Wednesday, June 6, 2012


“Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization - an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win - to beat the other guy.” – Vince Lombardi, Famous Guy who used to manage people in Wisconsin before his industry unionized and ran itself into bankruptcy.

Ok, that last part isn’t quite true about the NFL being bankrupted by the existence of unions, but the Famous Guy did say that winning was everything.  For another famous Wisconsinite today, Gov. Scott Walker, winning sure is everything.  He is now wearing the Electoral Immunity Idol around his neck for 2 more years, and rumor has it that nationally with Republicans, his shit doesn’t stink.  Congratulations.  I will go out on a limb and say that his office will not be looking into any claims of rampant voter fraud he predicted would occur.  How could there be fraud if the GOP won, right?

Given my oft-expressed views, many of you have reached out for my opinion on the recall election results.  Some have sought my learned counsel; some my considered opinion; others just wanted to see if I had renounced progressive politics, admitted my ignorance, and curled up in the fetal position outside the White House in a puddle of my own self-pity praying for free health care. 
Hate to disappoint, but I’ll just give my opinion and move on with life.  As part of my personal efficiency and increased productivity project, I will offer my thoughts on the Wisconsin recall and result in this singular forum.  Next comment or questions will receive this link in reply.  It will save time and keep my blood pressure steady, both good goals.

Walker did not campaign on the issue of eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.  That’s the real issue for me.  I believe he planned this power move all along but never revealed his intentions until after his election.  That’s not right.  Walker claimed he was responding to the fiscal crisis that was even worse than he had imagined.  OK, the unions conceded to Walker’s demands for cuts in benefits and compensation to help balance the state budget.  Once the unions agreed to these cuts, Walker showed his true hand.  He then added that collective bargaining rights had to be ended to prevent a future fiscal crisis.

The fact is that he had an agenda to destroy union power, and that, in the wake of the Citizen’s United decision, would leave only corporate money power to rule the government.  The plan from the beginning was to create a plutocracy, and in that sense, mission accomplished.  It should bother everyone that he is so cozy to the Koch Brothers that he can calmly discuss his consideration of salting crowds with agitators to turn public opinion against the labor movement.  That behavior is reprehensible for a public official, and no, it is not a defense to say “he didn’t go through with it”.   This is a guy who relishes his reputation as Mr. Divide and Conquer.  Had Obama said the same thing, the Right would be shouting “Impeach!” 
Follow the money.  When an incumbent wins an election by 7% against a candidate that had 6 weeks to campaign, and was aided by a 7 to 1 campaign spending advantage, it is hard for me to see that as an affirmation of anything except the fact that money talks in politics.  If there is a national lesson in this recall, it’s that political consulting is a growing industry. 

Never impulsively act in anger.   This is a valuable life lesson that the WI Democrats could have used last year.  By engaging in the recall effort, the party risked leaving Walker stronger if they lost.  They lost.  His position is stronger (Walker wins 53% and it’s a mandate for action; Obama wins 53% and it proves that half the country voted against him – crazy!).  Labor is weaker.  There were smarter paths to follow instead of rolling the dice and going all in on a risky recall.  Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.
Be careful what you wish for.  Walker campaigned on a platform that his state’s economy was improving.  If things are really improving in 2012, maybe President Obama is partly responsible, and even if he is not, the perception will be that he is.  A good economy is the worst thing that could happen to the GOP in the fall.  According to Walker, Wisconsin could be fertile ground for Obama’s message of recovery.
Don’t get too giddy, elephant boys.  In exit polling, 18% of those who voted for Walker in the recall said they were voting for Obama in the fall.  There was apparently a vocal minority in WI that objected to a recall election on principle.  These voters felt that a recall was only designed for extraordinary circumstances, such as the arrest and conviction of the governor for selling a Senate seat, or fathering a child with his live-in nanny.  This group did not view Walker’s overreach on union bargaining rights to be worthy of a recall, regardless of their view on the policy.  By the way, while Walker won the governorship, his party lost the Senate to the Democrats.

Union membership has been declining for years, and the Democrats have been slow to evolve their base of support beyond that fixture of 1950s American society.  Republicans may have given new life to an interest group that was dying on its own.  We’ll see if the Democrats can find a new financial base of support as memberships decline, and whether or not the Republicans have overplayed their hand and awakened the worker beast.

One thing is clear – the GOP either does not recognize that the widening wealth gap in this country is a danger to our stability and global competitiveness or they don’t care.  Either way, that scares me.

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