Today is the day of reckoning for Wisconsin. Voters will go to the polls today to decide the fate of Governor Scott Walker and five other Wisconsin Republicans: the Lieutenant Governor and four state senators. If the Democrats can win just one of those seats, they will regain the senate majority.
I think everyone here knows the genesis of this recall battle, but here’s a quick explainer from Chris Cillizza at the WaPo. Cillizza also speculates on possible surprising outcomes from the election.
Cillizza allows that Barrett could conceivably win and the Democrats could retake the senate–the latest poll by PPP had Walker leading by only 3 points, within the margin of error. The poll also suggested that Barrett had the momentum as of yesterday. On the other hand, InTrade had Walker’s chances at more than 90% late last night. The truth is no one really knows for sure, because the turnout and enthusiasm on each side will tell the tale. Cillizza, being a Villager, still thinks Walker will win, but thinks the Senate could switch.
When they filed petitions to recall Walker himself last fall, Democrats also filed papers to recall another four state senators — Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Sens. Pam Galloway, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard, (Galloway resigned earlier this year; Republican state Rep. Jerry Petrowski is running for her seat.)
They need only win one race to take control.
Fitzgerald is likely safe given his heavily Republican district, although Lori Compas, his Democratic rival, has attracted a lot of media attention.
But Democrats are bullish on the races against Moulton and Wanggaard. Both districts went for President Obama in 2008; Wanggaard’s went narrowly for John Kerry in 2004. Whether Barrett wins or not, they expect to take back the state Senate.
Moulton faces former state Rep. Kristen Dexter; Wanggaard faces former state Sen. John Lehman (D). Outside groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on both sides. State Rep. Donna Seidel (D) also has a shot at beating Petrowski; before Galloway the seat had gone Democratic for two decades.
Cillizza points out that if Barrett wins and the Democrats take the state senate and could get some of the Walker legislation overturned before another election could give the senate back to the Republicans. The other possibility, Cillizza mentions is that Democrats could defeat Walker’s Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, but that’s pretty unlikely. She’s leading in the polls at the moment.
The Seattle Times had a good article on Sunday about the national issues that are at stake in the election today.
Under fire for cutting budgets at the expense of public employees, Walker would be the third governor in U.S. history yanked from office in a recall election. Walker has an edge, but the race is close.
The campaign will mean more than who governs Wisconsin. It’s a test case of the larger clashes in American politics that are driving elections for the presidency and control of Congress, highlighting divisions over the costs of government.
With more than $30 million raised from conservative donors, many of them from other states, and visits from a who’s who of high-profile Republican governors (New Jersey’s Chris Christie, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Virginia’s Bob McDonnell), Walker’s campaign to survive the recall has the feel, the money and the stakes of a national race.
The state vote is raising questions that will echo nationwide. Can a tough-minded conservative Republican force cuts in government at the risk of angering public-employees unions and win a swing state such as Wisconsin? Will voters think he’s doing the best he can in a tough time? Or will they rise in a grass-roots backlash against the well-financed Republican effort?
Admittedly, that article has a Republican flavor, but it does do a pretty good job of spelling out the issues. For a more left-wing perspective, here’s a lengthy piece at by Sarah Jaffe of Alternet: Wisconsin’s Recall Drama Down to Nail-Biting Finish.
Wisconsin’s recall is, as reporter John Nichols put it, the kind of “renegade politics” that are disdained by the national Democratic party and even some state Democrats. It is being driven by the same activists who turned out by the thousands to occupy their capitol when Governor Scott Walker attacked workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.
Now, a day before the biggest recall yet—of Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four Republican state senators—the fight will be won or lost where it began: on the ground.
There’s a lot of big outside money pouring into Wisconsin, mostly to pump up Walker’s attempt to hang on to his seat, but the one thing that money can’t buy is an excited, driven grassroots movement. If Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett beats Walker on Tuesday, it will be because of thousands of volunteers getting out the vote person by person.
“This is really a case of Walker raising $13 million against possibly the most widespread grassroots get-out-the-vote effort in the state’s history,” Matt Reiter, co-president of the Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told AlterNet.
Please try to check that one out. It’s long, and very informative. John Nichols of The Nation (mentioned prominently in Jaffe’s piece) is Wisconsin native, and has written a book about the struggle in his home state. Here’s a piece Nichols wrote yesterday: How To Buy A Recall Election.
Governor Scott Walker is not trying to win the Wisconsin recall election that will be held June 5.
He is trying to buy it.
If the embattled governor does prevail, he will provide essential evidence not of his own appeal but of the power of money to define our politics.
On the other hand, if Walker is defeated, a template will have been developed for a people-power, message-power politics that might be able to challenge big money.
And there is no question that what is in play is very big money.
