Money Talks: The Real Lesson from Wisconsin

Posted: June 6, 2012 in Elections, Tea Party, The Economy
Tags: , , ,

UPDATE: Apparently one of the State Legislators was successfully recalled so Dems have regained control in the Senate thereby ending Walker’s rubber stamp GOP majority. Now it appears Walker wants to start being reasonable and compromising. You know what Walker? Too little, too damn late.

Unless you have your head buried in the sand (or in some other equally dark place), you should already know that Gov. Scott Walker won the recall election last night in Wisconsin. JM Asby over at is saying the loss was due to private union members because 38% of them voted for Walker and against their own long term self interest. I would have to agree with this viewpoint. I don’t understand how a private union employee wouldn’t support a public union employee, but if American’s do anything REALLY, REALLY well, it is engage in serious Cognitive Dissonance.

Another blogger, SteveM at thinks that too many people just felt a recall election wasn’t legitimate. I’ve heard people on the street in Wisconsin saying this kind of thing in interviews, so it probably had an effect too. However, if you voted for someone who campaigned on economic reform and they ended up not doing that but busting up public unions instead, then recalling him for being a big fat liar seems pretty damn legitimate to me.

Walter Shapiro1 astutely summarizes the reason why Gov. Walker was recalled and what makes the recall legitimate:

“…Walker kept under wraps during his first gubernatorial race his driving dream of drastically curtailing the collective bargaining rights of public employees. This stealth campaigning was probably smart politics. Wisconsin, after all, is the state that pioneered public-sector unionism. But by not running on this issue, Walker deliberately deprived himself of an electoral mandate….”

In regards to Walker’s comparing himself to the Repbulican Demi-God Ronald Reagan in his victory speech last night Shapiro says, “Reagan broke the air traffic controllers union in response to an illegal strike. This is what presidents and leaders do—react to unexpected crises in a way that reflects their already articulated governing philosophy. But in Wisconsin, there was no public employee strike, just the budgetary shortfall that afflicted most states in this stagnant economy. Without a crisis, Walker went beyond his electoral mandate in an effort to neuter the unions.”

And again, I would note….Wisconsin’s economic crisis was CREATED BY WALKER…they had a surplus and were in pretty good stead when Walker was elected at the beginning of this Recession, unlike many other states. In fact, all across the country some Tea Party favorites were voted into office based on false crises. Now that he and others are being criticized and in this case recalled, those same Tea Party voters are feeling that their vote in 2010 didn’t count and they are being “disenfranchized”. My advice to them is to get of their stupid victim horse and recognize that they GET TO VOTE AGAIN–hence no disenfranchisement.

Of course, Walker’s victory speech was euphoric and completely overreaching. Besides comparing himself to Ronald Reagan, he asserted that his win signals that Americans want leaders who make hard choices. In a general sense, I think I agree. Americans are in a panic because of the Recession and we realize that hard choices have to be made and somebody is going to have to shoulder more burdens when those choices are made. The question is, who do American’s think should shoulder those burdens? So it appears that anyone who didn’t vote for Walker is expected to shoulder those burdens and a significant number of private union members think that public union members should shoulder those burdens. Whatever the reasons given, it appears that in the end, it was messaging.

Messaging is driven by cold hard cash. Walker’s patrons, the Koch Brothers, outspent the Barrett campaign 7 to 1. Unfortunately, Dem messaging often loses out to Repub messaging for one simple reason. Their messages are simple, often completely made up, and always target very specific negative emotions–fear, envy, hate. Dem messages are complicated answers to complicated problems and generally try to appeal to our better natures. Simple messaging with simple answers to complicated problems is easier for impatient results-oriented Americans to swallow. And that’s the second thing that Americans do REALLY, REALLY well besides Cognitive Dissonance is swallow. It’s as if both parties are presenting brownies but the GOP version is done a lot faster, looks chocolatey enough on the outside, but there is dog shit inside. By the time Wisconsin voters are done scarfing down their shitty brownies and the Dem’s brownies are done, they realize that they’ve been had but they will do the third and last thing that Americans are REALLY REALLY good at–Denying they messed up.

So in about a year when Walker has been criminally indicted and is fighting to stay out of jail, the same voters that ate those shitty lies will deny, deny, deny and blame liberals for some conspiracy to push Walker out via the courts since they couldn’t do it via the ballot box. Never mind that this investigation preceded the recall election efforts. Never mind that liberals aren’t capable of turning lifelong Republican campaign professionals and fervent Walker supporters against him and if they had, it would have been in preparation for quite a long time, so long as to be untenable. And I am already hearing such stupidity from the right but it is just another crazy conspiracy idea. For some Americans crazy conspiracies are easier to deal with than the truth, that they swallowed a sugar coated shitty lie.

So the real lesson from the Wisconin recall election is: When money talks to our most base appetites, Americans listen, swallow, and deny.


1. I don’t agree with the overall conclusion about the message of the recall election that Shapiro posits but I did like his concise summary of the reason for the recall.



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