Wisconsin Recall Election – My Take on it

My anticipation about Tuesday’s election was high.  My information about the how, why, when and what of this recall election came from the Left side of politics.  I generally avoid the blogs and the radio and television shows of the Right.

I am pro-union because I am pro-worker.  No business can operate without employees, no business can succeed without employees.  Employees are a vital part of any business and are, all too often, dismissed or ignored when the success of owners and CEOs are applauded.  And unions give employees a voice in working conditions, employee safety, wages, health care and pensions.  Within large companies and/or corporations individual employees have relatively no chance to ensure their health and welfare, along with what they are paid.  That isn’t saying that employee versus employer is a good guy versus bad guy situation.  It is more like one person, with no weapons, facing another armed with guns, ample ammunitions, tanks, missiles and more.  Or even going into a poker game where one person is dealt a single card while the other has six cards.  It simply isn’t a level playing field.

Regardless of what news outlet you follow, there have been a wide variety of speculations, theories and hypotheses about why the election turned out as it did.  Personally, I don’t think the outcome can be narrowed down to one single reason that Walker won the election or that Barrett lost.

Walker is only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall.  The other two both lost and were recalled.  Each of the political pundits is feverishly competing to come up with the definitive explanation for this outcome.  Personally I think the bigger story is the solidification of the division between the opposing sides and the repercussions which will follow for, not only, the state of Wisconsin but the rest of the country as well.  Families and friendships have broken apart because of this battle.  For me it seems our  increasingly  contentious political system is becoming as toxic as the lead up to the Civil War and the animosity between those who supported slavery and the abolitionists.

Initially, I felt certain that the imbalance of money in the election would be the determining factor in the election (Walker is estimated to have outspent Barrett 7 to 1).  After reading some of the post election coverage, I am not so sure that the enormous amount of money spent (estimated at $60 million) really had much impact on how people voted.  In a piece at HuffPo, it was pointed out that the vote split in the recall almost matched the initial faceoff between Walker and Barrett.  Basically the people of Wisconsin voted this time the way they voted in the governor’s race in 2010.  The undecided voters only amounted to about 8%, with new voters accounting for around 13%.  To me that means that those 8% were the only ones who might have been influenced by “the money” issue.  The article goes on to say that Walker managed to turn out a higher percentage of his original supporters than did Barrett.

Joshua Holland has a similar take on Alternet called 8 Ways Right-Wingers Are Blowing Wisconsin Out of Proportion. He says the Right Wingers

claimed the outcome spelled doom for Obama this fall, marked the death of the labor movement and was a pure reflection of voters’ love for Scott Walker’s economy-crushing austerity policies.

He goes on to refute the rest of the Right Wing’s claims. Check out the post because it is worth your time.

Recall elections are few and far between in the U.S., as evidenced by my earlier point that Walker is only the third governor in our history to face a recall election.  Several sources, including the one I’ve cited above, have put forth that about a third of people polled don’t support recall elections unless the politician has done something egregious, like committing a crime.  Their political affiliation doesn’t matter.  The seriousness of the offense is the concern of to the voting public regardless of political party.  What that says to me is that most voters believe in democracy, meaning the voters have chosen and the person with the most votes, whether or not you voted for him/her, is the winner.  Shut up, bite the bullet and let the winner serve out their term.  (NOTE:  I am not saying that I believe we actually live in a democracy, but that the general public believes in democracy and that our American system is a democracy……..because that is what they have been told.  The formerly and currently disenfranchised probably have a different perspective).

Add to this that the opinion of unions, unlike in the mid 20th century, is mostly negative.  After about 50 years of chipping away at the number of American workers who belong to a union or have a union member in the family, the number of union workers has declined substantially.  Where once both union and non-union workers banded together in solidarity, it has become a mostly contentious relationship, where union workers are seen as greedy, lazy and recipients of unfair pay scales, benefits and pensions.  Big business has succeeded in demonizing the collective power of unions who were responsible for the 5 day 40 hours work week, minimum wage, paid sick time and the formation of OSHA to protect the safety of workers on their job.  For me, that is the story, not the fact that Walker successfully kept his job.  It’s the workers and employees of America  that are the losers in this race.

And then there is Jon Stewart’s take on the recall:

The Daily Show June 6, 2012

crossposted from ecocatwoman.blogspot.com

49 Comments on “Wisconsin Recall Election – My Take on it”

  1. RalphB says:

    I largely agree with you but I think the money had a real impact on the recall. Not necessarily a “support Walker” effect but the ads made more people feel that the recall itself was illegitimate.

