The defining reason behind Scott Walker’s recall election – Milwaukee Political Buzz |

May 25, 2012

The defining reason behind Scott Walker’s recall election

Michael Priebe's photo

Michael Priebe

Waukesha Political Buzz Examiner


With just over a week remaining until Wisconsin residents cast their votes in a historic gubernatorial recall election, it seems that many people have forgotten what the June 5 ballot pitting incumbent Scott Walker against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is truly about.

At times, both supporters and detractors of Walker have said it is an election about job creation. The Governor has indeed spent much of his time in office repeating his goal to put 250,000 new jobs in the state during his term. However, monthly job creation surveys have been absolutely abysmal under Walker thus far. In fact, the employment numbers were so grisly (putting Wisconsin last in the nation for job creation between March 2011 and March 2012) that Walker momentarily abandoned the topic during his recall campaign.

However, the Governor is now back on that talking point, citing recent numbers from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages that show the state gained around 23,000 jobs in 2011 rather than losing almost 34,000. However, these numbers have not yet been verified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and as such, true job creation numbers under Walker are still a contentious point leading into June.

Tens of thousands protest at the Madison Capitol in 2011

Tens of thousands protest at the Madison Capitol in 2011

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But this recall election is not really about job creation.

At times, proponents of the recall have framed the election around an ongoing John Doe investigation involving people who worked directly underneath or with Walker when he was Milwaukee County Executive. The offenses being investigated range from embezzlement of money slated for Wisconsin veterans and their families to the construction of a separate e-mail network in county offices so employees could campaign for Walker on work time. It is not yet known if the investigation has touched Walker, but the Governor has since transferred $60,000 of campaign money to a legal defense fund and refuses to give a reason for this when asked by the press. It is worth noting that Wisconsin statutes only allow government officials to put money toward such a fund if they are being investigated or charged with a violation of either campaign finance or other election laws.

So, it does appear as if the John Doe investigation involves the Governor in some capacity. But this recall election is not really about the John Doe investigation either.

Without a doubt, conversations about the desire for Walker’s recall must come full circle to the issue that actually set the public outcry against him aflame, his partisan passage of Act 10 – legislation that not only requires public union members to pay more toward their health insurance and pensions, but ultimately destroys public unions by outlawing collective bargaining and requiring a member re-certification vote every year.

This full-scale neutering of public unions is a large part of the reason Scott Walker is now facing a recall election. Yet, believe it or not, the near-immediate loss in take-home pay and imminent deterioration of working conditions for almost 150,000 public employees as a result of Act 10 does not truly define the recall election efforts either.

The above issues are indictments of Walker in their own right, but they still fail to embody the one, central issue that defines the essence of why enough people in WI were sufficiently angry to organize and mobilize a recall election more than a year in the making. 

Scott Walker personifies what American’s loathe in their current political system – the idea that citizens are important when courting votes but are not worth true representation thereafter; the idea that they are being used.

Scott Walker used everyone. He used public employees as scapegoats for dismal financial times. He attempted to use the state’s police and firefighters by excluding their unions from Act 10, possibly to keep their loyalty should civil unrest occur.Even staunch Republicans and people who ideologically reject the idea of public sector unions are being used by Walker, as he is forcing them to accept all of his flaws as heroism because of agreement on one issue or party affiliation. 

Scott Walker took advantage of a depressed economy to push through a corporatist political agenda with legislative brothels like ALEC making sure he had shovel-ready projects waiting to welcome his first day in office. 

Secrecy and surprise were the cornerstones of Walker’s efforts to immediately change the lives of public sector workers represented by unions. Despite the fact that he never explicitly campaigned on Act 10, less than two months after taking office it was his top priority, and he tried his best to push it through a partisan state congress in a matter of days. 

Act 10, with all of its far reaching nuances, suddenly became the “budget repair bill,” a measure Walker decreed was absolutely necessary to balance the state’s budget and avoid financial ruin. 

Walker immediately cordoned off any public or congressional debate on the matter in a conspicuously arrogant and entitled manner. He was, however, willing to discuss policy with campaign mega-donors.

