In The News
No surprises May 8 but belated first step toward recovery
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Posted May 9, 2012
Within minutes after it became clear May 8 that Milwaukee’s mayor had handily won, the largest state public union (long regarded as the most doubtful about him) blasted out a group email: “Unlike Scott Walker, we believe in democracy. AFSCME Wisconsin wholeheartedly supports Tom Barrett.”
So much for the Republican and establishment media effort to concoct a fight.
In a way it was a shame that in the steady drumbeat turnout pursuing the best recall candidates, all the poll-chosen Democrats advanced and nothing spectacular or unexpected happened. Think of how much the right-wing strategists detest surprises and never know how to handle the unexpected.
Voters who liked the respected No. 2, Kathleen Falk, also thought it poetic if a woman destroyed Walker June 5 since his actions had just sought to destroy her gender by squashing health services for women and erasing the state version of the Lily Ledbetter law that let women sue for pay inequities by employers.
But the results also produced a satisfaction expressed by many voters including union ones – not just because Barrett is the best known and most federally savvy candidate (and the state will need his national expertise to recover). They felt an apology and a do-over was due him for their lack of turnout when he ran for governor against Walker in 2010. Back then, few paid much attention to state laws or thought an extreme, tone-deaf “my way or the highway” governor could make such a costly daily difference in their lives. Now they know better. Now they look at his mere 1,128,941 votes in 2010 and wonder what strange mandate he keeps referring to.
Falk, Doug La Follette and Kathleen Vinehout (let’s not add Gladys Huber, the lifelong octogenarian Republican who pretended to be a Democrat and hid from public view to be in the contest) had all proven in debates far more responsible than Walker and hardly extreme in ideology, just concerned about repair. Any disagreements were about strategy, so all have committed to helping Barrett win and all clearly understand that nursing the state back to economic health and fairness can’t happen overnight.
“Beating him is just the first step,” noted Vinehout, a state senator keenly aware of the task facing the Democrats to restore balanced representation in the administration and legislature after some twisted redistricting games by the GOP. An enthusiastic Barrett in his victory speech was blunter: “We cannot fix Wisconsin as long as Scott Walker is the governor.”
Usually it takes ideological conflict to drive election turnout. Yet even without competitive ferocity the turnout was higher than many expected – 670,000 among the four Democrats. The numbers revealed a steady statewide interest in recalling Walker that extends even to districts where there was no separate recall contest – and even in counties that everyone concedes are dominated by Republicans.
There had been some worry about GOP mischief in fielding fake Dems, given the unusual primary rules that allowed a voter to choose the token GOP gubernatorial contest for Walker but then cross over to vote in the Democrats’ lieutenant governor primary or in the four Democratic senate primaries seeded with Republican candidates.
Madison fire fighter Mahlon Mitchell readily won the right to face Rebecca Kleefisch for lieutenant governor June 5 with about 385,000 votes (more than 52%) despite some obvious cross-over mischief: Fake Dem Isaac Weix drew nearly 160.000 votes in that contest (unlikely a real Democrat among them).
Though Racine results were slow coming in, former Sen. John Lehman easily survived to oust his District 21 usurper, GOP Van Wanggaard. Rep. Donna Seidel won handily in District 29, where she will take on the GOP replacement for resigned Sen. Pam Galloway, Rep. Jerry Petrowski.
Former Democratic Rep. Kristin Dexter in District 23 will take on GOP Sen. Terry Moulton while a lively political novice representing the strong new force of recall activists, Lori Compas, is proving a threat to Scott Fitzgerald in traditional GOP District 13.
All those elections are June 5, though a lot of Democrats laughingly hope Republicans take the advice of their national party leader and Wisconsin native Reince Preibus, who called on them to protect Scott Walker “June 6.”
The Democrats know the real D-Day.
While Wisconsin felt good about its first step toward common sense, the election news from around the nation that same day reminded everyone that politics has a dangerous silly side. Why else would usually knowledgeable media and big bucks yacht owners support Walker and encourage him to invent any statistic to win? Nasty and incomprehensible things do happen in partisan fervor.
In Indiana, rather than respect the lifelong focus on congressional negotiating power represented by the dean of the conservatives in the US senate, Richard Lugar, known for working on international issues of importance and thus enhancing his state’s prestige and clout, Indiana succumbed to bloated Karl Rove, NRA and Club for Growth ad money, slams about Lugar’s devotion to D.C. influence rather than down-home politics and voted him out in a primary. That left their party with a Tea Party clown and frequent election loser, Richard Mourdock. Many think this Republican right-wing obstinacy is simply a gift to the Democrats since even rock-ribbed Indiana will be tempted by respected moderate native son and Democrat Joe Donnelly in November.
The nonsense was echoed in North Carolina, where gay marriage is already banned -- but a double ban was included in changing the state constitution to eliminate straight and gay unmarried partnerships and also child health coverage and domestic protection for abused women in such relationships. There seems to be something magically appealing, if weird, in Christian America for any bill that opposes gays no matter what else it does, but even this obvious extremity didn’t make North Carolina voters pause and think.
The ability of people to vote for such stuff is a reminder that even in sensible Wisconsin you can find rich folks and media types standing by Walker despite the evidence of failure and corruption before their eyes. As long as some are fooled to believe, the voters have their work cut out for them. To paraphrase “Macbeth,” they have “scotched the snake not killed it.”