Read the gory details at the link.
At Salon, Josh Eidelson writes about the possible effects of some Wisconsin voters’ “resentment” of union workers on the recall outcome.
If Scott Walker survives tomorrow’s election, there will be plenty of reasons. Many people will point to his huge cash advantage, for good reason. But no factor will have been more important than the decades of decline in U.S. union membership.
“Unions had their place,” a woman named Jerri told me soon after I arrived in Wisconsin last week. “They did their part back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and then they got too big, and are abusing their power.” Jerri and her husband, Tim (both declined to give last names), were eating at a bar in Wauwatosa, the purple Milwaukee suburb that’s home to Scott Walker. They both work in sales: She’s in retail at the mall; he’s in wholesale, selling caskets. Tim said Walker’s union “reforms” were necessary because local politicians had been “looking out for the union” instead of “people like me.” He said unions are for people who don’t “feel they should have to work very hard.” Jerri complained that unions “are sucking off my teat.” Public workers’ benefits, she said, “should be the same as anybody in any kind of private job.”
That last statement is most telling. While resentment toward unions has grown since the 1950s, it’s not because they got too big. It’s because they got too small. A multi-decade drop in unionization left fewer Wisconsinites who are union members or live in union households. Meanwhile, because governments are less prone than businesses to terrorize workers or shut down facilities to avert unionization, public sector unionization has remained more stable. In 2009, for the first time, there were more total U.S. union members in government employment than in the entire private sector.
That one is pretty scary for those of us who care about quality education and public services.
The Wall Street Journal highlights the importance of turnout in the recall election.
Both sides say few voters remain undecided, after more than $63.5 million in political spending saturated the airwaves and clogged voters’ mailboxes. A weekend survey by the Democratic group Public Policy Polling found Mr. Walker holding a slight lead and only 3% of likely voters undecided. With few voters left to persuade, the main question is which side will win the turnout battle.
Labor groups and their allies knocked on more than 300,000 doors during the past few days and placed more than 400,000 phone calls, said Brian Weeks, the assistant political director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
Unions historically have had a strong ground game. But Republicans said they took a page from labor’s playbook and have developed a coordinated get-out-the-vote effort, which could also give the party a boost in the November presidential election, helping the GOP equal the Democrats’ election-day machinery.
Felicia Sonmez and Rachel Weiner of the WaPo write about the battle of “TV ad spending vs. boots on the ground.” They say that this election:
serves as a proxy for the national battle between Democrats’ much-touted ground organization and Republicans’ fundraising advantage.
With Walker ahead in the polls and leading Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) in the money race by more than 7 to 1 – and with GOP-aligned outside groups far outspending their counterparts across the aisle — Democrats maintain that their shot at victory depends on a far superior get-out-the-vote operation buoyed in large part by organized labor.
According to Monica Davey at the NYT,
About 60 to 65 percent of Wisconsin residents of voting age are expected to go to the polls on Tuesday, the state’s Government Accountability Board said. That would be a higher turnout than two years ago, when Mr. Walker and a wave of Republicans largely swept state and federal offices here, but not as high as the more than 69 percent turnout in 2008, when Barack Obama easily won the state.
Only time will tell. We’ll have a live blog this evening so we can follow the results together. Now I need you to let me know what else is in the news. I look forward to clicking on your links.
First we had the Arab Spring then the European Summer. The American Autumn manifested itself in the Occupy Wall St. Movement.
Welcome the Russian Winter.
Saturday nearly 35,000 young, mostly university-educated protesters, the new Russian middle class, gathered in Moscow in peaceful demonstration. Reportedly, a police presence on the order of 50,000 greeted them. But still they came and marched to voice opposition to Russia’s recent election results. Vladimir Putin’s party won the parliamentary election after multiple reports of election fraud and ballot box stuffing. For instance, in Chechnya [hardly a place of Putin-love] the party pulled 94% of the vote. Putin has announced his plans to run in Russia’s March presidential elections to the dismay of many citizens, who charge that fraud and corruption run rampant throughout the country’s political system.
Demonstrators, donning white ribbons, marched in various cities around the country to say: Enough is enough.
Dismissed by the official Russian press, the white ribbon demonstrators were ignored by state television, which focused on small, flag-waving pro-Putin groups. How did the word get out? Social media—Facebook and twitter.
In an attempt to disrupt the protests, Russian authorities circulated rumors that young men present at the rallies could be stopped by police and conscripted into the army. Health officials reportedly warned citizens to stay home for fear of contracting a virulent flu or Sars. Twitter feeds were jammed and robo-calls flooded phone lines with messages of state propaganda.
Sound vaguely familiar?
