Why should the rest of the world care whether or not Wisconsin fired its governor?
Last week, voters went to the polls with accusations against Scott Walker ringing in their ears. Before the polls even opened, many in the media declared the vote was close – but that organized labor would win big and demonstrate that unions are still a formidable political force to be reckoned with.
And now pundits are saying Wisconsin was a preview of the election in November.
“Gov. Scott Walker already had become a national hero to conservatives for his willingness to take on his state’s powerful public employee unions,” noted the Los Angeles Times. “His victory – making him the only governor in U.S. history to survive a recall – will increase his stature even further.
“Walker carried 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and expanded the vote he received when first elected in 2010. Already, speculation has started about a place for Walker on a future conservative presidential ticket.
“Labor unions, by contrast,” continued the Times article by political analyst David Lauter, “suffered a serious blow to their already-waning political clout. The recall made the third election in the space of a year in which labor failed to defeat Walker or a Walker proxy. The unions lost a fight to oust a conservative state Supreme Court justice and fell short of recalling enough GOP state senators last summer to put liberals in control of the chamber. And now this.”
Another casualty of the Wisconsin vote, according to pundits, was the mainstream, traditional press for its support of Walker’s accusers – and what some called a loss of credibility with Wisconsin voters.
But there is another casualty. “President Obama took considerable heat from Wisconsin liberals,” wrote Lauter, “for not venturing into the state to campaign against Walker as former President Clinton did. If Walker had won by only 1 or 2 percentage points, many fingers would be pointing in Obama’s direction. But with Walker winning by 7
percentage points, the argument that Obama would have made a difference becomes a lot harder to make.”
Thus, the question is raised whether Obama sensed the challenge was doomed – and distanced himself from it rather than get blamed for it.
But beyond that, does the Wisconsin vote mean that liberals are in trouble with the electorate?
“The bigger question for Obama is whether Walker’s victory means that Wisconsin – a state liberals have been counting in their column," noted the Times, "is seriously in doubt in the fall. Overall turnout in the state was roughly 2.5 million voters – a significant increase from 2010 when Walker was first elected.”
Does that change things in November? Yes, said Lauter. “Mitt Romney and his advisors have a decision to make: Is Wisconsin a state to seriously contest? Wisconsin conservatives will argue that the recall proved that their voter-turnout operation works splendidly and that a consistent, tough conservative can win.”
Just across the Great Lakes, the governor’s victory was eyed by America’s northern neighbor. “Wisconsin voters took the momentous step of not firing their governor. It’s very good news for the United States and probably Canada, too,” wrote political observer John Robson of CNews.
“Some Canadians envy American voters’ ability to fire politicians for cause between elections. Canadians might also envy Americans their political engagement. The Walker recall petition needed half a million signatures and got a million, then 2.5 of 4.4 million Wisconsin adults voted in the special election.
“The main thing we should envy, and imitate, is the outcome. His enemies typically called Walker a callous, hateful Tea Party puppet of wealthy bigots. But in fact he understood, like many politicians, that excessive pay and perks for public employees are one of two fundamental problems with government spending. Unlike many, he did something about it.
“To force state and local government workers to contribute more to their typically lavish health care and pension plans, Walker severely restricted their collective bargaining on most non-wage issues. He also forbade them to seek pay hikes above inflation without a public referendum. And he denied unions the automatic right to represent government workers or collect dues from all their paychecks.”