Monday, August 19th, 2019

Winter of discontent


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jan 19, 2012; Section:Opinion; Page Number:6A    

Winter of discontent
No case for the Walker recall
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

    Now is the winter of our discontent, as Shakespeare wrote. With the falling snow came a political chill that will take Wisconsin long to shrug off, long after the snow has melted over many springs.

    On Tuesday, recall organizers brought over 1 million petition signatures to Madison to recall Gov. Scott Walker. It is an impressive accomplishment, regardless of how many paid operatives the Democrats and the unions employed in the effort. It was an impressive effort regardless of how many Mickey Mouse and Goofy signatures there are.

    It is an impressive accomplishment.

    To put it into perspective, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett received a little over a million votes in the 2010 gubernatorial election, and Walker received 120,000 more. Wisconsin only has a population of 5.6 million.

    Our friends at Media Trackers reminds us that in the recent Ohio referendum that set back reform efforts there, 27 percent of the signatures turned in were fraudulent. Even assuming a 33 percent error rate to account for One Wisconsin Now’s announcement that it was OK to sign more than one recall petition, it’s likely we will have a recall election.

    Lucky for us that Walker’s reforms have brought Wisconsin back from the financial brink so we can afford the minimum $9 million the referendum will cost. With a Democratic primary, the price tag could be $18 million or more.

    In addition to the governor, Democrats turned in what are likely to be sufficient signatures for recall elections for four state senators: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Sen. Terry Moulton, Sen. Van Wanggaard, and Sen. Pam Galloway. Wanggaard may be the most vulnerable, although it would be ironic if he were recalled for not wanting higher taxes. The recall age began with the recall of one of Wanggaard’s predecessors in the Senate district, George Petak, who voted for a tax increase to build Miller Park.

    Recall organizers also turned in over 800,000 signatures to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

    All this happened on a day when, ironically, the city of Sheboygan showed why the recall law exists. Mayor Bob Ryan’s behavior while drinking and a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former human resources director caused many in that community to want to get rid of him. Unfortunately, just throwing him out of office might be problematic because alcoholism could be considered a disability. Ryan threatened to sue the city if the aldermen removed him.

    So a recall election is being held. Ryan survived the primary Tuesday night but has a tough challenger in the general election. Ultimately, the voters will decide whether Ryan’s conduct is at the level that they cannot tolerate him serving out his full term.

    Notice that it is Ryan’s personal conduct that is the issue, not a matter of policy.

    A number of Democrats think it is ironic that Republicans are so opposed to the recall of Walker when Walker himself became the Milwaukee County executive when Tom Ament resigned before he could be recalled.

    What those Democrats are forgetting is that the policy question that set off the recalls in Milwaukee County, the “sweetener” in the pension payouts for county employees, personally benefitted Ament. Beyond a disagreement over policy and what was best for Milwaukee County, the issue of the recall was a question of whether Ament and some members of the County Board were engaged in an underhanded form of graft to enrich themselves at the taxpayers’ expense.

    But what is the question that so drives the recall efforts against Walker, Kleefisch and the state senators? Not any question of whether they personally benefitted from some government expenditure.

    So Wisconsin is again looking at a recall situation like last year when four Republicans survived recalls because their personal conduct was not in question. While the scale of gubernatorial recall is unprecedented in Wisconsin, the question remains the same.

    Has Walker in some way violated the public trust? The answer is of course not, and we hope that this winter of discontent gives way to a glorious summer when the recalls are defeated.

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