    Note the difference here and the recall of Gray Davis in CA. The big money supported the winning argument in both cases with massive spending.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      I agree, money cannot be ruled out altogether. I do, however, think the nearly identical final percentages (1st election vs recall election) definitely don’t reflect a major impact of a 7 – 10% difference in spending. More than likely the money simply confirmed what most people already thought about recall elections in general.

      • RalphB says:

        Maybe Californians just feel differently. If the question was asked, I would bet you could find people in the exit polling who signed recall petitions then didn’t vote for it. 🙂

      • bostonboomer says:

        I don’t agree that people had that opinion about recall elections beforehand. From what I’ve heard from people on the ground like John Nicols, I think that Karl Rove and Koch brothers funds paid for ads that convinced people of a very odd viewpoint on recall elections. Unfortunately, a large part of the electorate is made up of very stupid and/or easily influenced people.

      • Seriously says:

        In general, though, money affects everything. GOTV costs money, robocalls to tell people not to vote cost money. People are affected by repetition of propaganda, access costs money, and it also costs money to develop and test those memes for maximum deceptiveness/effectiveness. The anti-union climate in the country has been in large part been bought and paid for by propaganda, too. These billionaires can squeeze a penny until Abraham Lincoln bleeds, they wouldn’t be throwing out massive outlays of cash on these races if they didn’t think it was necessary. I’m not sure if most people really feel *that* strongly about recall elections one way or the other before the propganda dollars start rolling in. I don’t think it’s something many people have given a whole lot of thought to or if their philosophical objections are so strong they’d base their vote on it without a lot of nudging which crouds out the substantive issues. Gray Davis wasn’t really all that long ago, and he couldn’t get any traction with the recalls are illegitimate argument because that’s not where the money was going in that case.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’ll never give up hope, but I’m not pinning those hopes on the Dems. We’re in deep trouble. I have no idea what will happen. But I heard on Hardball tonight that the Obama campaign is convinced that they can’t do anything big to stimulate the economy or create jobs because independents won’t like spending. I think they’re wrong, but obviously the main goal right now is to get Obama reelected and damn the rest of us. It’s pretty discouraging.

      • Seriously says:

        Yep. Matthew Rothschild says that Obama wrote off the recall because he doesn’t want to be associated with labor (beyond acting like those votes are owed to him, of course). Because he needs Independents and Independents (in his formulation, of course) don’t like unions. So everyone in WI is screwed, but Obama can get reelected, and then fail to do anything for workers. The Democrats are just content to accept things as they think they are and constantly pursue votes on the right, when what we need is a party that will reject this framing and do everything in its power to reshape the political landscape, change the messaging, end the apathy and create space for a pool of engaged voters on the left.


    • bostonboomer says:

      The big difference was that Gray Davis was a Democrat. Republicans are really good at propaganda, and Democrats seem to act like deer in the headlights no matter how many times they are outfoxed by Republicans. Again I ask, when did Democrats become wimps?

      But I still think the real problem is that a candidate who didn’t support unions strongly was nominated. Why would union members be enthusiastic about him then? If union members had voted in overwhelming numbers for Barrett, he would have won. But the didn’t.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Clearly Barrett was not a union supporter, nor did he make unions the center of his campaign. I don’t doubt that hurt him, but I can’t even wager a guess if it would have been enough to make a difference had he done things differently. I also think that the length of time from the beginning of the signature collection to the recall vote played a role in the election. I think the anger toward Walker & support for the unions waned somewhat. Again, I think there were multiple factors influencing the outcome. And, my point overall, is that unlike the Right would have everyone believe, this doesn’t portend Doom for the Left/Dems/democracy. I do fear that the increased polarization they are chanting could, however, lead to outright bloodshed.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Well, IMHO anything that hurts public employees and unions is bad for democracy AND the economy. I know a lot of Obama people are trying to spin this as no big deal, but I just can’t agree. The entire POINT of the recall was Walker’s attack on collective bargaining. In addition, unions are the one source of big money and organization that Democrats have. When the unions die, there won’t be a Democratic party anymore–I admit there’s not much of one left–but this signals the end of two contrasting parties.

        This will also empower the Republicans to double down on their war on women, which is another part of Walker’s agenda.

