Friday, September 30th, 2016

A Democrat fears the permanent campaign

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Democratic writer Jon Anne Willow has mixed feelings about recalling Governor Scott Walker. Willow is especially concerned about the effect of tit-for-tat recall elections:

Not torn on whether I believe he is a good governor; I don’t. And not torn on whether his policies, however misguided I think them to be, are set with the best interest of the general populace in mind; I believe he is tucked firmly inside the GOP lobby machine.Rather, I am torn about whether this recall race is in the best interest of democracy, and about the precedent this recall could set.

I fear that crucial money and resources will go to this effort at the expense of the incredibly important Assembly and U.S. Senate races in the state. If Democrats re-take the Assembly, there will be a strong base of duly elected officials fighting for Democratic priorities, which will effectively take the Walker machine offline until the next election cycle. Tammy Baldwin is a strong Democrat, but she will need lots of money and soldiers to win; she is not a slam-dunk with statewide voters.

The recall will also draw out in force Republican voters who might not otherwise be motivated until November. In addition, Democratic party and interest money will have to spread across hundreds individual fronts nationwide in the coming year, not to mention the presidential election. Then there’s voter fatigue, and I assert that it is very real, especially since the state Senate recall elections.

Then there’s the question that no one seems to be asking: If we run record numbers of recall races against the currently elected legislature and governor, are we setting a precedent for permanent chaos? In state elections, Wisconsin is not truly Blue; the electorate is almost evenly split along party lines, with a particularly wild cadre of independents. No one side has a clear mandate from the people, at least not at the polls. Going forward, what’s to stop the Republicans from launching recall efforts of their own, countered by more counter-recalls? And if that happens, how long until the last vestiges of democratic process are swept away?

I believe that Walker’s vision for Wisconsin is self-interested and unsustainable, and that Republicans swept the 2010 elections on one Big Idea: that Wisconsin must reduce its spending to balance its budget. There’s no arguing with this, of course. Spending must be reduced dramatically, but not in one budget cycle, and not to the detriment of the many and simultaneous benefit of the few.

Left to run its course, is there not a very good chance that the newly disenfranchised, including some Republicans, will rise up and naturally elect a new governing body that will serve the needs of the majority of the people? And if we don’t believe this, then maybe it’s time to ditch the whole idea that democracy is real.

After the 2008 elections, I remember expressing a little frustration that power in Wisconsin was placed completely in the hands of the Democrats. However, there were very few conservatives calling for a recall of Doyle, and those that did received plenty of criticism on the right (including from me).

It’s a real problem when one political party considers an election result to be illegitimate merely because it wasn’t the result that the party desired. Asking for a “do-over” over a policy difference undermines the idea of a elected representative government. Opening up the election process to continued “do-overs” will eventually make representative government untenable. When that happens, Willow asks the right question, “…how long until the last vestiges of democratic process are swept away?”

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