The results of the Wisconsin recall election were very similar to the first run of this matchup in November 2010, when Scott Walker beat Tom Barrett. This means that the radical right agenda of the GOPers elected in 2010 has not turned off the voters.
How can a government of the 1% receive so much support from the 99%?
In the case of the Wisconsin election, there’s been a lot of finger pointing and speculation post-election: Walker used loose campaign finance rules to overwhelm Barrett financially; Obama didn’t come to Wisconsin; unions didn’t force the collective bargaining issue front and center. And so on.
Yet pre-election polling and Election Day exit polling showed that the vast majority of voters had taken their positions months before the serious campaigning. So, the money and the celebrities made little difference. And people were already as informed on the issues as they wanted to be.
The fact is the radical right is very good at propaganda. They have used race and cultural issues to hold their base and they have used anti-government rhetoric in an era of frustrated economic hopes and resentment to expand that base to majority status.
Walker, even more so than in 2010, ran against Milwaukee and Madison.
His negative ads against Milwaukee Mayor Barrett were actually negative ads against the mayor’s city, equating it with high unemployment, rising property taxes, crime, and poverty. This is the tried-and-true GOP race card because everybody knows Milwaukee has a substantial population of dark-skinned people.
And Madison, of course, is the state capital where privileged bureaucrats earn too much, enjoy too rich benefits, and do too little work.
Walker did not dream up this argument. Even before the 2010 election, on-the-ground research from a University of Wisconsin professor showed that ordinary Wisconsinites outside of Madison had a very negative view of this city of large government office buildings, a fairly high standard of living, and liberal politics. Walker simply exploited an existing bias.
Exit polling showed Walker won the votes of a majority of non-college graduates, along with way too many union households (around 38 percent) in both 2010 and 2012.
Meanwhile, college graduates—the ever-shrinking middle-income households—and the very poor did not vote for Walker.
In other words, way too much of the working class voted for Walker.
We progressive labor people might smugly shake our heads and ask, how can these people vote against their own interests? While some of them are serious cultural conservatives or racists, probably a majority legitimately see themselves as actually voting in their own self interest.
People struggling to get by on $12-15 an hour have to watch every penny. And the Republican message of small government and low taxes resonates every time a worker pays sales tax, property tax, or income tax.
And thanks in part to a gullible or lazy media which dutifully and uncritically repeats GOP propaganda about the eventual demise of Social Security and Medicare, struggling workers have a jaundiced view of their payroll taxes. The Republicans, with their expensive wars and tax giveaways for the wealthy, are certainly not the party of small government and fiscal responsibility, but they have sold their message well.
If progressives hope to regain governing power, they have to win back the “unfriendlies” in the working class, as Mike Amato correctly points out. They might not be able to garner the support of the devoted racists and cultural conservatives, but they can and must win the loyalty of the others.
We can get started right away with the issue of taxes. Not by promising tax cuts, but rather tax fairness. At every level of government in the United States our tax structure is one of the most regressive in the world.
Obama, to his credit, has made some effort to address this by calling for the Buffet rule, which would lift taxes on millionaires, and an end to the Bush tax cuts for the super rich. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton (who I can now publicly admit I could never bring myself to vote for) undermines this push by giving the Republican argument that rolling back these tax cuts would hurt the economy.
As usual, Democrats do not seem to have a coherent and consistent philosophy on matters of important public policy. Nor do they appear to have a plan beyond the next election.
The Republicans clearly do.
Unions and other progressives must push the Democrats or some other vehicle to pursue a coherent and consistent pro-working class agenda, or we will continue to be governed by Walker types and to wring our hands over this state of affairs.
By: Jim Cavanaugh, Labor Notes, June 8, 2012
Last Friday night’s Wisconsin recall election debatebegan a series of bizarre exchanges between Republican Governor Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, over Walker’s attitudes regarding direct democracy.
During this campaign, Walker and his supporters have been harshly critical of those who have sought to recall and remove the governor and his political allies. Though the Wisconsin Constitution is absolutely clear that the reasons for recall elections are to be defined by those who seek them—as opposed to the politicians who would like to restrict the scheduling of accountability votes—the Walker camp has claimed that the recall is an expensive and unnecessary political gambit.
Barrett challenged this spin with a suggestion that Walker is a recall hypocrite.
Referring to Walker during the debate, Barrett said: “He has signed recall petitions, it’s my understanding, against Senator Feingold, against Senator Kohl, not for criminal misbehavior, but because he disagreed with political decisions that were made.”
Walker did not respond immediately. But the next day the governor said, “I have no memory” of signing on for the recall of the Democratic senators when they were targeted in 1997 by anti-abortion groups.
Since organizers of the Feingold-Kohl recall effort say they’re unaware of whether Walker signed, and since the old petitions have been destroyed, this particular debate may remain unresolved.