        • ecocatwoman says:

          bb, I agree that what hurts public employees, unions as well as workers in general hurts the economy & democracy. The struggle between business/corporations and workers has been ongoing throughout our history….and the history of the world, for that matter. And, I think it is obvious that the Republicans feel empowered – they have especially since the 2010 elections. They’ve been treating the 99% as if we are seal pups & doing their best to club us to death. They control most of the wealth and, therefore, the power to control the message. I just refuse to believe that the results of the recall means we should all cry Uncle and surrender. I think that’s the way this recall story is being played by the majority of the media. They are doing their best to drag us to hell & I’m just saying we need to keep kicking & screaming and fighting back. I was completely demoralized following the results of the recall but the 2 articles I cited & Stewart’s show gave me an inkling of hope. Just sayin’.

  2. dailypuma says:

    Excellent analysis. For me the bottom line is the pension portion of a state’s budget cannot continue to rise year after year, and the pension obligations should not be met by reducing the present day work force either because that causes loss of property value and quality of life, which in turn reduces tax revenue, especially property tax revenue.

    Pensions should just be a percentage of the annual state budget. I’m guessing around 10% is what a state can afford to spend annually on pension obligations now that the stock market cannot be counted on to bring in unrealistic gains on pension fund managers investments.

    There are several California local cities about to declare bankruptcy. Stockton soon, San Jose and Oakland in the next couple of years, and Los Angeles as well.

    Increasing taxes just drives some of our biggest states to welcome importers to save them because it is easier to collect revenue from retail than from small business local labor forces. So the cycle, aka the budget death spiral continues if taxes are raised.

    And it’s important to not forget that politicians traded votes for unrealistic pension promises over the past 30 years. However, if promises to state workers are rescinded, they MUST get perks, perks and more perks in exchange for the loss of some of their promised pension.

    For starters, their primary home property tax amount should be rolled back to what they were at the time the unrealistic pension was promised. A state employee pensioner could lose 10 or 20 grand a year in pension, but gain several thousand dollars in specially reduced lower property tax rate.

    Politicians are good at receiving perks, now it’s up to them to trade dollars for perks with the unions to soften the blow.

    • bostonboomer says:

      You either didn’t read the lengthy and reasoned response that Dakinikat wrote to you when you argued this recently, or you think you know more about finance than she does. Where did you get your doctorate?

      • RalphB says:

        For some people, pensions are not real money and don’t have any stimulative effect on the economy. It’s a silly idea but it’s common.

        The trade off for lower pensions would necessarily be larger salaries for workers now since pensions are, in many ways, deferred payments. For people already retired on a fixed income, cutting their pensions without compensating is just fucking theft by politics.

      • dailypuma says:

        I’m really good with simple math. It’s simple math.

      • bostonboomer says:

        No it’s not simple math. Government doesn’t work like a household. You really should learn to pay attention to people who actually understand these issues, but judging by your comments, you may not be capable of that.

    • dakinikat says:

      The reason property values are unrealistic is government policy. If you want low property taxes don’t blame state workers. Blame insane house flipping, people that overbuy houses, low interest rates and tax incentives. If the interest deduction was limited to a family home and capped to the median price, you wouldn’t see this. We have revenue issues. Pensions are not luxuries or substantive. That is a Koch brothers class war canard.

  3. dailypuma says:

    Isn’t it ironic how Hillary Clinton was called the Polarizer by those who have flawlessly turned our country into a neo-con vs progressive liberal battleground while completely marginalizing the moderate liberals and liberal moderates who overwhelmingly supported and support Hillary Clinton.

    • bostonboomer says:

      No, I don’t find that to be either true or ironic. What I do find ironic is that a minority of people who once claimed to support Hillary Clinton now espouse policies far to the right of anything she supported in 2008 or would ever support. It makes me wonder why these people ever claimed to support Hillary. Were these people Republicans all along?

      • dailypuma says:

        Hillary Clinton IS NOT Barack Obama, never will be. Hillary Clinton does not just give things out, she reasons things out, using the best ideas from both sides of the aisle.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        You and I have been together long enough to appreciate what you just wrote. We saw it up close and it took us completely by surprise.

        I am beginning to suspect that there may have been a hint of racism in there all along since there is no discernable reason to go from the liberal/progressive policies of Hillary Clinton to an overwhelming embrace of the Right. It makes no sense.

        Some of us saw the flaws in Obama particularly when contrasted with the achievements and accomplishments of Hillary Clinton which had nothing whatsoever to do with race. We also resented having the MSM tell us of the “greatness” of this man who had so little in his background to crow about at that time whereas she had a list of successes that far outweighed him. We were hoping for the experience factor to kick in but were served with the celebrity one instead.

        To go from claiming “I am a Dem liberal!” on one hand to “The GOP is not so bad” on the other is mindboggling unless you were just a “ratf*cker” from the outset which would not surprise me in the least.

