Wednesday, June 06, 2012

thoughts on the recall

So about yesterday's election. Ouch. Not only did Walker win that recall, he won handily (55/44 split, despite polls showing the race being neck-and-neck). It's disappointing and discouraging, certainly a blow to those of us who were hoping he'd get his comeuppance.*

As energized and motivated and organized as we were, I have to admit that Walker had a lot on his side. For one thing, he had time. Once those petitions full of signatures were collected, he made sure the GAB (Government Accountability Board) took as long as possible to validate all the sigs, thus forcing the primary and recall election to happen late in the spring. This made it hard for college students to vote, since many have left for the summer and/or haven't resided in their precincts for the 28 days required under the new Voter ID law. The extra time also deflated people's energy. Voters are tired of this business and maybe decided he isn't so bad after all (how they could come to this conclusion, I don't know).

But the most important advantage Scott Walker had was MONEY. Money talks. Money talks REALLY LOUD in politics, especially since the Citizens United ruling, which allowed special interest money to roll into Wisconsin like a tsunami. There are no limits on the amount of money you can raise for a recall election. I'll say it again. There are no limits on the amount of money you can raise for a recall election. Walker out-spent his opponent Tom Barret 7:1, with most of his $30 million+ coming from extremely rich donors out of state - donors like the Koch brothers and people connected to them.

There were other problems, too. Democrats put a lot of energy into the primary when they shouldn't have. Unions initially supported former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, then had to switch allegiance to Tom Barrett. Barrett then had only 4 weeks between the primary and the recall to get his act together and prove to the state that he could beat Walker (when he lost to him in the 2010 gubernatorial election). In the meantime, Walker's camp had a lot of voters convinced that the protests and toxic political climate of the last 18 months were somehow not the fault of his actions, but those of us who oppose him.

Walker has done a lot of damage already. He has slashed funding to every public program that matters, from education to health care for the poor and disabled, to environmental protection. He has demonized public employees and the unions that represent them. I shudder to think what he will try to accomplish in the next two years now that he has gotten through this recall.

We can't give up, though. I'm cynical enough to believe that politicians will never really be on our side, as long as money is such a big factor in campaigns (and I don't see an end to that any time soon). I've read The People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn and I know that since the U.S. was founded, it has basically been for the rich and by the rich. This will not change.

But you know you what else will not change? My determination to advocate for what's good and just and fair. When I was a union thug (yeah I saw the comments from the anonymous troll who probably failed remedial English and I left them there because I believe in free speech) we had a saying: agitated, educated, organized! At the very least, we have come out of this recall with a grassroots movement that is sure to stick around for a while.

*All is not lost. Scott Walker may yet get his comeuppance. We're pretty sure he is the target of an ongoing John Doe investigation by the FBI. Six people associated with his previous campaign have already been arrested on felony charges, and Walker has assembled a legal defense team using public money...which he's not supposed to do unless he's indicted or under investigation, which he won't admit to. It's complicated, which is probably why this issue didn't play a bigger role in the election. I just hope they nail him on this sooner rather than later.