Today’s FYI: My final take on Walker and Wisconsin

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:


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.


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.


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.


10 thoughts on “Today’s FYI: My final take on Walker and Wisconsin

    • Thanks – I didn’t really have much to say on this topic before the vote, but the aftermath is very interesting to me for some reason.

  1. I agree that Citizens United was about the dumbest decision made by a Supreme Court. It already took too much money to get elected; now it is obscene. I live in NC and I received a campaign funding request for Elizabeth Warren, whom I adore. Yet, it does not seem right for me to try and influence an election in Massachusetts.

    The Walker issue is an interesting one. He should not get any credit for style points with his heavy-handedness. But, he addressed an issue that will impact more and more states and local governments. With our aging workforce and huge promised retirement benefits for governmental employees, we have a ticking time bomb. This is a major problem for Greece which is older.

    Now he went about it in a poor way and should have had more dialogue, but financially he got the state to a better place. The economic crisis will affect cities and states more than our country. Harrisburg, PA, Birmingham, AL both filed for bankruptcy. Detroit is in deep doo doo and California has some major issues. I think that is why he got reelected as he cut expsenses and offered a tax reduction.

    I don’t agree with his approach, but I understand why he did what he did.

    • I have to say i agree with your take on the Walker situation. I know I won’t get any progressive cred points for saying so, but there was an element of necessity in addressing the economic realities facing the public sector in Wisconsin. He absolutely overstepped his boundaries and went for the kill, instead of attempting to work with the unions as he should have. But I also think some of the unions need to check themselves a bit as well. With things the way they are and people in the private sector hurting all over, it is not feasible to resist the idea of sharing the sacrifice a little bit more than they had been.

      • I agree Chris. This is why we need bi-partsian dialogue around issues of import. There will be buy-in to what is needed and less grandstanding.

    • Thanks, John! I got a little Wisconsin-centric up in here today, but I think I’ve finally gotten it all out of my system now. 🙂

    • Don’t know what will happen in November, but I do know nobody ever went broke betting on the stupidity of human beings, so you never can tell…

  2. Pingback: June 6th, 2012 « TedsPolitics.Com

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