I think I pretty much said what I had to say about the recall vote in Wisconsin in my previous post. But I have been looking at a lot of commentary and reporting from various sources, and there are just a few quick things I’d like to point out about what happened last night:
1. MONEY TALKS…
If we ever needed to see some concrete evidence that the Citizens United ruling was an affront to the democratic process, this recall election proved it. With Walker’s campaign being funded largely by money that came in from outside the state of Wisconsin, and much of that coming from billionaire donors, it’s clear that the new rules of campaign finance are making it tough for states to protect themselves from outside influence. Should a coal exec from Tulsa, a casino magnate from Las Vegas, or a New York hedge fund boss be in any way involved with shaping the election that affects the lives of Wisconsin’s blue-collar voters? It is the people of Wisconsin who must live with the results of this, or any, state election, but the amount of outside cash that fell into Walker’s lap is extraordinary, giving him an 8-to-1 spending advantage over his Democratic opponent Tom Barrett.
2. …BUT DID PEOPLE REALLY LISTEN?
As tempting as it is to blame big money for the loss Tom Barrett suffered last night, it may be inaccurate to do so. It’s true that money from out-of-state billionaires had no rightful place in this election. But when the results of the vote are broken down, they seem to be nearly identical to the results from Barrett’s last loss to Walker in 2010. The candidate that Wisconsin Democrats chose to represent them in this effort simply didn’t have the voter momentum he needed this time around, any more than he had the last time. Not only that, but polls conducted by CNN indicate that the vast majority of voters – nearly 90% – said they had already made their minds up about who to vote for prior to May, long before the final weeks of ground campaigning and ad buys even happened. These two facts cast doubt on the overall effect that these huge sums of money actually had on the outcome of last night’s vote.
3. TO MANY WISCONSIN VOTERS, “RECALL” IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD
If there is one data point that seems the most significant out of all the information gathered after last night’s vote, this may be it:
“…the Walker success in defeating Barrett and Democrats’ attempt to unseat him may be rooted in voters’ unwillingness to remove a sitting officeholder for political reasons. Just 27 percent of voters said recall elections are appropriate for any reason; Barrett won this bloc 9-to-1. But the vast majority — 60 percent — said recall elections are only appropriate for “official misconduct,” and more than two-thirds of these voters supported Walker.”
– From the National Journal website
It seems that, after the political furor of last year died down somewhat, Wisconsin voters thought this thing over a bit more and decided that the recall option was not necessarily one they were comfortable with. This fact goes a long way toward explaining the seeming inconsistencies between the votes cast for Walker, and the exit poll support for President Obama. For most Wisconsin voters, it seems that it was the recall they were sounding off about, more than about the candidates themselves.
There will be a lot of post-mortem analysis going on during today’s political talk shows, but I think we’re past the point where trying to figure out what this vote means going forward is terribly helpful. As far as I can see, what we’ve learned is the story of how things have gone in Wisconsin over the past year and a half, which is a very different story from the one that will be playing out nationwide between now and November. So, as I said in my previous post, there’s no gloomy forecast for Democrats to take away from the Walker victory. We just need to keep committed to doing what we’re doing, and we’ll be on the right track.