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The Jehoshua Novels


The Ground Game

Michael Tomasky, with some back-up from alleged moderate David Frum, have it right on the reasons for the Walker recall vote. But he misses the point.

I never got very invested in the recall Walker movement. I was cheering for the other outcome, obviously, but I always figured recalling a governor after just two years in office when he’s not accused of a crime is a pretty tall order. You see I didn’t write that much about it. The margin of Walker’s win is a little surprising, but then, he outspent the other side six or seven to one.

As Frum notes over on his blog, the outcome points to a bleak future for public-employee unions, where the next decade will likely see “its pay relentlessly ground down, as private sector pay has been ground down over the decade past.” The scope of this loss ought to make these unions and the Democratic Party think twice about what their long-term strategy is going to be here. They’re not going to win recall elections against governors who do things they don’t like, and even Democratic governors are going after their benefits. It’s a terrible thing that the pressure on all wages (except for the top 5 percent or so) is downward, and that private and public employees making, say, $45,000 a year are being pitted against each other, but that’s the situation.

Both have begged the question (Tomasky admits that’s not what interested him about the recall): why is this so?

How have conservatives so effectively purchased the heart and minds of the average Republican voter as to convince them to be angry at the nurse who takes home $50,000 but to worship the hospital CEO who takes home ten or even twenty times that, nevermind the HMO head who takes home a hundred times that who exploit them for profit?

In Tomasky’s defense– and I’ve followed his writings since his days at the Village Voice, so I know whereof I speak– he’s a stellar reporter who does amazing work uncovering facts and digging for truth. This kind of analysis is not in his wheelhouse.

But Frum, a political hack who’s probably sat in on more “strategerey” sessions than I’ve had hot meal, ought to be a bit more candid about how this has happened.

After all, he sat in the same room as Karl Rove for years.

A telling stat in Tomasky’s piece was the exit poll question where 17% of Obama supporters voted for Walker. Obama was particularly quiet on the vote, and my suspicion is his private polling put the results in less doubt than the public polling. No sense wasting precious political capital on a quixotic venture.

The theory is that recall elections without an actual criminal allegation hanging over the incumbent’s head are hard to justify– Gray Davis had his own issues with a then-popular celebrity leading the charge– and that these 17% agreed that Walker should be given his legally-won term.

Fair’s fair. And there’s no guarantee they’ll vote for him in 2014. They, like many in 1998, simply felt the complaints lodged didn’t rise to a level commensurate with removal from office.

But move that 17% from the Republicans to the Democratic incumbent in November, and the election in Wisconsin becomes an Obama mandate. Too, Walker may have lost the state senate, which is a sign that the support for Walker personally is woefully weak.

The analysis you’re going to hear all day is two-fold: Obama will lose Wisconsin (already shown that won’t be the case) and unions in this country are dead.

That last may be a bit more true, but there’s a problem with that analysis and it begs yet another question.

See, it ignores the fact that the recall took place in the first place. Yes, Walker won and yes, by a large margin, but that doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement of his first term as much as it’s a “leave the guy alone, let him finish it out.” There are two points to be made there: one, he won’t be nearly as cocky and aggressive (especially if he loses the Senate) since the theme is out there that he’s a brutal tin-pot dictator and second, he now knows he has a lot less time to set up his re-election effort and a lot less support.

And I’m not sure he’s going to run again. He may have become so politically damaged in this recall that he confronts himself and decides to run for Senate, thus bowing gracefully out of a job he almost got kicked out of. Remember, he’s only the third sitting Governor to be recalled. That’s not a feather in his cap that he won: it’s an albatross around his neck that he was even recalled. To allow himself to be defeated in re-election is a surefire way to shatter any potential future in politics.

I realize that I’ve begged the whole “why did this happen?” question as well. The short answer is, I haven’t given it enough thought, but I do know one thing.

Every conservative that I come across who gloats about the “death of unions” will be asked the question I asked earlier.

How can you be so angry at the nurse who takes home $50,000 but worship the hospital CEO who takes home ten or even twenty times that, nevermind the HMO head who takes home a hundred times that, who exploits you for profit?

11 comments to The Ground Game

  • Nat Wilson Turner

    that the 17% of Walker/Obama voters will stay with Obama in the fall. None.
    Seems likely that they’ll vote in the fall but no reason to expect them to go back to the D’s especially with Obama sucking so hard.

  • zot23

    Because people are petty, unimaginative, and envious creatures unless nurtured to better inclinations by someone who cares.

    You are angry at the nurse because she lives in the house next to you, yet she has some semblance of a safety net while you have none. Her kids might have a glimmer of health care while your kids (from your private job) have none. You work just as hard, just as long, yet you take home less and have less job security. Though you hate the CEO too, it is abstract – you never see his house and he lives somewhere else, a place you’ll never visit.

    Of course you want your standard of living raised to hers, but if you are too weak or scared to take the stand required by collective bargaining with fellow employees then the next best thing for misery and self-loathing is company.

    The other ugly piece of the puzzle is what I call the N***** effect. Why did so many poor white Southerners support slavery and the landowners over the rights of blacks? Especially in a system that kept them down just as much as the blacks (poor is poor after all)? Simply put no matter how down they were, no matter how uneducated and poor, you could always count on being above the N******s in town. Once you can’t spot the N****** on your block, you might be the N*******. It’s awful, but it’s true.

