I was disappointed that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin survived the recall election, given his nearly 8-to-1 fund-raising advantage, the resentment of public employee unions by taxpayers who do not enjoy union benefits and the fact that a recall is so unusual and drastic.
I was not surprised at the result, but I was surprised that Gov. Walker’s margin of victory was so decisive—53 percent to 46 percent. I thought the unusually large turnout was a good sign for the recall supporters, but evidently the recall opponents also had strong grass-roots support.
The margin of victory shows the strength of the corporatist movement represented by Walker and his policies of cutting government services and stripping public employee unions of their rights.
I fear that this result will confirm President Obama in keeping his distance from the labor union movement and in economic policies that benefit working people at the corporate elite.
But as President Woodrow Wilson once said, it is better to lose in a cause that ultimately will win, than to win in a cause that ultimately will fail. So long as the United States is a democracy, the assault on the rights of working people cannot continue forever.
Click on Walker’s win in Wisconsin boosts conservatives for analysis of the results of the election by Reuters news service.
Click on What Wisconsin’s Recall Election Tells Us About Obama-Romney: Nothing for a differing analysis.
Click on Pro-Walker Dark Money Group for a Mother Jones report on a Walker campaign contributor.
Click on The Wisconsin Recall, As Told Through Goofy Signs for a lighter perspective on the recall campaign.
Click on Slowpoke Comics for more cartoons by Jen Sorensen.
[6/9/12] Some afterthoughts below.
The failure of the Wisconsin recall election to depose Gov. Scott Walker is in part a triumph of people who have lots of money to spend over people who have less to spend. But it also reflects the success of a politics of envy, directed not at the super-rich but at working people who still have decent wages, pensions and health insurance. I see no solution for this so long as the labor union movement is on the defensive—protecting the benefits of existing union members instead of organizing the unorganized. Of course the goal of Gov. Walker and other anti-union Republican governors is to keep the unions on the defensive, and they’re succeeding.
President Barack Obama and the Democratic establishment distanced themselves from the Wisconsin recall, which may have been shrewd in the short run. Public opinion polls indicate that President Obama is ahead of ex-Gov. Mitt Romney by as many percentage points as the margin by which the recall failed. In the long run, though, I don’t see how the Democratic Party can expect to brand itself as the party of working people until Democratic leaders actually do something about unemployment, falling wages, foreclosures and the other economic problems of working people.
As Mark Karlin said in the above video, the movements that brought about real social change in the United States—the labor movement in the 1930s and the civil rights movement in the 1960s—did not chain themselves to supporting a particular politician or a particular political party. Instead they made themselves an independent force to which politicians had to respond.
Matt Stoller of the Roosevelt Institute put his finger on the problem—the failure of the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership to stand up for working people, and the failure of the labor movement, the black churches, feminists, virtually all the Democratic constituencies except the gay rights movement, to stand up for their principles against the Democratic leadership. Click on Thanks to Obama, American Left Lies in Smoldering Wreckage for his analysis.
The recall election was not a complete failure. Four Republican state senators survived the recall vote, but the vote was close in a fifth recall vote, and it’s possible the Republican will be replaced by a Democrat when all the votes are counted. Click on Wisconsin Democrats gather for state convention, look ahead with optimism for a report in the Twin Cities Pioneer-Press.
Gov. Walker is under investigation by Milwaukee County and federal prosecutors concerning allegations of corruption when he was Milwaukee County executive. Click on Is Scott Walker Going to Be Indicted Soon? for details. He hasn’t been indicted, let alone convicted, so I’m not going to jump to any conclusions. And, in any case, the struggle over power and policy is broader than just one individual.
There are reports of electoral fraud. Somebody masquerading as Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate, called Democrats and told them that if they signed recall petitions, they need not vote, and that the election was on a Wednesday (it was Tuesday). Moreover Wisconsin uses the easily tampered-with Diebold voting machines. After the 2004 election, politicians and journalists proposed measures to check on whether these machines produced an honest count. All this controversy has died down without, so far as I know, any resolution. Click on It’s not the vote that counts, it’s who counts the votes for more on this.
When Barry Goldwater was crushed in the 1964 election, conservatives did not give up. His supporters redoubled their efforts and eventually elected Ronald Reagan in 1980. That’s what people do when they have principles that they believe in. How will liberals and labor leaders respond to this defeat? If they do not stand up for their own principles, why would anyone else take them seriously? As Barry Goldwater said, the American people deserve a choice, not an echo.