But there is no question that Scott Walker has spoken enthusiastically about the use of the recall power. Indeed, he attained his previous position as Milwaukee County executive in large part because of a recall initiative. And that initiative clearly delighted him.
Back when he was a state legislator, Walker was an enthusiastic proponent of recall elections—especially in Milwaukee County.
Walker got even more enthusiastic about recalls in 2002, when he became the favored candidate of the group seeking to remove Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament. After Ament resigned, Walker was elected to replace him.
When he ran for governor in 2010, Walker talked up the 2002 recall drive as an exercise in democracy.
Speaking of the Milwaukee County fight, Walker said: “You know the folks that were angry about this started a recall and they were told they needed to collect 73,000 signatures in sixty days. Well, not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands of ordinary people did an extraordinary thing. They stood up and took their government back. In less than thirty days they collected more than 150,000 signatures. It was at that moment I realized the real emotion on display in my county wasn’t just about anger. You see, if it had been about anger, it would have been about people checking out and moving out or giving up. But instead what happened was really amazing. You saw people standing up shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor and saying ‘we want our government back’ And in doing so the real emotion on display was about hope.”
Well, not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands of ordinary people did an extraordinary thing last winter. They have gathered more than 900,000 signatures seeking the recall of Scott Walker, more than 800,000 seeking the recall of Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and close to 100,000 more to recall four Republican state senators. Wisconsinites are again standing up, shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor, and they are saying “we want our government back.”
And, as the United Wisconsin activists who organized and advanced the recall drive will tell you, the real emotion on display across Wisconsin as the recall petitions were gathered last year, and as the recall fight has played out this year, has been about hope for Wisconsin’s future.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, May 29, 2012
“We’re Just Educating Folks”: Koch’s Americans For Prosperity Say They’re Not Supporting Scott Walker In WI Recall
DC-based special interest group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is busing-in out-of-state Tea Partiers and spending millions on advertisements, rallies, and phone banks in the weeks before recall elections for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four state senate seats. But the group founded and funded by New York-based oil billionaire David Koch insists their activities have nothing to do with the campaigns or elections.
“We’re not dealing with any candidates, political parties or ongoing races,” said AFP-Wisconsin Director Scott Hilgemann about AFP’s four-day, ten-city bus tour taking place the week before Wisconsin’s June 5 election.
“We’re just educating folks on the importance of the reforms,” he said.
The “reforms” Hilgemann is referencing include Governor Walker’s contentious attack on public sector collective bargaining and his austerity budget, which AFP touts as having saved taxpayers money — but which Walker’s critics say have crippled public schools and led to Wisconsin being dead last among all 50 states for job growth. Those controversial reforms also compelled over 900,000 people to sign petitions for Walker’s recall.
Since at least November, AFP has staged an aggressive pro-Walker campaign while claiming to be focused merely on promoting Walker’s “reforms” rather than the candidate himself or the recall election. The group has been one of Walker’s top allies since he introduced his divide-and-conquer legislation in February of 2011.
Continuation of AFP “It’s Working!” Campaign
Just as Walker’s opponents started collecting recall signatures in November 2011, AFP began running a series of slick TV and web ads claiming “It’s Working!”, and alleging that Walker’s fiscal policies have been good for the state (while ignoring all the bad news). The campaign has reportedly cost at least $2.9 million so far — nearly three times as much as Walker’s opponent Tom Barrett has raised.
The ads come from the “charitable” side of AFP — the AFP Foundation — which as a charity organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, has an absolute prohibition against intervening in political campaigns. The ads were produced in collaboration with another 501(c)(3), the Bradley Foundation-funded MacIver Institute, which has the same prohibition. As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, the ads push the envelope on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules about nonprofit participation in political campaigns, never mentioning Walker or the election but advancing a message consistent with Walker’s electoral strategy.
The AFP-Foundation and MacIver “It’s Working!” campaign has also included a series of townhall events across the state in November and December to have a “respectful discussion on why we must maintain the reforms that have saved hundreds of millions for Wisconsin taxpayers,” according to an AFP press release. The implication is clear — the election of a governor other than Walker would threaten the “reforms,” and his reelection would maintain them. And according to AFP, “we must maintain the reforms.”
But, AFP claims the campaign is not about the elections — indeed, if it were, the organization could lose its nonprofit status.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign believes the AFP / MacIver ads really are about the elections, and filed a complaint with the IRS accusing the groups of violating IRS rules.
