Well, I see Wisconsin is starting to set dates for its recall elections. The news doesn’t thrill me. In fact, if I were a Wisconsin citizen, I would have to take a barf bag to the ballot box, and vote for Governor Scott Walker and his legislative supporters to keep their jobs.
I disagree with Governor Walker on just about every issue. I think he badly overstepped last year when he led his state like it was a flaming red Mississippi, instead of a moderate purple Wisconsin.
And I think he should keep his job, until his term is up.
Don’t get me wrong. It would feel very satisfying to watch Scott Walker wheeling file boxes full of Koch Brothers’ playbooks out of Wisconsin’s beautiful Capitol Building. But taking the long view, holding recalls over policy disagreements is a very bad idea.
Look, the guy didn’t commit a felony. He didn’t even commit a misdemeanor. He disagreed with me, and lots of his fellow Wisconites. And you know what? Disagreement is allowed in democracies.
As encouraging as it has been to see a million cheese heads rise up against naked corporate cronyism, I hate the precedent here. If we start recalling politicians every time the majority has a mid-term policy disagreement with a leader, two things are likely to happen. First, our democracy will get even more unstable and chaotic than it is today. Second, our leaders will get even more cautious and incremental than they already are, for fear that policy boldness will land them in an $80 million recall election.
To my friends on the left, how would you feel about President Obama being recalled for passing the Affordable Care Act, or Governor Dayton being recalled for pushing for higher taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans? Those policies are as unpopular on the right as banning collective bargaining is on the left. But shouldn’t Obama and Dayton be able to move forward if they can assemble enough supportive votes in the duly elected legislative body? Well then, shouldn’t Governor Walker too?
Consider this: In the middle of the 2008-2009 economic meltdown, President Obama and his congressional supporters made an extremely unpopular decision to give financial assistance to automakers. At that time, 54% of Americans said this policy was “bad for the economy,” and many felt it was an alarming move toward socialism. But since Obama was allowed to serve a whole term, the policy was implemented. After seeing the policy play out, today 56% of Americans now believe it was “good for the economy.”
Fortunately, we Americans have a built-in means of expressing disapproval over policy disagreements. It’s called regular elections. It’s called making judgements based on an entire term’s body of work, rather than on snap judgements about single issues. I understand that means Badgers would have to suffer through an entire four-year term of Governor Walker and his legislative supporters. But that’s the way this representative democracy gig is supposed to work.
So enough with the constant calls for mid-term recalls, and resignations, as we have recently seen in Minnesota in the case of Representative Mary Franson. In a democracy, an honest policy disagreement in the middle of a term is cause for us to vigorously rebut, organize, and protest. But in a healthy representative democracy, an honest mid-term policy disagreement should not be a fireable offense.