One attribute of humankind is its capability to be blind to the forest because of all the trees in the way. Such seems to be the case with the recall election yesterday in Wisconsin.
That recall vote was an attempt by Wisconsin’s union-backed democrats to remove Republican governor Scott Walker, his lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four republican state senators from office because of their roles in stripping bargaining rights away from unionized Wisconsin state workers in March of 2011, shortly after Walker took office. Walker claimed that the state budget could not possibly be balanced unless unionized state workers lost their collective bargaining rights. Subsequently, the republican-controlled Wisconsin state legislature passed Walker’s anti-union agenda. That prompted weeks of anti-Walker protests in the state capital of Madison and was the impetus for the recall election.
Before the recall vote, Walker received almost US$31 million, 70% of which came from, among others, large corporations outside of Wisconsin, to his opponent, democrat Tom Barrett’s US$4 million. Walker won the recall vote by a margin of 53% to 46%.
Yet, despite the fact that Walker outspent Barrett by a ration of 7 to 1, his winning margin of 6% wasn’t very much. Put another way, if only 3 1/2% of those voting for Walker had switched their vote to Barrett, Walker would have lost. As a result, it’s fair to say that all that extra cash Walker had over Barrett (US$27 million) bought him just 3 1/2% of the vote, as well as helping lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch win her recall election, too.
Immediately, the GOP started patting itself on the back and making statements about how Wisconsin, which has voted democratic in every presidential election since 1988, is “now a red-leaning state”, as declared last night by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. And while it’s true that the GOP has gotten much better organized in Wisconsin because of this recall election, the GOP is still ignoring some very important facts about the true significance of this recall election.
Most significantly is the fact that they are ignoring that this recall election put the Wisconsin state senate into democratic hands because at least one of the four republican state senators facing a recall vote lost that vote last night. All Walker and the GOP did last night was to maintain the gubernatorial status quo. but they lost control of their state legislature. Walker and his GOP no longer have limitless control of the state government, and that’s huge.
The GOP also LOST in the exit polling regarding voters preference for president and whom they think will do a better job with the economy. According to the exit polling, president Obama beat Mitt Romney by a margin of 51% to 44%. He also beat Romney regarding who would do a better job with the economy by a small but significant margin, and by a more significant margin regarding who would help the middle class more. Thus, it seems that Wisconsin voters were NOT voting for president last night, but instead were voting on an issue which was coated with outside money to the tune of millions of dollars.
That money (vs. reality) is now the ultimate maker and shaker of elections really says something dark and sinister about the evolution of the democratic process, doesn’t it?
Republicans are also celebrating today’s defeat in the US senate of the “”Paycheck Fairness Act,” a pay equity bill designed to guarantee equal pay for equal work regardless of gender. This bill would have fixed some loopholes with the 1963 Equal Pay Act, by requiring employers to to prove that pay differences between employees are based solely on job performance instead of gender. It would also have prevented employers from prohibiting employees from disclosing their respective salaries with each other, and would have allowed women who were discriminated against to sue in court.
The vote in the senate was 52-47 in favor of the bill. That means it failed. And why?
Because every single republican voted against ending debate on the bill, which requires 60 votes. This is the filibuster tactic, which has been used by republicans more in the 3 years since president Obama took office in 2009 than in all of the 220 years of the senate before COMBINED!
The republicans claimed that the bill benefited trial lawyers who would bring frivolous lawsuits forward, the same way they claimed that tort reform is about lowering the cost of health care. What it’s REALLY about is protecting their fat-cat corporate campaign donors against accountability.
But just like in Wisconsin, the GOP is putting their head in the sand and assuming that American voters are doing the same.
Will it work for them in November? That’s a really good question, and a really scary one too…
…considering what their supporters and some really stupid voters love to believe..