#413 – Dick Bernard: V-Day. The Wisconsin Recall Elections

5:30 a.m. August 9, 2011: Shortly, the polls open in Wisconsin, 15 miles or so from where I sit in eastern Minnesota. One of the people up for recall is the incumbent Republican Senator from just across the border so we have seen, at least, the TV ads. There is huge amount of outside money in these races.
The issues are unique to Wisconsin, but impact on us all.
Recalls are very difficult to win, especially when there are a lot of them at the same time.
Whatever results are announced later today will have meaning, and the meaning will be attached to them and heavily publicized by this or that political interest.
It will be an interesting evening tonight.
8:15 p.m. CDT. Apparently a huge turnout, but no predictions as of this point in time. Huge turnout means a huge amount of concern and a huge amount of on-the-ground organizing.
Stay tuned.
More, later.
5:15 a.m. CDT August 10. I have yet to read anything about yesterday’s election, but it appears that only two Wisconsin Senate seats turned Democrat from Republican in yesterday’s Recall election. Three were needed to retake control of the Wisconsin State Senate. Two more Senate Recall elections are next week, both seats held by Democrats. The Wisconsin Senate will remain Republican.
Everyone with an interest in politics will have an opinion.
Here’s mine, as a retired union organizer.
The outcome in Wisconsin does not surprise me.
It is no cause for celebration by the Republicans (though that is how it probably will be ‘spun’ – and everything is ‘spun’ these days).
There may even be a bit of collective wisdom at work across the border: recalls are a very unusual and rarely used process, and here were nine of them taking place at once in a single state. People all have their own reasons for voting, or not voting at all, so I won’t try to divine those notions. But what happened could well reflect a certain amount of common sense, as in “we made a mistake in November, 2010, but we’re not ready to compound our mistake by making another impulsive decision.” On the other hand, there have been formidable organizing efforts, and those are very helpful for future change.
People in Wisconsin probably didn’t really know the issues and the implications of sloppy political participation in the Fall of 2010. They do, now.
It’s just a thought.
As a Minnesotan, I didn’t “invest” much in the Wisconsin race. I sent $50 to the teacher’s union back in March, and I recall giving $24 to the Wisconsin Democratic party about the same time. Both were simple expressions of support in recognition of difficult times.
I didn’t drive the half hour to Wisconsin to help in organizing. From the beginning I saw Wisconsin as a local (state) issue best resolved by the residents of that state. I still feel that way.
I didn’t predict the outcome. (I didn’t notice many reporters predicting the outcome, though the turnout was heavy.)
In my judgment, Gov. Scott Walker and the new Republican majority did a huge amount of damage to working people in their first six months in office, particularly to public unions. But they did all of their damage before the elections were held, and even if all of the six recalls had been successful, and the two next week had failed, only the control of the Wisconsin Senate would have been changed. There were no challenges in the Republican House, and, of course, Gov. Walker is not open to challenge until January, 2012.
So, the status quo remains…or does it?
If there is such a thing as a warning shot across the bow of a political party in control of everything, yesterday’s results in nearby Wisconsin were such a warning: a very near miss.
The Republicans will make ‘victory’ talk. But there was little to feel victorious about yesterday.
Their future, in particular those who embrace the Tea Party philosophy, is very much in doubt…and they have already done most of the damage that they can do.
4:10 p.m. CDT August 10, 2011: Random thoughts through today. The Democrats “loss” to the Republicans in Wisconsin yesterday create far greater problems for the Republicans, and many opportunities for Democrats. There are many ‘for instances’, most of which are missed by the major media and by those licking their wounds after having their heart set on a clean ‘win’.
In the first place, through the rest of the Wisconsin biennium, the Republicans can not blame the Democrats for obstruction in the Senate. The Republicans control both houses and the governorship. Whatever record they generate from here on will, along with what they accomplished in the first eight months, be the record that they have to run on, and they’ll have to run in front of a much more informed and engaged population than in 2010.
In addition, the spotlight has been turned on the wealthy interests who bank-rolled the Republican success, the true interests of those rich and powerful folks and big business, and on the assorted ways in which these interests manipulated and used the common folks in groups like the Tea Party. It is all a bit like the Wizard of Oz being exposed for the fraud that he was.
So, rather than bemoaning the outcome, the best advice is to use this as a learning opportunity, and use the coming year to rebuild a true democracy in our states and nation. It can be done.

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