A decisive loss last week in the gubernatorial recall contest has left Democrats scrambling for explanations.
U.S. Congressman Ron Kind explained that voters believed recalls should have been reserved for officials charged with crimes. State Assembly Leader Peter Barca was more specific stating that people didn’t feel comfortable recalling a sitting governor. And U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, attributed Barrett’s loss - not to the success of Governor Walker’s reforms - but to his nearly unlimited ability to amass large sums of outstate cash.
These are not unreasonable conclusions to draw, but to believe that Walker won the election only because of his fundraising prowess or because of public disinterest in recall elections is what my grandfather would call phony-baloney.
To be sure, more than $100 million was spent advocating for one side or the other. Yes, Walker had a 7:1 fundraising advantage, but the voters of Wisconsin knew the issues well before Walker took to the airwaves. Big labor had used their deep pockets to slam Walker for months while signatures were still being collected - before Walker knew which challenger to face.
As Marquette pollster and political scientist Charles Franklin put it, “There is a point of diminishing returns [from campaign spending]. At that kind of dollar value, you’ve surely reached that point.” So do oversimplify Walker’s victory as just a money issue is wishful thinking designed to protect, among other things, the fractured ego of the Democratic Party.
Recall fever in Wisconsin set a despicable precedent for the nation and for a newer generation of Wisconsin politicos. The public didn’t want it, but it didn't matter. In a fit of anger, labor unions targeted Walker for taking aim at their ability bargain collectively. Unsurprisingly, Democrats wait until after the recall elections to concede the point that the public didn’t want a perpetual election cycle.
They should have been considerate about what the public wanted before thrusting the state into a political whirlwind that only widened the political divide. Their willingness of some Democrats to come to their senses after the fact is similar to children fighting before mommy tells them to stop. Usually, the child who gets the last hit in is the most likely to agree with mom’s new “no fighting” decree.
Now that Democrats have regained control of the State Senate, they seem to have a better understanding of the public's aversion to recalls. Do Republicans get the chance to come to a better understanding, or it only okay for Democrats to have a $20 million conniption fit? Mike Tate, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said at the Democratic Convention that some things are worth losing for. That's easy to say when you're spending other people's money.