and  wandered off.   

When Scott Walker came under siege,  the national conservative apparatus  kicked into high gear, funnelling massive amounts of cash into the State.  Millions  of dollars worth of Ads, robo-calls, and op-ed's flooded Wisconsin's  airwaves, phone lines and  blogosphere.    

Meanwhile,  the national progressive apparatus  can never  decide what the core issue  is on a given day.  The  Unions have an agenda slightly different from the Occupy folks, who have slightly different goals than the environmentalists,  who have slightly different goals than the LGBT rights activists, who are odds with the African American Churches,  who  disagree with the Latinos on immigration who  have a slightly different agenda than....than,.. than....    You get the picture.

The Democrats  began this fight with a massive popular movement behind them, and after collecting enough signatures  to hold the  recall election,  they completely failed to use that movement or harness  the energy of it.  Instead they allowed themselves to get bogged down in a tedious primary election battle between Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.    All the while the  Democratic  National Committee and  the Obama Administration  tried  desperately to keep their distance, while  trying desperately to not look like they were trying to keep their distance.

Finally when  the polls were showing that Scott Walker was  actually ahead, and  gaining ground.  Bill Clinton was dispatched  a few days before the election to try to relight the progressive fire  under the Democratic base.

Sadly,  it would be too little, too late.
For President Obama,  there are  some  disturbing lessons  from the  Walker victory.   You can't come in  at the last minute to engage the base  and expect the same fire and energy you had in 2008. 
The Democratic loss in yesterday's  recall election has, like it or not, put Wisconsin and its ten electoral votes in play.   Wisconsin is now  clearly a  purple state.


Neen said...

Great summation.  I would also state that there was a record of newly registered voters out there.  Many of whom have not voted in a long time, if ever.  Quite a few of which, I know personally, voted for Walker.  WI will pull through this, it has in the past. Never thought I would wish for Tommy back. At least he played the game and tried to appease the masses rather than bulldoze his own agenda.

biki said...
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