Win or Lose, Walker Recall Was No Mistake

Tomorrow, after more than a year watching the Wisconsin saga unfold, the nation will see whether Governor Scott Walker stays or goes. Nationally, Democrats haven't been outspoken in their support of the recall effort—in May, the DNC took heat for not supporting activists and just this weekend, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told MSNBC he though the recall was a "mistake" since Walker admitted he should have sold his anti-union policies in a more conciliatory fashion.  

For the risk-averse, it's easy to see why the recall might seem scary. The election has offered the GOP a chance to try new tactics, flooding the airwaves in what is a relatively cheap state for campaigning. Walker's plight has become a rally cry for groups like the Tea Party Express and the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama. The GOP's business wing has poured money into his campaign. If Walker wins, it will send Republicans a clear message: Even if a politician loses local support by taking extreme positions, the establishment can win it back with enough money. Wisconsin may well offer a good game plan to push other states further right.

Anti-recall Democrats also point to the polarization the effort has spurred. It has certainly catapulted Walker into a national spotlight, and should he win tomorrow, he will likely be in a less compromising spot than he was before. When, at last week's debate, he refused to answer whether he would veto right-to-work legislation, Democratic opponent Tom Barrett offered a pretty good explanation of why: "One of the ten commandments of the far right is that you have to be against unions … He would have a fall from grace with the far right if he said he was going to veto it." 

But none of those concerns make the recall—to use Rendell's words—"a mistake."

Recall laws came about during the populist era, when political organizing helped establish working-class citizens as a formidable political force. Along with other efforts at direct democracy like the referendum, the recall was supposed to give citizens power even if their elected officials tried to ignore them. Which is largely what happened in Wisconsin under Walker: He pushed through measures to cripple public-employee unions, even when those unions were willing to compromise. Tens of thousands flooded the state capital protesting, but instead of acknowledging these unprecedented rallies as the mark of concerned citizens, the governor instead dismissed them as special interests. It's the type of situation a recall was meant to remedy. 

Wisconsin activists got one million people to sign petitions—one million. That's an astonishing number, almost double what was needed to prompt a recall. Many of the people who helped organize weren't professionals; they were angry and active people who had been taught, in their state, that organized citizens can effect change. They took advantage of laws already in existence meant for this purpose. 

The recall may or may not succeed. If it does not, the consequences will be tremendous: It will be a huge blow to organized labor and a major boost for the GOP. It will also signal that recall laws are no longer relevant in a political reality where money reigns supreme and even union members aren't voting in strong numbers for their own cause.

But the race remains extremely close, despite the spending and despite the "lost cause" mentality from some on the left. That alone is almost miraculous. And if the activists do manage to pull off a victory, Wisconsin may show that when people are active, angry, and organized, they can bring down well-funded power. But to do that, sometimes they have to take big risks.



I agree. I don't even understand why people think things like this are a mistake. It's just the democratic process at work, and I for one am happy to see people engaged in it. It means people are thinking, no matter what the outcome. The most shameful thing about us is that only about 40% of us exercise the biggest privilege we have in this vote.

look folks the economic, social and political circumstance that made the status quo in Wisconsin possible no longer exists. The technology, labor, capital and financial resources are gone or severely diminished; it is a global economy me now and the rest of the world grew up in the categories mentioned above; it's a whole new ballgame

It's a giant waste of taxpayers' money. If Barrett wins, guess what? He'll get recalled after he screws up the state like Doyle did and just like he did in Milwaukee. If liberal punks are going to take away my vote, then I'll stop at nothing to take away theirs. Even though this recall shouldn't even be happening, I'm voting for what's right and that's Walker.

The very fact that you term concerned citizens exercising their rights as "liberal punks" says volumes about you. Walker represents big money and corporate interests, not working and middle class people. It is a David and Golieth fight to get a corporate backed right wing extremist like Walker recalled, but the good fights often very difficult and I hope the voters of Wisconsion are able to remove Walker.

These "concerned citizens" don't seem too concerned about all the money this recall is wasting, which is exactly what Barrett wants to do; waste taxpayers' dollars. I want my tax money to be used in a fiscal, responsible way and not thrown away. Under Walker, Wisconsin has eliminated the deficit!! We finally have a surplus!! Read for yourself ( I'm not about to have Barrett and his liberals put us back into debt.

I feel so fortunately to live in a society where I have the right to vote, and this recall just throws it away. What will happen if Walker wins again? Another recall? When does it stop?? I say that these "concerned citizens" who signed the recall petition should be billed their equal share of how much it cost. If you're going to waste my tax dollars, and time, you should at least have the common courtesy to pay for it. You want to talk about a real concerned citizen? You got one right here....

No, the recall was not "designed" for this purpose. Recall elections are for limiting the terms of politicians who have committed malfeasance, which cannot wait for the next election, not for policy differences. Walker will win, $100 million dollars will have been wasted - much of it taxpayer money - and in the end, the only thing Democrats will have to show for it is that voters meant what they said in 2010.

The Walker recall was fatally flawed. It got channelled into a traditional Republican-Democrat contest, and as soon as that happened all the working class energy of the original protests went away. What voters were left with was a senseless reprise of the original election choices of Walker and Barrett.

Well, senseless from their point of view, but there was a kind of logic behind what happened in national terms. The national Democratic party probably liked having Walker around. He was the scary Republican they could point to and use in fundraising and GOTV campaigns. At the same time, they were repelled by the populism of the original protests. They saw it as unpredictable and not something they could control. So once the recall was on, the state Democrats were not encouraged for a second to respond to that populism. And they didn’t. This can't be emphasized enough: the Democrats did not respond to the working class populism.

They went with the very candidate that voters had rejected in the original election. Voters wanted change they could believe in, and the Democrats delivered to them more of the same.

But that was not the end of it. Walker was a cause célèbre for Republicans and outside money poured in to defend him. And the national Democratic party had no problem with that. In fact, if anything, this is what they wanted. They saw money going to Wisconsin as being diverted from other races. They in turn spent very little capital on the Wisconsin race, either in terms of money or people.

I’m not saying that their reasoning was correct but I think Obama and the Democrats saw this as a no lose situation. It diverted a lot of Republican resources. If Walker lost, the Democrats got a cheap victory and a traditional Democrat as Governor. If Walker won, nothing really changed. They would still have him to kick around (even if the recall legitimized his tenure) and they could blame the loss on the working class, the populists and progressives (i.e. all enemies of the Democratic Party)

As usual, the real losers on Tuesday were the ordinary people of Wisconsin, but in Democratic - Republican contests, ordinary citizens are always the losers. So no change there either.

It's Walker's ultimate future that matters. He has been so boldly anti-people that if and when he runs for another office, he's dead meat. All was not lost in the people effort to remove Walker.

Sadly, our electorate is so apathetic and so ignorant about politics and government that between the two dangerous deficiencies we have virtually lost our democracy to the Koch-like oligarchy. Much wider and greater pain must be experienced to awaken the electorate out of its selfish greed. Selfish greed is what the masses share with the Koch gang.

By the way, does Karl Rove have a new lady-friend after his latest divorce, and is he using his pac money to support himself and her?

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