How much press is OWS getting today with its West coast port demonstrations? How many words have been spent denigrating protesters as un-American losers, slackers, even dangerous criminals? Let’s not forget the MSM’s reluctance to cover OWS, the strange lack of network film footage during police actions, particularly as the encampments were dismantled. Twitter feeds jammed, cameras turned off.
Still, the world is watching. The world is pushing back. Everywhere.
It’s not often I get to post pictures of mythical beasts for a few days in a row but here I go again. Plus, I’ve gotten another chance to use one of those wonderful Alice in Wonderland book illustrations. Too bad they’re attached to posts where the perverse wonderland rules. It seems to be a year for fictional monsters in Op-Eds and real ones in congress.
David Stockman, Budget Director for Ronald Reagan, has joined the ranks of Republican advisers calling shenanigans on the Boehner/Tea Party Republicans AND the dithering Obama Dems. He must be very financial and professionally secure. His op-ed in the New York Times draws blood on all sides. He starts out telling President Obama what is what then moves on to hammering that petulant ninny from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan. Go read it if only for the creative use of words like that in the heading above.
On the other side, Representative Ryan fails to recognize that we are not in an era of old-time enterprise capitalism in which the gospel of low tax rates and incentives to create wealth might have had relevance. A quasi-bankrupt nation saddled with rampant casino capitalism on Wall Street and a disemboweled, offshored economy on Main Street requires practical and equitable ways to pay its bills.
Ingratiating himself with the neo-cons, Mr. Ryan has put the $700 billion defense and security budget off limits; and caving to pusillanimous Republican politicians, he also exempts $17 trillion of Social Security and Medicare spending over the next decade. What is left, then, is $7 trillion in baseline spending for Medicaid and the social safety net — to which Mr. Ryan applies a meat cleaver, reducing outlays by $1.5 trillion, or 20 percent.
Trapped between the religion of low taxes and the reality of huge deficits, the Ryan plan appears to be an attack on the poor in order to coddle the rich. To the Democrats’ invitation to class war, the Republicans have seemingly sent an R.S.V.P.
Stockman call the entire situation “fiscal jabberwocky”. Good turn of phrase that. He then moves to skewering the FED and adds Chinese currency pegging into the villain mix. I guess there’s nothing like a good rant when you can get primetime ink. This seems to be an interesting foray into harsh policy critique for economists with a republican bent.
Stockman, like Bruce Barlett and even David Frum are yet more Republicans who are pointing out the current GOP leaders are no more serious about budget reform than the Democrats are. The main difference is the GOP has better slogans and marketing, and slides into full blow demagoguery more easily.
But in terms of actual strategies for intelligently addressing the issue? The most glaring truth is the lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle.
The Barry Ritholtz blog post on Stockman’s op ed does score some points on mentioning the leadership chasm, but, even more telling is the absolute adherence to fairy tales over reality in policy making these days. Is there an economist in the House? Joe Wiesenthal says that Stockman is suffering from “fatalistic populism”. Here’s Stockman’s ending barb to prove that point. It’s also the two sentences that offer up the policy solution.
So the Ryan plan worsens our trillion-dollar structural deficit and the Obama plan amounts to small potatoes, at best. Worse, we are about to descend into class war because the Obama plan picks on the rich when it should be pushing tax increases for all, while the Ryan plan attacks the poor when it should be addressing middle-class entitlements and defense.
I’ve said many times that the Bush tax cuts just need to expire. I’ve also said that since the Reagan years we’ve basically started chumming our economy by jumping into interventions wherever and whenever. Afghanistan and Iraq are two such adventures that need to be de-funded and ended. We also need to reign in the congressional and pentagon weapons fetish which is basically whipped into a frenzy by free spending lobbyists for companies like Halliburton, GE, and Boeing. I can only image what they all want the drone budget to look like. MENA appears to be filled with hives these days.
So many of our fiscal problems would go away if we would just put things back to the where they were 10 years ago. This includes putting Wall Street back in its box instead of letting it go completely gaga with nonstandard, unregulated financial innovations. We can’t afford Obama’s muddling policies that seem like voting present while Republicans go wild with his inability to stand any firm ground. I believe he got elected to undo the Dubya years. Instead, he’s put the Dubya policies on steroids. So, if most of us–that would be voters–are saying let’s take it all back to the Clinton years, what I’d like to know is who are the real conservatives and who are the real radicals?
The true lessons from the last two elections have been pretty clear. Voting for “throwing the bums out” just brings worse bums into play. Also, voting for relative unknowns hoping that will change the direction of the country because of their ‘outsider’ status doesn’t work either. Sooner or later, they all become part of the problem. The current crop of new faces is a pretty good indication that voters should be using better criteria than change, hope, not part of the DC establishment, and talks a good talk. I wake up feeling like Alice who went through the looking glass into some perverse alternate reality. The problem is that there really seems like there’s no way back.