        I kind of think that for awhile there we may have been taken for fools.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Lest there be any mistake, my comment was addressed to Bostonboomer.

        As a sucker for punishment I am off to watch the Red Sox possibly lose another game.

        Pass the Advil.

      • dailypuma says:

        As I find more and more idiotic reasoning like your responses, I do think of disassembling DailyPUMA since clearly most of the blog feeds I feature at the top of DailyPUMA have gone either far progressive, or far neo con.

        And then I remember that is why Hillary Clinton would have been a great president, she would not have been automatic anything, something that both Neo Con and Progressive followers have lost touch with.

        Those who use Daily PUMA to check out several of their favorite blogs for updates so they can jump to that particular blog, matter more than my distrust of the far left progressive blogs and far right neo con blogs that used to be Hillary Clinton supporters.

      • bostonboomer says:

        DP, I let this last comment through so others can see why we keep you in moderation.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Pat, I’m sorry to say that I also suspect racism is behind this problem. It may be unconscious racism, but unless these people were Republicans all along, I can’t see another rational explanation.

        I think I might watch the Celtics instead of the Red Sox tonight for a change.

      • dailypuma says:

        You’re comments towards my comments usually have a snarky, condescending “quality” to them. So if I lash out and you then want to use that as reason for your prior snarkiness, it’s your blog, go for it. But your claim that you are more of a Clintonite is delusional.

        You are first and foremost a union person, above and beyond all else.

    • Seriously says:

      For various reasons both Clinton and Obama drew supporters from the right, left, and center. You may be a moderate wanting to reach across the aisle and flee from the far left, but for a lot of eventual Clinton supporters, the fear that she was too moderate is what initially put them off. Remember Obama promising everyone a seat at the table and touting his amazing ability to work with Republicans? That wasn’t really appealing to liberals, who often aren’t any fonder of moderates than moderates are of them. Nobody “lost touch” with anything, people supported the same candidates for vastly different reasons and never really agreed in the first place.

  4. Fannie says:

    We’ve been over the profiles of voters there, sex, elderly, blacks, youth…………and I thought there were lots of tempers on the rise…………obviously not. Economics is the issue and will be in Nov.

    • northwestrain says:

      What was the sign to remind Bill Clinton what was important — something like:

      It’s the economy — Stupid

      Anything else could be just the opposition trying to redirect attention elsewhere.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Taylor Marsh has now flipped all the way back to her stance pre-June 2008. Obama’s reelection means nothing, she says.


  6. RalphB says:

    Scott Lemieux on an insane piece by Stoller 😉 Stoller and Taylor Marsh should get together for drinks. I don’t think it’s illegal to sell alcohol to idiots.

    I Told You Obama Should Have Been Impeached As Soon As He Appointed William Rehnquist and Forced the Beatles to Break Up

    Shorter Matt Stoller: This data showing that the number of strikes has been in severe decline since the early 70s shows that Barack Obama should have been primaried in 2012. I am not a crackpot.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I tried to read that Stoller piece, but it was incomprehensible.

      • dakinikat says:

        I have no idea what his appeal is. Every time he writes something on economics it’s so incredibly wrong that I think all he’s had is a bad grade school education.

  7. northwestrain says:

    Stephen Colbert show is a must see. He is whooping it up about the “win” in Wisconsin — unions lost etc.

    His staff is union — and they send a message. Funny — sharp. Some of the best comedy and news writing is coming from Jon Stewart & Colbert’s people.

    Crooks and Liars has a link.

  8. HT says:

    Connie, thoughtful post inviting even more thoughtful reflection – well done. I was a middle manager in a rather large multinational corporation for over 30 years. My father was an upper management type in a separate huge global corporation for more years than I can remember. While my father oversaw direct negotiations with unions from a management perspective including contract renewal, when he came home to us, he always, always emphasized the importance of unions for everyone. When I got to the postion that I eventually achieved, while I was not involved in negotiations, I have always felt that unions keep the corporations in line so they don’t screw the workers – you have no idea of the number of times I sat through meetings when the whole emphasis was on how to get more for less I.E. screw the workers. Today I am watching with horror as the workers regardless of labels (blue collar versus middle class) are actively working to screw themselves. I cannot believe it – truly cannot believe it. I have nothing but praise for the efforts of the unions over the last century, because they have really made life better for a majority of people (regardless of the corruption of some union management – note management) and now the very people that the unions helped are turning on them and blaming them for their own misery, which to all intents and purposes seem to have been caused by that 1% who want to go back to the aristocracy caste system that the 1776 revolutionaries originally fought against. Go figure.

