published Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Lessons from Wisconsin election

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker waits in line to vote Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Wauwatosa, Wis.
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker waits in line to vote Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Wauwatosa, Wis.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin retained his gubernatorial seat in a high-profile, hard-fought recall election on Tuesday, a victory increasingly predicted with some certainty by those across the political spectrum as voting day drew near. There are several lessons to be taken from the balloting -- for conservative forces that already are crowing about their triumph, and for moderates and liberals who must adjust their policies to fit what is emerging as the new norm in partisan politics at the state level.

The reality of Tuesday's vote is that Walker scored a decisive victory. He retained office by a large margin. That will encourage like-minded governors and state legislators across the nation to pursue the same sort of scorched-earth policies that prompted the recall. Moderates and liberals who prefer compromise and negotiation to hardball politics now have to accept the fact that those options are no longer viable -- even in a perennially progressive state like Wisconsin. Confrontation, not discussion, is now the right's preferred course of action.

Democrats and their progressive allies must also accept that big -- really big -- money will play a significant role in 2012 state and national elections. The Citizens United ruling opened the spigot for big-money donations. Wisconsin is one of the first examples of the pernicious effect that decision will have on elections around the nation.

Out-of-state dollars

Millions and millions of out-of-state dollars poured into the state during the recall campaign. Most of it -- a great deal from ultra-conservatives like the Koch brothers and other extreme right-wing donors -- went to Walker. A much smaller amount went to his Democratic opponent. The lesson is clear: Given the new rules, the really rich will spend to support ultra-conservative candidates and their cozy business causes.

Progressives and liberals are unlikely to generate such largesse. They will have to wage their political battles with a considerable monetary disadvantage until campaign finance reform is addressed.

The Walker triumph offers another important lesson for progressives and liberals -- if they will learn it. The governor and his ilk have a well-established plan to establish political primacy in the United States. They are not content to follow traditional roads to power. They want to change the way power is obtained and used.

Part of larger effort

The recall was forced after Walker used his authority to arbitrarily reduce the role and power of public unions in Wisconsin by stripping them of collective bargaining rights. He said it was necessary to balance the state's budget. Truth is, his evisceration of public unions is part of a broadening GOP/corporate effort -- articulated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded front for expanding pro-business legislation -- to undermine a long-time Democratic base of support.

That's part-and-parcel of Republican strategy. Parties can win elections by keeping supporters of the opponent away from the polling station. Republicans are proving that by passing harsh rules on voter identification and registration, as most GOP-controlled legislatures, including Tennessee, already have done.

Another way to accomplish the task is to undercut an opponents' traditional base of support. In the case of Democrats, that includes unions -- the most visible target of Walker's actions.

To counter the new GOP strategy, Democrats will have to expand their reach beyond traditional bases of support and court middle-of-the-road swing voters. They failed to do so in Wisconsin, though late minute strategy changes seemed to attract moderates into the Democratic camp.

Another important lesson from Tuesday's primary is that what might appear to be a political truism is not necessarily so. The Walker-conservative triumph, while notable, was not all-encompassing. Analysis of the numbers indicates a shaky foundation in some areas.

More than half of Tuesday's voters -- even those who voted for Walker -- said they were disgusted by the recall and the process that led to it. That suggests that confrontational, scorched-earth politics is not always a sure-fire way to win adherents. More importantly for Democrats and the coming presidential election, exit polls indicated that the same electorate that supported Walker and his lieutenant governor against the recall also gave a large lead to President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. There's a meaningful lesson in that number, too.

Important insight

Conservatives might claim Walker's victory is a portent of victory in presidential, national and state elections later this year, but that is over-reaching. Tuesday's results had more to do with issues specific to Wisconsin than national issues. Still, a case can be made that the recall election offered an important insight into the coming national campaign, especially on the Republican side.

