Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Victory is Not a Mandate for Anti-Labor and Austerity Agenda

By Reginald Johnson and Anna Manzo

(Originally published June 6, 2012)

“Live to fight another day” – is an old saying, often used in sports.

 Despite conservative and centrist pundits pronouncing Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the unprecedented recall election a smashing victory over labor and the Democrats, it’s really not. Nearly half of all voters in Wisconsin casting ballots in the special election voted against Walker. That’s not a ringing endorsement for the incumbent, and gives him only a weak mandate, if you can call it a mandate, to proceed with his anti-labor and cost-cutting policies.

 Consider that the Republican’s effort to beat back the recall was aided by a record-breaking infusion of money. Over $63.5 million was spent by all candidates and independent groups; $45.6 million had been spent on Walker's behalf, compared with about $17.9 million for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan group that tracked spending.

  Walker was able to reap the benefits of 2010's Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, which allows corporations to donate unlimited campaign funds via super- PACs without public disclosure. Walker had enough money to buy almost every vote in Wisconsin!

 And, he managed to evade recall, despite a two-year "John Doe" corruption investigation into his days as a county executive. Just days before his recall election, he had transferred $100,000 of campaign money to his legal defense fund, seemingly acknowledging that he is the center of the probe, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Sentinel and Salon.com.

 But he got 53 percent of the vote; 46 percent of Wisconsin voters said emphatically they’ve had enough of his retrograde ideas, and want him and his philosophy to go away.

 They’ll keep fighting and this battle is far from over.

 It was heartening to see the enthusiasm and determination with which the recall backers worked this past year. Though the goal was not reached this time, the collective effort on the part of so many provides momentum for future struggles.

 What was disheartening was the anemic support national Democrats, like Barack Obama, gave to the recall effort. (Obama's only public endorsement was an "11th-hour" tweet in support of Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.) They should be ashamed. A little more high-profile support from Obama and Vice President Joe Biden – and more money from the Democratic National Committee – and this thing could have been won.

 Progressives keep hoping that Obama will suddenly turn into a fighter and work hard for their causes, but it’s never going to happen. He’s too much of a centrist, business Democrat. He probably silently agrees with Walker and some of his anti-union, austerity-oriented policies.

 Obama doesn't seem to understand how to rekindle his grassroots, populist base of 2008, and it's clear he will have a big fight ahead. Economist Robert Reich notes that financial, retail and oil giants such as JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, WalMart, BP and Chevron, have joined billionaires David and Charles Koch in launching a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign falsely blaming him for the national debt.

 Charles P. Pierce of Esquire magazine warned of a worst-case scenario if Walker prevails:

 "...assuming he doesn't go down in the ongoing John Doe investigation in Milwaukee, I predict that he will have an 'exploratory committee' set up in Iowa within the month, and he will suddenly discover a deeply held desire to spend a lot of time in places like Nashua and Manchester. Make no mistake: If he hangs on, he will be the biggest star in the Republican party."

 Grassroots movements can eventually push the likes of Scott Walker out of the way, but it’s clear they can’t look to most national Democrats for help.

 And it's obvious from the huge influx of campaign funds into this battleground state, the only mandate in this recall election came not from Main Street, but the likes of Wall Street.

Related links:

• "Analysis: Walker's win in Wisconsin boosts conservatives," Chicago Tribune, June 6, 2012

• "The Walker Vote Earthquake," American Spectator, June 7, 2012

• "Walker Survives Wisconsin Recall Vote," New York Times, June 6, 2012

• "10 Numbers You Need to Know on Scott Walker Recall Day," Mother Jones, June 5, 2012

• "A Wisconsin Recall FAQ," The Nation, June 5, 2012

• "What Happens If Scott Walker Wins Is No Good at All," The Politics Blog, Esquire, May 16, 2012

• "Scott Walker’s “John Doe” scandal, explained," Salon.com, June 1, 2012

• "Walker campaign sends $100,000 to John Doe legal fund," Milwaukee-Wisconsin Sentinel, May 29, 2012

• "Republican Super PAC’s Spending Big In 2012," ABC News blog, May 30, 2012

• "Scott Walker Promised $500K Donor He Would 'Divide and Conquer' Unions," The Nation, May11, 2012

• "John Nichols: Walker aligns with nation's top 'union buster'," The CapTimes.com, May 30, 2012

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