“Stand With Walker”
In February and March of last year, hundreds of thousands of people occupied and marched on the capital in protest of Governor Walker’s policies, including his Act 10 proposal to limit public sector collective bargaining. At the start of the uprising’s second week, Walker accepted a phone call from a person he believed to be David Koch, who asked how the governor’s efforts to “crush that union” were going. The caller was actually Buffalo Beast blogger Ian Murphy, who recorded and publicized the conversation. Among other things, Walker asked that Koch have “his guy on the ground” – presumably an Americans for Prosperity leader – organize rallies and encourage people “to call lawmakers and tell them to hang firm with the governor.”
Regardless of how AFP received the request for help, the group seemed to have met Walker’s request. The same day that Walker chatted with the fake David Koch, Koch’s AFP began running “Stand With Walker” TV ads across the state, along with promoting a pro-Walker petition. As the anti-Walker protests heated up, AFP launched a “Stand With Walker” website and a “Stand With Walker Wisconsin Bus Tour,” and organized a “Stand With Walker” counter-rally at the state capitol.
Not about the Election?
In 2012, AFP appears to be ramping-up its campaign to aid Walker as his recall election grows near. AFP kicks off the “A Better Wisconsin Bus Tour” in Waukesha on May 30, visiting ten Wisconsin cities before rendezvousing in Racine with out-of-state AFP members. As part of the tour, 70 staff members will be recruiting volunteers to call voters and canvass neighborhoods. In recent weeks, the group has also been organizing phone banks.
Although Governor Walker likes to complain that out-of-state union bosses are behind his recall, AFP has been recruiting plenty of support for Walker from outside Wisconsin. State AFP chapters around the country have been organizing organizing “Freedom Phone” phonebanks for “patriots throughout the nation” to make phone calls into Wisconsin to tell Wisconsin residents to “support the Wisconsin reforms.” The AFP chapter in Illinois is busing out-of-staters “to rally and canvass neighborhoods in [Racine] Wisconsin on June 2″ (three days before the election) to “make our voices heard in support of the Wisconsin reforms.” The effort appears to be well-funded — attendees are charged cost only $5 for a round-trip bus ticket with lunch and dinner provided. By comparison, a round-trip commercial bus ticket from Racine to Chicago would cost $47, lunch and dinner not included.
AFP-Wisconsin’s director insists the effort has nothing to do “with any candidates, political parties or ongoing races,” despite photos from recent events prominently displaying pro-Walker campaign propaganda and one of AFP’s top field coordinators being a current Vice-Chair and Executive Board Member of the Winnebago County Republican Party. Additionally, many AFP staffers have long ties to the GOP, such as AFP Director Luke Hilgemann, who until recently worked as Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder’s Chief of Staff.
It is not clear whether the bus tour, phone banks, and canvassing are operating via the 501(c)(3) AFP-Foundation, which is officially prohibited from any political campaign activity, or through AFP’s 501(c)(4) wing, which can participate in a limited amount of election work, but cannot act as a Political Action Committee.
Regardless of which AFP wing is advancing the campaign, it stretches the imagination to believe AFP’s claims that organizing bus tours, phone banks, TV ads and out-of-state canvassers — in the weeks and months before the election — has nothing to do with the election. Particularly when AFP chair David Koch, who has not given any money directly to Walker’s recall campaign fund, has recently said “we’re helping [Walker], as we should” and “we’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.”
BY: Brendan Fischer, Center For Media and Democracy, May 27, 2012
Unions in Wisconsin made history by mobilizing the recall against Gov. Scott Walker, but it’s too soon to say whether the state will follow through and kick him to the curb. One thing that could work in his favor: The inability of some of the state’s powerful unions to consolidate behind a Democratic candidate to oppose him. Having come this far, some labor activists now question whether the best way to flex their muscle is to sit out the election altogether.
This is the drama unfolding at the Teaching Assistants Association, which represents graduate students and project assistants from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. No union is more identified with the anti-Walker mobilization. Days after he introduced his bill to gut collective bargaining, TAA members showed up at the state capitol, sleeping bags in hand, and kicked off what became a 16-day occupation. That emboldened Democratic senators to flee the state to deny Walker a quorum – bringing national media attention to the controversy.
Now a month before the May 8 primary, two Democrats, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, are neck-and-neck at the front of the pack. And TAA members are split on what to do about it.
At issue is whether the union should support a candidate who hasn’t pledged to restore cuts to public workers’ wages and benefits — one of the criteria the TAA originally listed as a a prerequisite for an endorsement. Falk, who entered the race in January, is the only candidate who has pledged to veto any budget that doesn’t restore collective bargaining rights. But she also frequently touts the $10 million in concessions that she secured in negotiations with local unions as county executive. Barrett, who entered the race Friday, is more problematic when it comes to cuts: Last year, as the debate over collective bargaining raged, he told a conservative radio host that he opposed Walker’s collective bargaining changes but supported his proposed cuts.