In what he thought was a private conversation with billionaireDavid Koch, Walker famously referred to his introduction of Act 10 as “dropping the bomb.”  Nearly a month before introducing this legislation, while speaking with his largest donor, Diane Hendricks ($500,000), Walker outlined the “divide and conquer” strategy he would use to attack public unions. 

The division quickly took shape in Wisconsin.

As protests in and around the Madison Capitol raged with tens of thousands denouncing Walker’s aims and tactics, talk radio bobble-heads like Mark Belling and Vicki McKenna fired up the Republican base with tales of anarchy and destruction on the Square. 

And in an economic climate still feeling the depressing effects of 2008’s housing crisis, class warfare was created. Signs about the recall began popping up, contradicting opinions being expressed up and down city blocks. YouTube videos of people from both sides of the recall issueharassing each other began to surface.

And the radio bobble heads like Belling and McKenna talked and talked until they turned “public” into a dirty prefix. Public school teachers became the new welfare queens, and the divide in Wisconsin has deepened to this day.

With his introduction and passage of Act 10, Scott Walker gave an astonishingly brazen and transparent display of a politician acting like a disingenuous and detached ruler of his serfs. At the same time, it helped to catalyze a recall petition, the one true check-and-balance power of Wisconsin citizens.

Politicians like Scott Walker make sure that constituents are relegated to polling numbers and pawns while corporations are elevated to people.

The June 5 recall election will give ordinary citizens of Wisconsin a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make rather than take the results of a political power play. It is a referendum on how elected officials utilize the powers granted them. It is a referendum on the types of people who run for office and what truly motivates them.

In the end, Wisconsin’s recall election is a referendum on how much value voters put on themselves. Are they willing to be used as political pawns, or will they call checkmate on the Governor?

 The defining reason behind Scott Walker’s recall election – Milwaukee Political Buzz |

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  1. #1 by qathy on May 26, 2012 - 4:03 PM

    I must be honest. I think unions are bad for America, and the worst place to have unions is in the public sector.
    Having said that, you know that I am going to say that everything you deplore about Walker’s attitude toward public unions I pretty much support. I believe that all public sector unions in all levels of government should be done away with. Public sector employees already have a privileged position and privileged pay before the unions even get involved. Employment in the public sector ought to be just the way employment in the private sector ought to be. Fit the job, the talent and the pay scale together. If the employee wants to do the work for the pay offered, so be it, and if he doesn’t then let him find some different job. Public or private, that ought to be the way. I’m not suggesting that employers ought to be tyrants. I’m saying that the marketplace will settle the issue of what is reasonable for the moment, and every employee ought to have enough sense to find his own way if he doesn’t like the deal where he is. You know, of course, that I am actually saying that I think unions accomplished the thing they set out to do and all unions, in the pubic or the private sector, ought to go the way of the buggy whip.
    I can agree with you that people lose their trust in someone who uses and manipulates people. I hope Walker wins this election, but not because I think he is perfect. I deplore lies and tricks to get votes. If Walker does that he should stop. I hope he wins, because he has so far done the major thing he promised to do by beating the unions. He has turned the state’s budget woes around.
    You may think that the state’s budget should not impact the unions. You may think the state should simply tax people more if the revenue is insufficient to pay union contracts. I think you are wrong. I think people should keep most of their money to be used as they see fit.
    Citizens do not work for the government. The government works for the people. When the people are tired of giving government money, they can stop if they want to. Walker represents that statement. His efforts to reduce the budget impact of contracts negotiated by unions on the amount of money private citizens get to keep is exactly what the people want. They probably don’t specifically want unions to be hurt, but they do specifically want to keep taxes down. So Walker is doing what people want, which is why he will win. It is why he ought to win.
    That’s what I think.

  2. #2 by skip1930 on May 28, 2012 - 5:21 PM

    Barack Obama is facing his Jimmy Carter moment

    As Mitt Romney closes the gap, it is 1980 all over again for the man in the Oval Office.

    Until recently, Barack Obama’s re-election was regarded as inevitable – in the same way that summer follows spring, or a monsoon follows a hosepipe ban. The president’s poll lead over Mitt Romney was strong, while the Republican’s character was assassinated by a primary fight that permanently spoiled the reputation of his party. To court the GOP’s conservative base, Romney was forced to adopt positions on abortion, contraception, health care and welfare that are thought to be unpopular among moderate swing voters. Obama, by contrast, is the man who killed bin Laden and toppled Gaddafi. A choice between Obama the moderate statesman and Romney the craven conservative is surely no contest at all.