Walker's victory is apt to prompt the GOP to continue pursuit of political policies that purposefully attempt to polarize many voters and to disenfranchise others. Those policies, however, offer no meaningful solutions to the economic and social problems that confront the nation. Republicans risk their political capital if they do not broaden their appeal.

Most Americans rightly want a political arena in which there is mutual respect between opposing sides and in which discussion, negotiation and compromise -- not demagoguery -- lead to legislative solutions rather than interminable deadlock. Most, including many who proudly call themselves conservatives, also prefer a system that minimizes the undue influence of money on politics. If the Walker campaign is any indication, the GOP currently isn't inclined to meet those reasonable criteria. If that continues, Republicans and conservatives might be in a surprise in November.

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I think you're giving too much weight to the election.

Less than 200,000 voters was the margin. That's not as large a margin as people want you to think.

And that's not even bringing up the question of voter suppression and ballot errors.

June 7, 2012 at 12:05 a.m.
joneses said...


You are still a damn liar. You have no proof of voter suppression and that is as weak an argument as you liberals playing the race card. Stop spreading BS fool!

June 7, 2012 at 7:17 a.m.
joneses said...


Scott Walker won because your liberal, socialist, communist agenda has been revealed by this fool you support as president, Hussein Obama, and it is getting less and less attractive. That is it plain and simple. Scott Walker did not win because of voter suppression, racism, or money. He won because the voters of Wisconsin are sick and tired of leaches like you who choose to live off the backs of the hard working American. The only voter suppression that has been proven is the Black Panther Party who supports Hussein Obama, standing at a polling station intimidating voters and Hussein Obama and the fool Eric Holder did nothing about it. You are ignorant.

June 7, 2012 at 7:32 a.m.
conservative said...

What a whiner! What a whiner!

" Moderates and liberals who prefer compromise and negotiation to hardball politics now have to accept the fact that those options are no longer viable"

What a laugh. This is sooo funny. The Demoncrats and unions practically had riots. They acted like the OWS crowd.

What a whiner. You won't hear me calling for this bunch to get over it. I want them to whine. I want them identified as whiners and losers so that others may avoid them.

Whine on. Whine on. Make my day.

June 7, 2012 at 8:47 a.m.
Easy123 said...

You're both deranged.

June 7, 2012 at 8:54 a.m.
conservative said...

The unions funneled money to Demoncrats who in turn funneled other people's money in much greater amounts to unions.

The other people caught on to the money laundering scheme and voted in their interest instead of the unions.

Whine on. Whine on. Don't stop whining. Make my day.

June 7, 2012 at 10:50 a.m.
timbo said...

Harry Austin forgot to mention the millions of dollars in the form of out of state union "volunteers" that came out of nowhere. At least the republican money was traceable. I wonder how many illegals and dead people voted for the democrat.

June 7, 2012 at 2:26 p.m.
chatt_man said...


I remember seeing something about where one precinct's (Madison) voting was reported at 119%. Did you see that, and could the illegals and dead people be from that precinct?

Me don't need me no voter ID law... priceless.

June 7, 2012 at 4:59 p.m.
fairmon said...

Voters may be realizing how public employees and public employee unions are abusing and taking advantage of weak and/or vote buying politicians using tax payer money. In essence the tax payer has no representation or experienced bargainer negotiating the contract. The unfunded future liabilities for pensions and health care will bankrupt many municipalities or result in significant tax increases.

June 8, 2012 at 4:45 a.m.
jesse said...

i guess they need to buy BIGGER BUSES then!!

June 8, 2012 at 1:11 p.m.
ceeweed said...

When the ploy is to pit the working class against public sector unionized workers, and we (the working class) take the bait, then we all lose. It is another ploy to pit the working class against the poor. So let's all get a Big Hate on for those who have less and those, who provide public services, who may have more, in the way of benefits and pensions...Let's just continue to have a big free-for-all amongst ourselves while "the middle class" status erodes for many of us and eludes many others trying to attain it.

June 8, 2012 at 4:42 p.m.
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