“While Barrett was positioning himself as Walker-lite to the right-wing radio audience, Kathleen Falk was in court suing the state Senate for violating the state’s open meetings law,” says Mike Amato, the chairman of TAA’s Political Education Committee. Amato’s committee voted unanimously to recommend that the membership get behind Falk in February, but the rest of the union hasn’t accepted the advice. It voted in March to remove the endorsement conditions, but still did not endorse Falk.
Some now argue that it is better for the union to endorse no one rather than compromise on its principles. TAA’s co-president, Adrienne Pagac, says the union should have left the endorsement conditions in place. “Some people were frightened that it was asking too much … Are we asking too much when we say we just want back what we had when Governor Walker came into office?” Pagac says. Falk’s boasts about Dane County make her worry that, as governor, Falk would join Democrats like New York’s Andrew Cuomo in shortchanging workers rather than asking the wealthy to make sacrifices.
Amato says that, while he supported the “No cuts” call at the capitol last year, reversing year-old concessions is the wrong place to draw a line in the sand. “Were she to say that she would restore every cut to every union … that would doom her candidacy, and on June 6 we would have Walker in the governor’s office,” he says. “I think we absolutely have to make sure that we defeat Walker.”
Pagac counters that a Falk endorsement would preserve political incentives that push candidates to the middle of the road while leaving unions under the bus. “The labor movement has become a fine-tuned machine in terms of being able to turn out voters …” says Pagac. “Organizing workers takes a lot longer.” If unions are strong enough, she says, “it doesn’t matter what political party is in office, because you have the ability to use that power, the power that you have in the workplace, to extract wins from your employer and the state.”
Amato says “one of the false ideas” held by some TAA members is that there’s “a zero-sum relationship where we have to do workplace organizing or political organizing.” Rather, he says, political activism is an opportunity to engage more members in the union. He worries that sitting out the election will hurt the union’s relevance, and will send the wrong message to others who occupied the capitol: “As an organization that is looked to for leadership, we have a responsibility to lead.” He also worries that rejecting Falk for excessive moderation could hand the primary to Barrett. “The idea that we’ve come this far and then we’re going to sit out the election boggles my mind.”
The TAA membership will meet again next Thursday. Amato says he doesn’t know whether he’ll revive the motion to endorse Falk. “It’s become a really contentious issue,” says Amato, “and I think a lot of us are starting to question how hard we’re going to push on it. I think it will absolutely be a big mistake if we don’t endorse Kathleen Falk.” But if both sides remain adamant, says Amato, “I also don’t think it’s worth tearing apart the union.”
By: Josh Eidelson, Salon, April 5, 2012
America is almost four weeks into the voting stage of the Republican presidential race. The candidates are debating. The media is covering the competition 24/7, and in such minute detail that Rick Perry’s quitting of the contest was treated as news. And Republicans in three states have caucused and voted in numbers that party leaders, pundits and the talk-radio amen corner tell us are significant.
Yet at the same time, those same party leaders, pundits and radio talkers continue to dismiss the movement to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as a false construct with little real hope of prevailing.
Fair enough, let’s compare.
Since January 3, Republican caucuses have been held in Iowa (with an electorate of 2,231,589), and Republican primaries have been held in New Hampshire (electorate of 998,799) and South Carolina (electorate of 3,385,224).
That adds up to a total electorate of 6,615,612 in the trio of first- (and second- and third-) in-the-nation states.
That adds up to a total turnout of 971,093, or about 14.5 percent of the possible voters in the three states.
And what of Wisconsin?
The state has an electorate of 4,170,501.
The United Wisconsin petition drive to recall anti-labor Governor Scott Walker collected significantly more than 1 million signatures.
Rounding to a million, that’s about 23.9 percent of the possible voters in the state.
So here’s what we know:
1. If you add up all the caucus and primary votes that have been cast so far for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, the former Rick Perry, the former Jon Huntsman, the former Michele Bachmann and the eternal Buddy Roemer, they still have not attracted as much support as has the drive to recall Scott Walker.
2. If you compare the percentage of the electorate in the three caucus and primary states that has expressed support for all the Republicans who would be president, it is dramatically lower than the percentage of the Wisconsin electorate that wants to recall Scott Walker.
3. If you add the total number of names on petitions filed January 17 to recall other Republicans in Wisconsin—Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald and three of Fitzgerald’s colleagues—the total number of signatures filed in support of the recall of Walker and his cronies is close to 1,940,000. That figure is just about double the number of votes cast in all the Republican presidential contests for all the Republican presidential candidates so far this year.
Conclusion: if the Republican presidential race is a serious endeavor, the Wisconsin drive to recall Scott Walker, Rebecca Kleefisch, Scott Fitzgerald and their compatriots is doubly serious. And far, far more popular with the available electorate.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, January 28, 2012