The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check USA
Wisconsin Makes Big Bucks Off Political Theater
As far as Machiavellian political maneuvers go, The Wisconsin recall election was a bust. Governor Scott Walker, who had already won an election two years ago, was forced to run again over some bogus Democratic Party/Federal Employee Union petition by barely a quarter of the state.
Worse yet, he had to spend time and energy defeating the same guy he roundly beat 17 months prior. As far as a media blitz, though, it was hugely successful. Cable news got two to three weeks of host yammering and a spate of bemused reporters standing in front of statehouses. It certainly beats the hell out of covering the completely meaningless New Jersey Republican primary. But where it really hit a home run was the influx of national attention and state funds that poured into Wisconsin during the thing.
It is the first time outside a Green Bay Packers run that the citizens of Wisconsin have appeared this relevant. Wild protests, legal wrangling, heated debates, backdoor deals, inter-party tensions, walkouts, brawls, and the rare recall election option put the Badger/Cheese state in play. Turns out its young governor, a nerdish wonk, the kind of dweeb beaten repeatedly for most of his early life is no evil genius or dark figure. Hardly. He's white bread, middle-America haircut material, an eat-your-vegetable-and-hold-your-nose austerity chief. Walker is nothing if not a microcosm of what you get from say a Mitt Romney or Quint from "Jaws" -- Sorry, folks, this place is insolvent; time to suck it up, so we can get your businesses back on a payin' basis.
Which brings us to the money.
The Republican Party and its anti-union interests (13 out-of-state billionaires) poured in a surplus of $30 million with nearly four million contributed to pro-union and Democratic Party brokers, about an 8 to 1 split in favor of the governor. The totals ended up around a cool $62 million to basically put on a show for the nation; big time profits that will do more to yank the state from its morass than anything Walker could have accomplished in a decade.
It was a Mr. Magoo deal; dumbass incompetence falling ass-backwards into riches; a state version of Donald Trump complete with the gibberish.
But aside from opening up the cash coffers and exciting political junkies, the Wisconsin Recall came and went with everything remaining in place; people who want to be are convinced this is a TEA Party victory and have claimed it so, and others have called it the bane of modern draconian politics from the Right, as Bill Clinton did in his brilliantly conniving way the other day when he couched all this Republican austerity with the disasters in Greece, France and Spain; where the entitlement swansong has led to double-digit unemployment and teen rioting.
None of this is true, of course.
The Wisconsin Recall had nothing to do with the all-but dead TEA Party or the new Clintonion "vast right wing conspiracy". It merely made the citizens of the state re-do a vote for the guy they voted for in the first place. Disagreeing with the governance of an official is no reason to rouse up a recall; malfeasance, mental incompetence or blatant disregard for the state constitution, maybe. Otherwise you are assured that a minimum 25 percent of any electorate will be unhappy about the results; in this era, it is well north of 40 percent. It's a bullshit concept and resulted in nothing more than senseless hoo-ha; the cornerstone of political theater. But it was a cash bonanza, so all is forgiven.
And this goofy notion that this is a referendum on any other state's unions or what will happen in the presidential election this November is as asinine as the arguments two months ago about gas prices.
Atavistic one-trick ponies like Walter Russell Mead, acting the part of a 1930s union buster, surmises in The American Interest that "Scott Walker attacked the American labor movement where it lives." Yes, like when Jesse Jackson blathers on about racism in New York City instead of in the South where, if he had any balls, he would set up camp. Let's see this song and dance in Michigan, jack. How about Ohio? This is where the American Labor movement lives and breathes and wields its bloated power. Hacking off health plans for schoolteachers in a cheese state where manufacturing isn't even on the map does not a national referendum make.
But Mead's disjointed partisan claptrap did make one salient point beyond providing an excellent sample of his spectacular naiveté, the Democrats and the Left did pick this fight and it was dumb and it was doomed and by all rights of honest battle, they should pay a price. But they won't.
Maybe Mead and his ilk never heard that all politics is local. The people of Wisconsin, who haven't cast a majority vote for a Republican since 1984, will vote once again for a Democrat, and what goes on in the rust-belt from Pennsylvania through Ohio into Michigan will depend on each state's current standing and the strength of each campaign's ground-level muscle. They are disparate pieces of a larger pie. Ohio -- toss-up -- Pennsylvania -- Democrat -- Michigan -- an interesting twist of Romney home state versus the successful bailout of the auto industry; so far it appears to be a serious lean towards the president.
Walker barely campaigned. He smartly stood his ground and allowed the special interests of the national party brokers; the ones who shoehorned Romney past nickel-and-dimers like Santorum and Gingrich, to fill in the cracks with cash and manpower. The unions received a few appearances by MSNBC and Bill Clinton but were widely ignored by the Wall Street president not wanting to queer his anywhere from five to nine point lead in the state. The idea that this will alienate the important and powerful union lobby for the Democrats in the fall is fantasy, just like the Religious Right staying home or (gulp!) voting for Barack Obama because Romney has a lengthy record as a social liberal.
The national lessons of the Wisconsin Recall is recall away if you want to get some attention and money, but don't expect a different result.
© James Campion June 9th 2012
Republican Establishment Cleans House
Reince Priebus is on the wagon. The RNC chairman's days of drunken violence and crude behavior are behind him. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and the faux conservative uprising of 2010 has been duly defeated.