Nathan Sass

The Democrats’ WI Problem

In 2012 Elections, Politics, Scott Walker, WI Budget Battle on January 13, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Wisconsin politics has been dominated by the Democrat and Public Sector Union’s recall efforts for over a year now.  Conventional wisdom is that the resistance to Scott Walker did not begin until the budget battle and passage of Act 10 (limiting public sector collective bargaining rights).

Actually, the truth is that the resistance to Walker began before he was even sworn in.  The day of the 2010 election, Nov. 2 2010, the domain name www.recallscottwalker.com was registered.  Googling the term “Recall Scott Walker” for the period of 11/2/2010 – 12/31/2010 yields an astonishing 10,600 results. (This one is the first on the list…please check it out, especially the comments section.)  In this period, Walker was not yet even Governor and had could have done nothing to merit recall.

For comparison purposes, a Google search of the term “Recall Jim Doyle” for the identical period following his first election (11/5/2002 – 12/31/2002) yields 0 results.  Zero.  Zip.  Nada.  Even allowing for the fact that the internet was not the pervasive tool it is today, that is stunning.

This points to a big problem the Democrats have in WI, and they may not even know it yet.

With all this anger directed at Walker, what happens if they win?  And is that worse than if they lose?

The ground soldiers in the Democrat/Union led recall effort have been energized with the promise of removing Walker from office and rolling back all the changes he has signed, Act 10 chief among them.

But this will not happen, the Democrats know it, and no one is letting the people on the ground in on the secret.

Why won’t it happen, you ask?  It’s pretty simple really.

First, the Democrats will have to beat Walker in a recall election.  This is no small challenge.  Walker will have all the money he needs, and to date there is still no credible challenger to face him.

One of the biggest names that has been rumored as willing to run is fatally flawed.   Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who Walker defeated in 2010, used the very tools in Act 10 on public sector unions in Milwaukee in his most recent budget to keep property taxes from going up.  He cannot realistically expect to run against Act 10 after having used it, unless his campaign slogan is “It Wasn’t Me…It Was the One Armed Man!”.

Other Democrats with proven statewide appeal such as Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl have stated on multiple occasions that they will not run against Walker in a recall election.

Russ Feingold’s refusal is intriguing since beating Walker would make him an instant star on the left and a front runner for the 2016 Democrat nomination for President.  Still, he would rather teach at Marquette than run?  Odd, wouldn’t you say?

This all also assumes that the Democrats have the required 500,00 plus valid signatures for both Walker and Lt. Gov. Kleefisch.

It’s likely they do, but if I were in there shoes, I would make 100% certain before I filed the petitions.  Failing to have the required number, due in large part to repeated, falsified and/or made up names would be a huge embarrassment for the Democrats and the Unions.  That would probably destroy any credibility they have left, likely for many years, and not just in Wisconsin.

But, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume a Democrat victory in the Walker recall election.  There is still the matter of the legislature.

The Democrats will need to recall, and defeat, at least 1 GOP senator.  Let’s assume they succeed there as well.  It isn’t terribly likely given their targets this time around, but we will assume it anyway.

Democrats would have control of the Senate and the Governor’s Mansion.

And Act 10 would not be repealed.

The Democrats do not control the State Assembly.  In fact, the GOP has a 60/40 advantage in the lower house.

In order to repeal Act 10, the Democrats will need to turn over 11 seats in the State Assembly, while retaining all their current seats.  What most people forget is that the GOP controlled legislature completed redistricting in 2011, and made many current GOP Assembly and Senate districts far more friendly.  Furthermore, several of the sitting Democrats have been redistricted out of their seats, and will either need to move into the new district, or retire.

In short, retaking the Assembly is the tallest hill among many tall hills for the Democrats to climb.  It would take a stunning reversal in party identification and voting patterns for this to occur.  Remember also that this will be decided in the very same election where Barack Obama is seeking re-election.

To recap, the Democrats will need to have 500,000+ valid signatures twice, valid signatures for at least one GOP Senator, beat both Walker and a GOP Senator in the elections, and then in the fall of 2012 during the Presidential election turn over 10% of the State Assembly using new GOP friendly district lines.

Whew….that’s a lot.

Then, and only then, could Act 10 be repealed.

That is provided that the Democrats can convince the public that increasing taxes to restore free benefits is a good idea.  If they have a slim majority in either house, they may be stymied by one of their own who is politically vulnerable.

Even assuming the Democrats pull ALL of this off, they face a real problem going forward.  They will have to now come up with a viable solution to WI’s budget issues long term.  They will own, politically, any future deficits.

Jim Doyle faced this same issue, and it forced him into retirement and elected Walker to being with.  Going back to the “old ways” will not bring long term electoral success to the Democrats.

Whether he meant to or not, Walker has placed the Democrats in a nice little box.

If they fail ultimately to recall him their base will be completely demoralized just before the Presidential election.  If Obama cannot carry WI, he probably cannot be re-elected.

If they do recall him but cannot repeal Act 10, the results are the same.

If they succeed with all of it, they will then face a choice of alienating the voters with deficits and tax increases or their union allies with cuts to benefits and layoffs.

It appears that the Democrats may not have thought this through to its conclusion.  They would have been better served to try to co-opt a moderate GOP Senator in the early days of the Act 10 debate, and seek some concessions such as continuing payroll deductions and retention of bargaining rights within the financial limits of Act 10.

Instead they chose to go all in, and in doing so made a bad situation worse.  When the 14 Senators fled to IL, the die was cast.  There was no hope of walking the situation back.

I chalk this up to their choleric nature, the excessive control of the party by the far left, and their heavy reliance on emotion.  The base (and some elected Democrats) got really, really, p-o’ed and forced the party to make decisions out of anger.  Not exactly a recipe for success.

In politics, like in war, retreat is not always dishonorable or a total defeat. Sometimes retreat is the only thing that can prevent total defeat.

On a side note, I do feel some sense of sympathy for those “boots on the ground” who are doing all the heavy lifting.  Most of them are not terribly political, and probably haven’t thought about how things will shake out.  They are just following orders fueled by rage that is stoked by their leaders, and when the dust finally settles will be left feeling used and lied to.

I truly wish that on no one.

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  1. […] The Democrats’ WI Problem – 1/13/2012 […]

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