Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wisconsin Post-Mortem

"Money can't buy you love, but it sure can by you power."  As  Matt Rothschild says:
Walker raised seven-to-ten times as much money as Barrett did. The governor collected six-figure checks from a rogue’s gallery of the far right: Bob Perry of Swift Boat infamy gave $500,000. Sheldon Adelson gave $250,000, Richard Devos gave $250,000, Foster Friess gave $100,000.

A wrinkle in Wisconsin campaign finance laws, which allows for unlimited contributions to a candidate between the time recall papers are filed and the day that the election formally gets scheduled, gave Walker four and a half months to sit on the lap of every rightwing roofer in Missouri (two of whom gave him $250,000 checks), every conservative Wall Street financier, every reactionary Texas oilman that he could find.

On top of that, the Koch Brothers poured in millions through their front groups, and the RNC funneled money in, as did other Republican organizations.
Thus, John Nichols writes:
The Wisconsin result—which followed upon a campaign that saw Walker outspend his Democratic challenger by perhaps 8–1, as the governor’s billionaire backers flooded the state with tens of millions of dollars in “independent” expenditures on his behalf—should send up red flares for Democrats as they prepare for this fall’s presidential and congressional elections. The right has developed a far more sophisticated money-in-politics template than it has ever before employed. That template worked in Wisconsin, on behalf of a deeply divisive and scandal-plagued governor, and it worked.
But, as Nichols is quick to point out, organized money will not always beat organized people, and the anti-Walker forces had other disadvantages.  First, it must be noted, "they were let down by national Democratic players who never quite recognized that Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus and “independent” groups on the right were testing and perfecting strategies for November."

As Rothschild tells it, in contrast to the "rightwing moneymen and the Republican Party," who understood the importance of this election, "the DNC was stingy, and Barack Obama couldn’t find Wisconsin with GPS and a flashlight. Hell, he was in Minneapolis on Friday and didn’t even bother to drive across the Mississippi to set foot in Wisconsin. He never showed up. Neither did Joe Biden. All Obama did was send a tweet on election morning."

Another problem was the unpopularity of recall elections, generally.  Rothschild notes that exit polls showed that "60 percent of Wisconsin voters said recall should be used only for “misconduct” in office, and not for other reasons."

It is important to recognize, therefore, that Walker won not, as Republicans want us to believe, because of the popularity of their ideas, but because of their staggering financial advantage, because the organized right made Walker's victory a national priority, and due to legitimate concerns voters had about using the recall procedure. 

Nevertheless, as Greg Sargent states, "Scott Walker’s victory in tonight’s recall battle is a major wake-up call for the left, Democrats, and unions about the true nature of the new, post-Citizens United political landscape, and it should force a major reckoning among liberals and Democrats about what this means for the future."


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