Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the recall gubernatorial election campaign over his Democratic Party rival is being read like tea leaves with regard to the national presidential campaign. This argument from the local to the national is always an error, and there are many reasons to believe that the results in Wisconsin tell us very little about the national mood. The telling exit poll is here So here are the reasons otherwise disheartened Democrats might take heart.
1. 51% of voters in the recall support Barack Obama, only 44% support Mitt Romney.
2. Democrat Tom Barrett’s loss and the damage done the labor union movement may scare and therefore mobilize Democratic voters in the fall.
3. While the Democratic Party and labor suffered a defeat, the radical Republican agenda promoted by the Koch brothers through Walker energized crowd politics and made a link between Wisconsin and Egypt’s Tahrir Square protesters, boding well for activism on the left going forward.
4. Too much should not be read into Walker’s victory. About 10% of Wisconsin voters do not believe in recalls. In addition, some 60% of Wisconsin voters said in exit polls that they did not believe a recall should be used against a governor for anything less than criminal misconduct. No one alleged that Walker is corrupt in a criminal way, despite his clear dependence on Koch brother campaign monies. That is, the recall effort, being based on politics rather than corruption, offended the state political culture.
5. 51% of voters in the recall support labor unions in general, but a majority of the voters approved of the end of collective bargaining rights for state employees in particular. The vote wasn’t about labor, but about the relationship of Wisonsins to their government workers, including teachers, etc.
6. Only 35% of the voters in the recall identified themselves as conservatives
7. Walker and co. spent $45.6 million on his campaign by May 21, whereas challenger Tom Barrett and his supporters only spent $17.9 million. And 2/3s of Walker’s money came from outside the state. There won’t be that kind of disparity in campaign financing in the national election.
8. Barrett had already lost big to Walker in 2010, getting only 36% of the vote. He just isn’t that popular on a statewide basis and the Dems were foolish to have him lead the recall effort.
9. It may be that John Lehman won his race for the Wisconsin Senate, in which case the recall election cost the Republicans control of that body, putting an impediment in Walker’s ability to push through any further radical rightwing policies.
10. Walker was forced to face a recall election and may have lost his state senate, which will give other right wing politicians pause in pursuing radical agendas at the instigation of the Koch brothers.