Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Ground Game

Michael Tomasky, with some back-up from alleged moderate David Frum, have it right on the reasons for the Walker recall vote. But he misses the point.

I never got very invested in the recall Walker movement. I was cheering for the other outcome, obviously, but I always figured recalling a governor after just two years in office when he's not accused of a crime is a pretty tall order. You see I didn't write that much about it. The margin of Walker's win is a little surprising, but then, he outspent the other side six or seven to one.

As Frum notes over on his blog, the outcome points to a bleak future for public-employee unions, where the next decade will likely see "its pay relentlessly ground down, as private sector pay has been ground down over the decade past." The scope of this loss ought to make these unions and the Democratic Party think twice about what their long-term strategy is going to be here. They're not going to win recall elections against governors who do things they don't like, and even Democratic governors are going after their benefits. It's a terrible thing that the pressure on all wages (except for the top 5 percent or so) is downward, and that private and public employees making, say, $45,000 a year are being pitted against each other, but that's the situation.

Both have begged the question (Tomasky admits that's not what interested him about the recall): why is this so?

How have conservatives so effectively purchased the heart and minds of the average Republican voter as to convince them to be angry at the nurse who takes home $50,000 but to worship the hospital CEO who takes home ten or even twenty times that, nevermind the HMO head who takes home a hundred times that who exploit them for profit?

In Tomasky's defense-- and I've followed his writings since his days at the Village Voice, so I know whereof I speak-- he's a stellar reporter who does amazing work uncovering facts and digging for truth. This kind of analysis is not in his wheelhouse.

But Frum, a political hack who's probably sat in on more "strategerey" sessions than I've had hot meal, ought to be a bit more candid about how this has happened.

After all, he sat in the same room as Karl Rove for years.

A telling stat in Tomasky's piece was the exit poll question where 17% of Obama supporters voted for Walker. Obama was particularly quiet on the vote, and my suspicion is his private polling put the results in less doubt than the public polling. No sense wasting precious political capital on a quixotic venture.

The theory is that recall elections without an actual criminal allegation hanging over the incumbent's head are hard to justify-- Gray Davis had his own issues with a then-popular celebrity leading the charge-- and that these 17% agreed that Walker should be given his legally-won term.

Fair's fair. And there's no guarantee they'll vote for him in 2014. They, like many in 1998, simply felt the complaints lodged didn't rise to a level commensurate with removal from office.

But move that 17% from the Republicans to the Democratic incumbent in November, and the election in Wisconsin becomes an Obama mandate. Too, Walker may have lost the state senate, which is a sign that the support for Walker personally is woefully weak.
The analysis you're going to hear all day is two-fold: Obama will lose Wisconsin (already shown that won't be the case) and unions in this country are dead.
That last may be a bit more true, but there's a problem with that analysis and it begs yet another question.
See, it ignores the fact that the recall took place in the first place. Yes, Walker won and yes, by a large margin, but that doesn't mean it's an endorsement of his first term as much as it's a "leave the guy alone, let him finish it out." There are two points to be made there: one, he won't be nearly as cocky and aggressive (especially if he loses the Senate) since the theme is out there that he's a brutal tin-pot dictator and second, he now knows he has a lot less time to set up his re-election effort and a lot less support.
And I'm not sure he's going to run again. He may have become so politically damaged in this recall that he confronts himself and decides to run for Senate, thus bowing gracefully out of a job he almost got kicked out of. Remember, he's only the third sitting Governor to be recalled. That's not a feather in his cap that he won: it's an albatross around his neck that he was even recalled. To allow himself to be defeated in re-election is a surefire way to shatter any potential future in politics.
I realize that I've begged the whole "why did this happen?" question as well. The short answer is, I haven't given it enough thought, but I do know one thing.
Every conservative that I come across who gloats about the "death of unions" will be asked the question I asked earlier.
How can you be so angry at the nurse who takes home $50,000 but worship the hospital CEO who takes home ten or even twenty times that, nevermind the HMO head who takes home a hundred times that, who exploits you for profit?