    But in the last two weeks, things have changed. Obama’s re-election is no longer guaranteed; some pollsters think it is unlikely. Day by day, the odds are improving that Mitt Romney will be the next President of the United States.

    What changed? For a start, voters are getting gloomier about the economy. Joblessness remains high and debt is out of control. According to one poll released this week, only 33 per cent of Americans expect the economy to improve in the coming months and only 43 per cent approve of the way that the president has handled it. Voters think Obama has made the debt situation and health care worse. The man who conducted the poll – Democrat Peter Hart – concluded that “Obama’s chances for re-election… are no better than 50-50.”

    The president has tried to distract from America’s economic misery by playing up the so-called culture war. Earlier in the year he decided that he would force Catholic employers to provide contraception to their employees through their insurance plans, and he followed that swipe at social traditionalism by endorsing gay marriage.

    This embrace of Sixties liberalism has backfired.

    While contraception and gay marriage often receive popular support in national polls, Americans are far more conservative in the voting booth. Thirty-two states have voted on gay marriage and all 32 have voted to outlaw it – even liberal California. Nor has the culture war rallied his party’s base. In presidential primaries held on Tuesday, 39 per cent of Arkansas Democrats and 42 per cent of Kentuckian Democrats rejected Obama’s re-nomination. In West Virginia, 41 per cent of the state’s Democrats voted for an imprisoned criminal rather than the president.
    The result is that pollsters find Obama and Romney edging towards one another. Rasmussen puts Obama only one point ahead; Gallup calls it a tie. With Romney doing better than the president in key swing states North Carolina and Florida, Gallup has publicly stated that Obama now has a higher chance of losing rather than winning.

    But it isn’t just Obama’s flaws that are making this race interesting. Mitt Romney might not be the most charismatic candidate, but that’s a hidden strength in an election that’s all about competence and getting back to the basics of what once made America work so well. This week, the pro-Obama journalist Andrew Sullivan wrote that with his wealth, good looks and apple-pie conservatism, Romney is like “a focus-group tested model president from 1965”. Sullivan obviously doesn’t realise how popular the TV show Mad Men is. Who wouldn’t warm to a candidate that represents an age marked by low unemployment, stable families and a laissez-faire attitude towards drinking at work?

    In fact, the grey Mr Romney is repeating the same formula that won him the governorship of Massachusetts, an ordinarily Democrat state, in 2002. He pulled that off by motivating large numbers of Republicans to vote for him, breaking into the working-class vote and keeping turnout among Democrats fairly low. The unique genius of Romney was his ability to say very conservative things but in a manner that convinced many centrists that he didn’t really mean them. That’s happening again in 2012, as polls indicate that far more Americans think Obama is too Left-wing than believe Romney is too Right-wing.

    Of course, Romney has his weaknesses. But they are fewer than Obama’s, whose charisma disguises a multitude of problems so great that it’s hard to imagine him overcoming them. Gallup makes the following observation: “Comparing today’s economic and political ratings with those from previous years when presidents sought re-election reveals that today’s climate is more similar to years when incumbents lost than when they won.” I would go one step further: Obama’s situation is actually worse than that of some of the incumbents who have lost in the past.

    In 1980, Democratic president Jimmy Carter faced an uphill struggle for re-election. Yet, despite an index of inflation and unemployment far higher than Obama’s, he was actually doing slightly better in the polls. In March of that year, Carter led his Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, by around 25 per cent. By May, Gallup gave him a lead of 49 to 41 per cent – higher than Obama’s today. Carter’s advantage evaporated in the months that followed, but he regained ground in October and by the last week he was running even.

    None the less, Carter eventually suffered a landslide defeat. The scale of his humiliation was hidden by the fact that people were unwilling to commit themselves to the conservative Ronald Reagan until the very last minute. It was only when they went into the polling booth and weighed up all the hurt and humiliation of the past four years that they cast their vote against the president. It looks like Barack Obama will be the Jimmy Carter of 2012.


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