The displeasure is obvious in the polls. For the last two elections, folks voted for ‘outsiders’ and got even more dysfunctional government. This latest crop of newbie politicians seems to come in with a ready-made interest group on their coattails. The interest of the general populace isn’t even in the equation any more. We’re worried about unemployment, paying for expensive basics like food, health care, and gas at the pump while the current crop of elected officials just keep inventing surreal crises that simply feed their base’s interests and their donor’s pockets.
Right now, the majority of voters are screaming none of the above. Congress and the White House are hopelessly out of touch with the priorities of the electorate. When the public says its concerned about the economy, it doesn’t mean they are obsessed with the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of US debt instruments. I told you that after they got their tax cuts for billionaires through, raters would do that during the debt ceiling fight, right?
The Tea Party and the White House seemed to be in cahoots–despite seemingly being at odds with each other– to funnel what’s left of US wealth into the Wall Street Gambling Casino by either giving tax breaks to businesses who flee the country for higher stakes or rich people that buy ‘financial innovations’ that create risk and volatility in markets . This all happens along with funneling federal projects straight to them through no-bid government contracts and privatization schemes. These things also enrich market parasites like brokerage firms and insurance companies. I don’t get why people don’t connect these charades with the dismal economy and vote their interests. Maybe it’s because there’s really no one to vote FOR any more. There are only folks to vote against. Angry people do not make good decisions as a general rule.
President Obama has gotten no bounce from his reelection campaign announcement, with his job approval rating dropping by 7 percentage points since January, his personal popularity at a career low and 57 percent of Americans disapproving of his handling of the economy. Yet he leads the potential GOP field.
There are chances for the Republicans in next year’s elections, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in particular, nipping close to Obama in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll. Economic pessimism, its highest in two years amid soaring gas prices, raises serious political peril for the president. But he benefits from two factors: personal approval that, while down, still exceeds his job rating, and substantial doubts about the opposing party’s lineup.
Forty-three percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they’re satisfied with the choice of candidates for the GOP nomination for president next year, compared with 65 percent satisfaction with the field at exactly this point four years ago. Nearly as many leaning-Republicans are dissatisfied with the field as are satisfied, and far more have no opinion of their potential candidates: 17 percent now vs. 3 percent at this point in 2007.
If those three are my choices, I’d rather opt out of the election and the country. This is dismal! No one is really satisfied with the presidential line-up. I don’t know about you but my choices at the local level have been abysmal for years. If there’s one candidate that really looks like they could actually make a change, a group of anti-abortion nuts, businesses, or other niche interest group comes out of the woodwork to tank them. Our political system is like the proverbial septic tank letting the worst float to the top.
Obviously, money drives races any more. It’s unlikely we can get that changed unless every state starts a ballot initiative for some kind of campaign finance reform. Politicians are like crack addicts that are unlikely to go to rehab and more likely to sound like Charlie Sheen and his ‘winning’ chimera. The problem is that now we have narrow interests funneling money into advertisements–ala swiftboating–that look like the message come from grass roots movements but are they really are the same old, same old that bring the same old, same old to Washington. It’s only a new face. It is not a new person or an agenda of real change.
I’m still amazed to find any one that doesn’t see the astroturf in the Tea Party with the now obvious funding of the Koch Brothers and the like. I’m sure that the investigation into all those ‘little’ donors to OFA will turn out finding yet another, perverse form of bundling. As Caro from Make Them Accountable believes, it’ll probably show that a bunch of Goldman Sachs people bought prepaid debit cards and had a hey-day. The media is so corporate any more that they won’t focus on the jobs crisis, they’re running with the political pack to funnel more public assets to their stockholders. Only the farthest reaches of Internatlandia appear to still be on the good side of the New American Looking Glass.
What a mess! I’m beginning to think we’re just on the verge of the collapse of the empire and there’s not much we can do about. The last ten years have been all about the wrong things. Just today, the UK Guardian released information on the relationship between big Oil and the Blair government’s decision to invade Iraq. I’m just assuming that there’s a Dubya/Cheney set of meetings and memos there too. More proof to support our well-founded skepticism of any motive but obscene profit-seeking from the already powerful and wealthy. We know that entire Iraq debacle was as contrived as ignoring the policies that would create jobs and growth and actually do something about the federal debt and deficit. The emphasis recently on tax cuts has simply exacerbated all the problems but is still held up as the panacea. The arm waving and speeches are just distractions from the real agenda. Sadly, some folks still want to believe that those fresh faces really are more than just masks.
It’s like we’ve all gone through the mirror to some evil wonderland. Help, we’ve fallen through and we can’t get up or out!