    Lots of people in America thought they were hot shit by virtue of being Americans. Now that getting a decent wage requires pain and sacrifice, they’d rather pull everyone else into the poor house than make the effort. Until this changes, our country is sunk, sunk, sunk.

  • jo6pac

    I’ve read it and I’m still voting Green from now on. No more lesser of 2 evils for me. The mett will kill us quickly and 0 is doing by a thousand cuts.

    Off to the Dentist

  • Tina

    now I can say the republicans advertising pushed hard and the republicans were a lot more motivated, and worked harder than the dems. Obama’s last minute youtube supporting Barrett was embarrassing and Clinton’s visit was way too late to make any difference. It seemed like the dem national party didn’t give a shit.

    Wisconsin is in last place for jobs and Walker has a legal defense fund. His campaign fund raising from out of state was disgusting..none of which was barely mentioned by the press here.

    Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart. ~ Phil Jackson

  • Ford Prefect

    The national party was perfectly content to let the state party twist in the breeze.

    The Party Elites in DC positively hate populism. It presents too many problems for them, with their corporate benefactors. In this case, it would have meant:

    1) paying attention to labor–which they are not going to do.
    2) paying attention to activists, whom leadership despises–they’re not elites, after all.
    3) paying attention to people’s concerns, which is also not popular, since that would mean listening to an anti-austerity argument they have no intention of entertaining.

    So it’s better, from DC’s standpoint, to let them lose, even if that means a somewhat degraded party within the state. The Dems would prefer to lose in November, than jeopardize their post-public office sinecures.

    Jon Schwartz had a good take on this years ago:

    http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/001705.html

    And Walter Karp is invaluable on this score.

  • Anonymous

    This is a good piece, I’ll repost what i had on the other thread because I’m a pathological rambler… Excellent points about the national party scumbags here, they always operate this way. Roughly the same way DCCC sinks good antiwar candidates.
    As the GOP lost the State Senate via another recall election so the government is divided once more and glorious gridlock has returned.
    Perhaps this is appropriate since the now deposed majority leader Fitzgerald was the one masterminding the egregious abuses like those against the open meeting law when it was railed through, the cutting of business taxes which created the artificial crisis to bust the public unions etc.
    So Walker can have his fun with the executive branch but he won’t be able to play the same games. But the Senate won’t be in session until next year anyway, and half of it is up in November anyway. Yet they do have the power to impeach and all those weird criminal investigations seem to be out in the wings now…
    It’s a pretty good consolation, practical at least. And of course this election showed that corporate money has eaten democracy and they had to throw everything they had at it to keep their man in. There’s reasons recalls of governors are exceedingly rare.
    Also the earlier recall which trimmed the Senate GOP majority to 1 led to the blocking of a major aggressive mining project attempted near Lake Superior which would have destroyed an Indian tribe along with who knows what else, as a GOP senator decided to stick up for the environment.
    I think it’s enough to show that a certain crest was reached but of course, Wisconsin is still more reactionary than it used to be – oh how I miss having Feingold in the Senate. The Wisconsin Dems have never been that well organized. In St. Croix County they were moribund when my family moved here, Obama carrying the county was like an all time high water mark.


    Hongpong.com

  • Nat Wilson Turner

    to Walter Karp’s stuff?

  • zot23

    When the best you can hope for is to have your running backs standing still (as opposed to running at your end zone every time they get the ball.)

    But … it is better. Hopefully Walker is gone in 2 years as well.

  • Ford Prefect

    Here’s the wiki page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Karp

    Here’s Indispensible Enemies, published originally in 1973, so this problem isn’t new:

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1485313.Indispensable_Enemies

    Here’s a few blurbs at Third World Traveller, with linkage:

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Walter_Karp/Walter_Karp_page.html

    You might find more than I did in a few minutes of searching. His stuff isn’t new, but as far as institutional politics go, he was one of the better ones.

  • chalo

    on their own initiative. Do you want to have supporters who can’t be bothered to show up and vote for you? Then consistently work against their interests and ignore their demands.

    This is how the Democratic Party treats Democratic voters. The results are predictable, but they are only just beginning to manifest themselves.

    I would have thought a scarecrow could win the 2012 presidential election against any of the buffoons in the clown parade of Republican contenders. But the Democrats haven’t got a scarecrow. They’ve got Obama, who in a very non-scarecrow-like fashion has betrayed and abused his constituency. I suspect he’ll lose it.

  • someofparts

    “The other ugly piece of the puzzle is what I call the N***** effect. Why did so many poor white Southerners support slavery and the landowners over the rights of blacks? Especially in a system that kept them down just as much as the blacks (poor is poor after all)? Simply put no matter how down they were, no matter how uneducated and poor, you could always count on being above the N******s in town. Once you can’t spot the N****** on your block, you might be the N*******. It’s awful, but it’s true.”

    Bullshit. Southern white didn’t fight back because they have been sat on and held back worse than anyone else in this miserable country, except for the blacks. A white man who spoke out would lose his job and his children would go hungry. Move out of the South? Well gee, our schools are worse, our skills are lower and oh, there’s also that lovely bit where we have extra trouble finding work outside this area because those nice folks elsewhere in the nation hear our accents and sure wouldn’t hire one of us, y’all.

    And white people who fought side by side with blacks, did the right things, yada yada? Ask fucking Don Siegelman.

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