Posted: 06/06/12 18:22
by Dave Mindeman
Having gone over everything I could about the Wisconsin recall election, I have some conclusions I'd like to discuss:
1) Voters Rejected the Idea of the Recall Itself.
I alluded to the idea that voters did not like the recall in a post on May 26th, but it looks like it might have been a bigger factor than I thought. It certainly doesn't explain the loss itself, but it benefitted Walker. Another advantage to the type of money that Walker had backing him was that multiple messages could be reenforced. The perfect thing for outside money to do for Walker was to spread the word that recalls should only be used for criminal behavior...and that message resonated.
From E.J. Dione at the Washington Post:
Perhaps the most significant exit poll finding was this one: Only about a quarter of those who went to the polls on Tuesday said that a recall was appropriate for any reason. Roughly six in 10 said a recall should be used only in the case of official misconduct. And another tenth thought a recall was never appropriate. Most voters, in other words, rejected the very premise of the election in which they were casting ballots. This proved to be a hurdle too high for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker's opponent.
2) Democrats regain Senate but it is a hollow victory.
Some progressives have taken some solace in the fact that one of the Republican Senators was defeated in the recall elections and that gives the Democrats control of the State Senate. Although this is significant generally, it doesn't really have any political significance. The Wisconsin legislature is part time like Minnesota's and they are out of session till next year. Only a call for a special session by Walker or the head of the state House could bring them back...and you know that is not going to happen.
In addition, the Republican controlled legislature drew the maps for redistricting during the regular session and that means that retaining control of the Senate for next year will be a tall order. If they can manage that, then they will be able to temper Walker's initiatives. But that is unlikely.
3) Republicans will, as usual, overplay their hand.
The exit polling from the recall indicated that the record electorate turnout favored Obama as much as Walker. This is a definite plus factor for Democrats overall. It gives more weight to the idea that more voters were unhappy with the idea of perpertual elections rather than any particular love of Scott Walker. Still, if Obama has some measure of popularity in Wisconsin, where the heck was he? He was in Chicago and the Twin Cities during the campaign and refused to set foot in the Badger State. Democrats are asking why?
Still, the GOP is crowing a little too much about this victory....and although it is certainly a huge win, there are too many other factors for them to extrapolate too far with this. The main concern is that other GOP governors may be emboldened to mimic the Walker method. They may do so at their peril because we already have the Ohio referendum to point to if the issue is strictly about collective bargaining.
4) No matter how we analyze it, this hurts labor.
It would seem that the public can be persuaded that union benefits, that have been fairly bargained for, are excessive. It is hard for people with little job security and declining wages to sympathize with unions and their collective bargaining rights. People have forgotten how hard it has been for unions to make it this far. Non-union voters have little personal experience to draw on and seem to be willing to be convinced that the union's hard earned rights to bargain are unfair to the taxpayer.
Walker played it to perfection. With expensive multiple messaging and manipulation of jobs data, he was able to put unions on the defensive from the beginning.
I, for one, do not see this as a mistake by unions. They absolutely had to stand on principle. Funny how Republicans are told to admire principled stands, but Democrats look at it as a mistake.
This was a hard loss to take. No question. But it is time to regroup. Bind the wounds and fight on. We will learn from this and we will continue.
Walker can have his day....but there are other days to come.