In The News
Game on! Why Recall Walker movement starts its engine
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Posted October 12, 2011
No waiting. No compromise. The longer his half-baked philosophy is in control, the more Wisconsin bleeds.
So say the various recall committees. They have talked, weighed and decided to start collecting signatures Nov. 15 to recall Gov. Scott Walker, which gives them a 60 day window (though the final date will probably wind up Jan. 17, 2012, because of calendar issues the Government Accountability Board is still working out).
Announced Oct.10 on national cable and immediately supported by major progressive organizations, the decision reflects several realities, noted the sponsors in interviews -- chief among them United Wisconsin (unitedwisconsin.com, responsible for the famous Recall Scott Walker Internet movement including Facebook and Twitter), the Wisconsin Democratic Party, and (while instructing all eager unions to heed the PAC rules and regulations) the state AFL-CIO.
In their thinking:
There is no other name to worry about than Walker, whose own party knows he has over-reached (but seem so glad to finally be back in power that only in media comments do they reveal their distress or how cowed they have become). The Act 10 decision to deny public workers meaningful bargaining rights can’t even be justified on the money side. It went from a temporary money saver to lingering disaster when even conservatives scrutinized education, safety and community survival in the second year of his fiscal budget.
It was a decision that many Republicans are now ashamed to have embraced, since it basically decided that private sector workers shouldn’t aspire to good health care and retirement benefits – why else take those away from government employees? More than 55% of state adults in respected polls now disagree with Walker, and many once voted only GOP. “How many Republicans thought they knew Walker and discovered they didn’t?” noted one recall insider. “They can’t be fooled again and that’s our edge.”
That’s why the recall organizers don’t want voters distracted when they consider who snatched food money from the pocketbooks of school teachers and state, city and county line workers while also decimating all sorts of civil servants the public is only beginning to learn about – office workers, nurses, planners, engineers. It was Walker, first, last and always.
“You can find a financial savings here and there, but the larger destruction of morale, of good hiring practice, the loss of excellent employees through fearful retirement – all of that is long-term damage unless we can start right now to reverse course,” said a Madison political leader.
The governor is still a crippler and must be stopped. Some have argued that Walker can do little more damage if left in office, now that summer recalls have reduced his GOP majority in the state senate to one and several members clearly won’t vote for further extreme excesses. But the recall planners strongly disagree – pointing out he can do a lot of damage and still is, with attacks on prevailing wage, local control and minority hiring. Even as the recall began he backed multiple bills that would limit big pharma’s legal immunity for damages caused by defective drugs, restrict civil lawsuit awards for consumers -- but not for corporations -- and make it more difficult to bring discrimination suits. He’s rewarding wealthy backers while limiting health care access to the working poor.
If ever there was evidence to move fast, Walker is providing it, say the recall folks.
His policies are shredding the state economy. It’s not just the thousands of jobs lost in early decisions, not the continued emptiness of the pledge to bring in 250,000 jobs even as the state loses thousands.
It’s the viewpoint that protecting the richest will eventually create jobs, when it clearly hasn’t. It’s refusing to raise revenue except by excluding low-income families from care. It’s a flood of policies that are or will cost Wisconsin jobs and reputation. Try to find a teacher willing to work in this state. Try to find an engineer who wants to raise a family in a din of careless gun laws and rigid cultural views. Try to find a small business owner not dismayed to live near Walkerville.
And note that CEOs who rave about Walker’s policies are largely shedding jobs, not adding them. “Walker’s going backwards,” noted another senator, Chris Larson. “This goes far beyond public workers,” a distressed Rep. Sandy Pasch said in a chat after an Oct. 11 gathering “He couldn’t do worse if he set out to destroy the middle class.”
Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick, who labeled Walker a “one-trick pony” when he refused to raise revenue and submitted inadequate budgets as county executive, expecting other officials to rescue him, noted how “Wisconsin is now getting a taste of the Walker we endured – and what a bitter taste! More fools we if such weak thinking is allowed to continue.”
Recalling how Walker never told the public what he was really up to when he ran for governor, the director of a private sector union, USW District 2’s Mike Bolton, noted that “Walker’s time in office cannot end soon enough for the working families here in Wisconsin.”
There’s no time like now. Some observers had suggested the window of outrage has closed, that Walker’s year of required grace from recall gave him time to fill his coffers and gather his outside networks of money. They even suggest the needed signatures are no longer there despite the public opinion polls and the way Walker animus creeps into every public campaign about jobs, Wall Street and corporate excess – and even flies in the sky over every Badger game.
So the recall supporters see 540,260 signers as simply the first plateau, the vital step that clears the road forward. That’s a quarter of the number of votes in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Tom Barrett got that many just sneezing. (And in October, more than 200,000 on the Internet have already pledged to recall Walker.)
Given the delaying tactics either side could employ, and the time needed by the GAB to count and validate signatures, early recall action won’t result in a race for governor as part of the April general election, when the GOP is counting on heavier turnout because of a presidential primary that will only be busy on one side.
Several see anger at Walker strengthened by winning away two senate seats in Republican districts and retaining all threatened Democrats. “Only someone on the Republican payroll would call winning 5 out of 9 recalls a failure,” noted Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO. Nor will Walker’s redistricting efforts to change legislative seats in favor of the GOP have any effect, since this is a statewide race and it’s all about turnout not boundaries.
The organizers want 700,000 signatures as a cushion because they also know they can’t control the schedule, the challenges, the games the GOP loves to employ. Frankly, no one could be sure of stalling the independent recall enthusiasts from gathering signatures as soon as possible (November) so it made sense to combine the momentum.
Minority Assembly Leader Peter Barcia in an interview suggests the GOP was certainly clever and successful in running fake Dems to stall the recall elections a month this summer, but he adds that they are now paying a price with the public for looking “way too slick and opportunistic.”
“The fury about Walker is real and now, so let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot by acting too clever and say, oh well, what can he do if we wait,” noted state AFL-CIO leader Phil Neuenfeldt. “Frankly, he can do a heck of a lot.”
The other argument for delay was also rejected – wait until a strong opponent steps forward and then try to time signature collection to the most advantageous moment (which might be next November, when Obama is on the ballot, a Senate seat is open and all the Assembly and half the Senate are on the ballot.) But timing is the one thing that can’t be controlled and recall people trust Walker would do everything possible to avoid being on the ballot in November.
Should there be enough signatures, which is not quite the stretch the GOP pretends, the likely election would be in May or June, and there could well be primaries. Several Democrats may compete and even Walker may face a real or manufactured challenger.
“Look,” one Republican operative said privately to me, “When the iron was hot, the Democrats could have run Howdy Doody against him and have a chance. But now they need a big name that independents in particular can flock to.” By his reasoning, Walker survives by default.
The recall organizers disagree – and not just because, as one argued, “it is hard to think of a Democrat the Wisconsin public wouldn’t trust right now more than Walker.” The others have a more convincing “build it and they will come” view.
“As the recall grows and awareness of Walker’s limitations grows with it,” said one member of United Wisconsin, “you’ll be amazed at the responsible recognized politicians who will prove willing to be recruited. If we do our job, they’ll be there”
“Better this way. If we try to anoint a chosen ahead of gathering signatures,” said a leader of the state AFL-CIO, “we’re just giving the Republicans and the media a target. It’s the Republicans who like to manipulate and control events. Let’s trust in the people and the process.”
But isn’t that scary?
“Only if you fear the people” came the rejoinder.