Conventional wisdom says Scott Walker will survive is recall election today by about four points. And that … this will have a momentary energizing effect on Republican hyper-partisans from coast to coast …and create in Scott Walker another of the party’s instant ideological heroes — along the lines of Herman Cain. Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry and a handful of others who appeared at first glance to embody everything the new conservative movement regards as right, just and fiscally prudent.
The post-mortem on the union/Democrat loss of this election will focus on the weaker turn out among the anti-Walker forces, the lack of a full-bodied commitment on the part of the national Democrats, Barack Obama’s distance from the fray and … I can hope … the puzzling attitude among certain institutions who viewed the whole recall idea as misguided and inappropriate. Nothing represents this attitude better than the Star Tribune’s Sunday editorial, titled, “Wrongheaded recall divides Wisconsin”. And yes, please note the phrasing of the headline.
It was the recall, not Scott Walker’s policies that divided Wisconsin. I wish I could laugh.
The cliche at moments like this is to huff that, “No one reads papers anymore. Who cares what editorials say.” But that “no one” doesn’t include most people who care enough about important, relevant issues … and therefore read newspapers and blogs and involve themselves in the debates of the day.
The Strib says at one point, “Although we disagree with Walker on bargaining rights and other issues, this is not an endorsement of either candidate in the Wisconsin race. Rather, it’s a rejection of a recall system that should be used to remove corrupt officeholders — not to protest legislation passed by elected representatives.“
Except of course in Wisconsin “should be used” is actually “can be used”, which means that if you do something that so royally pisses off 930,000 eligible voters you do run the risk of a recall election. What both the Strib and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which endorsed Walker in 2010 and again here in 2012 prefer to gloss over is that Walker never mentioned his intention of moving on collective bargaining rights at any time in his campaign. He has flat-out lied that he did, but has never produced a record of doing so in public, where a voter might hear him.
Imagine for a moment a scenario where a liberal candidate spends a year or more running for election, chatting up editorial boards and slapping backs at main street cafes and then upon winning election announces — out of the blue – a full court press for hefty tax increases on upper income voters. He never mentioned anything about it during the campaign … but he has the votes and rams it through. Would the editorial board be as sanguine? Would the phrase “gross abuse of power” be in regular, prominent use once the parties most effected staged their uprising?
The sad fact with most editorial boards is that their default position is something close to corporate-consensus libertarian. Their business model, and the bubble culture they live in, must be inordinately responsive to established business interests, very few of whom care much about collective bargaining or $8000/year pay cuts for middle class government employees. If those employees, most with college educations and professional training, are reduced to the level of less educated/trained private sector workers … all the better. A libertarian world is by definition a Darwinian place.
Also, and this is one of my favorite perspectives, the tweedy world of middle-brow newspaper editorial boards requires a mindset that only recognizes radical behavior among the unwashed — the Occupy kids and your occasional neo-Nazi. Everything else is politics as normal. There are no alarming insurgencies in American politics. Hence the institutional reluctance to describe a phenomenon like Michele Bachmann as “radical”, or “reckless”, or “absurd”. Ditto just about any manifestation of the Tea Party.
To a mainstream, corporate consensus editorial board there is no upside to acknowledging anything radical –much less taking a principled stand against — a major party politician gaming the election process (lack of disclosure of a primary legislative goal) that favorably impacts vested interests.
With Walker safely reaffirmed, we’ll be interested in the consensus attitude toward his nagging “John Doe” scandal.