In The News
Bill Clinton puts Recall in perspective
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
Posted June 2, 2012
A last-minute crowd swept into Pere Marquette Park opposite the “hometown” newspaper that supported Scott Walker and then inadvertently “done him in” during Thursday night’s debate with new revelations undercutting his main defense and revealing how he likely stonewalled the probe into his office’s campaign corruption when county executive.
This Friday June 1 crowd frenzy brought not only reporters from across the street but journalists and TV cameras from around the country to Milwaukee’s riverside bandshell for some genuine star appeal announced late the day before. It was celebrity earned over decades not in last minute desperation to raise campaign cash: Bill Clinton, former US president introduced by Walker opponent Tom Barrett and preceded by other luminaries. Thousands packed the park despite the hastiness of the arrangements.
Clinton was there not only to push the vote for Barrett but also to provide, in his inimitable fashion, a common-sense “straight from the shoulders” conversation of historical relevance and immediate fire-power to “get out the vote” for the Recall Walker cause. He admitted that he is not normally a champion of recall efforts – “but in Wisconsin it has become necessary” in the June 5 election, given the damage and divisiveness – as well as the backward economic figures – Walker has imposed on the state in less than half his term.
Clinton noted that when the state supported him for the presidency first back in 1992, “You were only one of two states doing well economically” yet voters stood up “looking at what was needed ahead” for their children and families. In harder economic times today, made harder by Walker’s attack on middle class values and the rights of all citizens to work together for their future, Clinton said, “the time has come again for Wisconsin to lead the way.”
The world traveler noted that wherever he goes, "the only thing that is working is when you get everybody who has a stake in the game” to take part, “treat them with respect.” He cited that as Walker’s singular failure as governor.
Clinton explained how easily he had overcome his traditional dislike for stepping into the four-year election cycle. It was because of his devotion to creative cooperation. As Barrett nodded in agreement, Clinton noted that Walker instead had made the state a test case for national Tea Party dominance, that if the extremists can use their money to beat the middle class here into the ground, that will be the goad to do it everywhere.
“They look at Wisconsin and they see America's battleground," Clinton said, saying it’s "between people who want to work together to solve problems and people who want to divide and conquer.”
He is not the only big name flooding in to help Barrett in the vital final push to the polls. Union leaders such as AFL-CIO executive vice president Arlene Holt Baker were promoting the Barrett cause Saturday and voter turnout was to be pushed Monday by two leaders of the African American community that represents 11% of Wisconsin citizens and whose turnout could prove crucial in urban areas--- the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
At Pere Marquette Park, aside from the busy media, there was an understandable sense that Clinton was preaching to the choir of people who would support Barrett in any case -- but the message was to get them to talk to their neighbors and get everyone to the voting booth. This is a sometimes invasive trend in modern politics, particularly when reduced to mailers and phone calls, but research proves that personal contact is extraordinarily powerful in elections.
National observers now concede that you can take all the phone polling data and the $30 million in Walker’s media ad money – an easy 10 to 1 advantage over Barrett who is doing far better in last-minute fund-raising – and pretty much throw it all into the trash.
Walker’s money can’t push him above half the likely voting public in any respectable established poll. This election is so unusual that no one can predict who will actually vote and in what number. With absentee ballot voting topping 190,000 and other signals, all indications are that the number will be massive.
Republicans don’t want to lose the governor’s mansion (though it is likely for a while they will have continue to lose the state Senate) whether they agree wholeheartedly with their standard bearer or not. The race is between forces – whether power domination and ideology is enough to motivate the status quo to vote in higher than normal numbers and those who want comity to return to the state by forcing Walker out, since he clearly won’t change his methods as long as he holds the reins.
Few doubt that most citizens of the state have growing reservations about Walker and his methods – he pretty much conceded he has caused such division in the debates -- but the question remains whether they are paying enough attention, whether they yet connect who is in office to their personal lives right now, or if they have enough concern during a pleasant summer to suspend regular activity to stop by the voting booth.
It is turning into a fascinating contest, likely to be decided between those who hold their nose to vote for Walker and those who hold their nose at the idea of recalls to vote for Barrett.