    • Seriously says:

      It’s interesting that, we saw during the health care thing, a lot of people are really confused about what unions are supposed to do. Yes, they do their share to advocate for social justice, but functionally, a union’s primary job is to advocate for its members. During that fight, people were “outraged” about the “selfishness” of accepting a good deal for their members, as if they were supposed to stand up and say “Screw our members, until these privileges are extended to everyone in society, as they should be, no deal!” If unions refused to advocate for their members, which is incredibly difficult in this climate anyway, then there would be no point in having one. How would you explain that, thanks for the dues, thanks for trusting us with your interests, and yes we were offered a good deal that would benefit us, but in the name of solidarity with non-union workers, let’s all be screwed together! Yes, it is atrociously unfair that there are incredible obstacles involved in forming a union, but those obstacles also applied to that union shop over there. The workers over there fought and struggled and were illegally fired and there was violence, and now they have a union. Anger against them is severely misdirected.

      • bostonboomer says:

        The simple truth is that union gains have been extended to other workers, and the weaker unions get the worse things will be for all workers. Unfortunately the media tends to be anti-union and reporters (who are mostly in unions) have labored to serve their anti-union bosses and damage other workers.

      • HT says:

        Seriously – Bingo! What amazes me is that all those things that the unions fought for aren’t limited to pensions, benefits and salaries. They were behind the efforts to ensure safety in the workplace and some might posit that they were also instrumental in bringing to the public awareness of the environmental impacts (as well as health) of corporate dumping of garbage into the ocean and freshwater environs. I could go on and on. Little do these people who are badmouthing unions know what is in store for them should they succeed in bringing them down. Minimum wage? Corporate never wanted a minimum wage. Benefits (particulary health insurance) – forgetaboutit. Pensions, you must be kidding. 40 hour work week, you must be kidding – work till ya drop. Child labor – it’s cheaper isn’t it. Maternity and parental leave – not a chance. Get pregnant, lose your job. I could go on at length, but I’m preaching to the choir here. It will be a sad day when the unions are finally broken, which seems to be the intent of the 1%, not just for America, but globally. While I was briefly a member before I went into management, I’ve never forgotten my father’s admonitions and added my own experiences. Every country needs unions. Those trust fund babies and their syncophants who are currently ruling the world have no idea of the plight of ordinary plebes and they don’t care. If those people in Wisconsin or any other state are counting on those guys – they are lost.

      • Seriously says:

        Once on dkos, people were blaming unions because American automakers were dragging their feet on designing more fuel efficient cars! They apparently think that unions are all-powerful or we have some kind of industrial democracy where union workers have an equal share plus veto power over every aspect of the company. Someone else chimed in to say that thankfully banks don’t have unions or ATMs would never have been developed. I guess the thought there was, ATMs might eliminate jobs, and again, unions being all-powerful have the will and the clout to ban any device that would potentially replace a human worker, prevent it from being developed, even. I swear, some people are so divorced from reality it isn’t even funny!

      • RalphB says:

        A lot of the divorce from reality is youth and/or lack of real world experience. I always get the feeling that a lot of those people are essentially still protected children.

      • northwestrain says:

        Some voters are perhaps voting for candidates who are telling them what they want to hear — rather than the truth about a lot of things — economics — and global warming are two examples. The GOP good at myth building.

        There is a huge denial going on — and that is a lot of folks have been convinced by the climate change deniers that global warming is a liberal myth. Even some professionals in fields are denying that so many indicators tell us that something really bad with the environment is happening fast.

        Perhaps I am more aware than the average person about the earth not being able to support the massive population growth. I went to San Jose State University where the first really big Earth Day awareness took place (a Ford Pinto was buried on campus — I was there to watch it lowered into the ground and covered with dirt).

        Anyway new book is out and here’s a background article by Scientific American

        40 years ago a computer program predicted some of what is happening today. Sort of like the ultimate science fiction.

        In 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (Chelsea Green Publishing), Jorgen Randers of the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, and one of the original World3 modelers, argues that the second half of the 21st century will bring us near apocalypse in the form of severe global warming. Dennis Meadows, professor emeritus of systems policy at the University of New Hampshire who headed the original M.I.T. team and revisited World3 in 1994 and 2004, has an even darker view. The 1970s program had yielded a variety of scenarios, in some of which humanity manages to control production and population to live within planetary limits (described as Limits to Growth). Meadows contends that the model’s sustainable pathways are no longer within reach because humanity has failed to act accordingly.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      Thanks, HT. And, thank you for your personal insight & perspective. I’ve missed seeing your comments lately – hope you are recovered & feeling better.