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It has almost nothing to do with his policies, his party, his history or his initiatives – I’m just glad to see that another attempt to recall an elected official on the state level has failed.
Walker was elected Governor in November of 2010 against Tom Barrett, the then and current Mayor of the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Walker’s win in 2010 was a decisive victory at more than 52% of the vote.
The people of Wisconsin were well informed going into that election. They knew what to expect from Walker and Barrett. Their policies were laid bare in televised debates, ad buys, and numerous op-eds throughout the state. Walker put public spending and state-wide debt at the center of his campaign. While Barrett promoted his successes as Mayor and his experiences in the U.S. House of Representatives (a body which hovered at around 10% approval at the time of the election), Walker made every promise to cut state spending and create a balanced budget.
After getting elected it was time to get to business. Wisconsin faced a $137 Million budget deficit for 2011. One proposed strategy to get the state’s house in order was to pass legislation outlawing collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. Essentially, to gut the state-worker’s union. It was suggested that this plan would save the state nearly $300 Million over two years after its implementation.
The 175,000 unionised state employees didn’t much like that idea. Hundreds of them camped inside the State Capitol in Madison while elected Democratic State Assembly members fled the region. That’s right, in an effort to prevent the passage of a bill, the State Assembly members fled south across the border into Illinois, where they could wait out the session and prevent a quorum. No quorum, no vote.
The law was eventually passed, with exemptions for emergency workers, and the true test of democracy had begun.
Democratic operatives blanketed the state in an effort to gain enough signatures to justify a recall election. The state constitution required 500,000 – they obtained about 1 million.
The recall was scheduled for last Tuesday (5th June). Walker’s Democratic opponent would be the same as in the 2010 general election, Tom Barrett. Scott Walker went on to win the recall election by a larger margin than the results in 2010, as if the electorate were to say, “In case we didn’t make it clear the FIRST time”.
I had a feeling that a Walker victory was assured when it was clear President Obama would not be visiting the state for an endorsement of his fellow Democrat. Obama eventually mentioned his support the night before the election…via twitter. I guess he didn’t want to chain himself to a sinking ship five months before his own election.
There is A LOT of speculation as to what this will mean for an Obama re-election. It goes without saying that a win like this is not just a referendum on a local candidate but, especially in a potential swing state like Wisconsin, it could be an indication of how the rest of the nation will decide their leadership come November. But this is all political theory. The truth is that there will be barely a mention of Scott Walker or his essential GOP double-win in a few months.
It will likely galvanise the Democratic Party in Wisconsin and finally alert them to the fact they may lose that state for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s win in 1984.
The real lesson we should take from this exercise concerns the nature of recall elections. We don’t have many of them in this country but when we do they receive a LOT of media attention. The last Governor recall happened back in 2003 when Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger defeated California Democratic Governor Grey Davis, following his election in 1999. How did Arnold do? Well, not to go off on a tangent, in the end he was an all around mediocre executive up until leaving office himself in 2011.
But what kind of precedent does it set? What does it mean when the losing side of an election can wait out the inauguration, only to circumvent the election results; gather the minimum number of signatures to initiate a recall; and have that official removed from office? How does an elected official deliver on any of his / her initiatives if they’re forced to spend the first year or two of their administration in a struggle to keep their position?
Is this the new paradigm? Don’t forget that old rule that it’s best not to create powers you’d rather your opponents not use themselves. Today we might be unhappy that the Governor of Wisconsin passes a law we disagreed with, but tomorrow it could be someone we support who’s unable to initiate meaningful policy until they get past that “first year recall hump”, where everything is uncertain.
This is no way to run a government. Wisconsinites knew who Scott Walker was when they voted for him the first time. He never muted his more extreme ideas in an effort to slide, unopposed, into office. They can hardly hold him in contempt when he delivered on his promises.
By Joseph Bono
- Freedom in the City on 22nd May with JP Floru on May 22, 2013 12:30 pm
- The Freedom Association’s Magna Carta Pimms and Politics Cruise on June 15, 2013 12:30 pm
- Conservative Renewal Conference on September 14, 2013
- The Freedom Zone on September 30, 2013
- The Freedom Zone on October 1, 2013
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