By Shannon Brown / current.com
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker narrowly survived a recall attempt last night, after over a year of upheaval in his deeply divided state. The GOP stalwart and Koch Brothers protege has been a target of the left since his efforts to dismantle union rights and protections after his election in November of 2010.
At the Washington Post blog The Fix, Chris Cillizza says that Scott Walker won the recall effort not because of his own merits, but rather because a host of factors divided voters and party officials on the left, and left undecided voters feeling the governor deserved the benefit of the doubt:
As the recall played out, two things became clear: 1) There were almost no one undecided in the race and 2) those few souls who were undecided tended to resist the recall effort on the grounds that Walker had just been elected in 2010.
The sentiment among those undecided voters, according to several Democrats closely monitoring the data, was that while they didn't love Walker they thought he deserved a full term before passing final judgment on how he was performing.
That Democrats nominated Barrett — the same man who Walker had defeated in the 2010 general election — added to the sense among independents and undecided voters that this was primarily a partisan push to re-do a race in which they didn't like the final result.
Josh Eidelson, at Salon, wonders whether unions, even more than the Democratic party, can ever bounce back from such a crushing defeat:
In Wisconsin, what long seemed stable — the political and legal support for workers' right to negotiate with their boss — turned out, when tested, to be precarious. That's not the only place that's happened to unions recently. When Boeing managers bragged about retaliation for strikes, fury from Republicans, complicity from Democrats, and the rusty wheels of the National Labor Relations Board conspired to leave the workers in the lurch. As more employers have been locking out their unionized employees — denying them work until they accepted concessions — workers have found that just having a union contract isn't enough to keep your boss at bay.
At The Daily Beast, John Avlon agrees that the real losers of the recall elections are the workers of Wisconsin and U.S. labor unions in general:
Wisconsin ended up feeling a little like Waterloo for the labor unions that saw Scott Walker's collective bargaining reforms as an existential threat.ˇFor all the vaunted Get Out the Vote operations offered by Big Labor, they were not able to inspire independents and middle-class voters to rally to their side.ˇThe "war on workers" rhetoric doesn't seem to be working.ˇInstead, voters earning between $30,000 and $100,000 went for Scott Walker.
Politico's Glenn Thrush sees union weakness in the elections results, but notes that the real takeaway from Walker's win is that big money now shouts, even in local and statewide elections:
Walker, exploiting a loophole that allowed him to hoard cash months ago, out-raised Barrett, a pathetic fundraiser who turned out to the political equivalent of the Milwaukee Bucks, by a TEN-TO-ONE margin, $30 million to $4 million. This was the first purely Citizens United Election — and in that regard it should send a chill through Chicago and everywhere else Democrats are counting their pennies or begging Jeffrey Katzenberg to please, please, please save us.
Democrats seemed stunned and addled. A flack for AFSCME predicted, in the hours before the polls closed, that Wisconsin would be all about "turnout" and get-out-the-vote efforts.
It was about ad spending. And how does that bode for the presidential race? Obama's Chicago brain trust is relying on field organizing, Romney's Boston headquarters looks like an ad firm.
Monica Davey at The New York Times does find one bright spot for progressives amid the gloom of the morning after:
Democrats declared Mr. Lehman the winner, saying that gives them a 17-to-16 majority in the Senate, which would make it the only chamber in Madison that Democrats control. But a recount also seemed conceivable, and Mr. Wanggaard had not conceded by morning. (Under state law, a losing candidate may request a recount, though who pays for it depends on the size of the margin between the candidates.)
The end of the election doesn't seem to promise an end to the partisan rancor, however, points out The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire:
An ugly political fight in Wisconsin got a little uglier, and stranger, Tuesday night. A woman appeared to slap Milwaukee MayorˇTom Barrettˇafter he conceded to Gov. Scott Walkerˇin Tuesday night's recall election, according to local video.
A local ABC affiliate, WISN-TV, reported the woman was upsetˇwith Mr. Barrett for conceding while people were still trying to vote. While Mr. Barrett had trailed in polls leading up to the election, early exit polls out Tuesday night had indicated a close race, but Mr. Walker ended up winning comfortably.
(Photo: Getty Images)