What This Is…
Issue #18- August 10, 2011, It's Not Over, Initial Reactions to Election Results
We also shouldn't forget that Chris Taylor won the 48th Assembly race.
Still Work To Do…
It is important to remember that there are still 2 more recall elections being held next week. Two Democrats face recalls and we need to stay motivated to help them defend their seats. The two senators are, Jim Holperin (12th District) and Bob Wirch (22nd District). Holding on to these two seats would mean that the Republican margin would only be 17-16. This would mean that one senator (are you listening Senator Schultz?) could be the difference in future votes.
It's easy to let down after last night's emotional rollercoaster. However, we need to remember that this fight isn't (and never was) a single day battle. Let's keep up the energy for Senator Holperin and Senator Wirch. Then we can assess where we stand and move forward.
As I write this, the results show 2 Democrats winning and 4 Republicans defending their seats. Of course there is the inevitable confusion in Waukesha County, but I'm assuming that the results there will stay as is. There will be plenty of time for more analysis of the results in the future, but my initial thoughts about last night:
*It is very difficult to unseat an incumbent in any election. This has been a fact throughout our political history and last night didn't change this. Two successful recalls is still an incredible result. People tend to vote for what they know and the incumbents have the advantage in most areas that win elections.
*Both sides won. Now that these results are in, the political spinning can begin. Democrats will say that any recall victory shows the dissatisfaction that Wisconsin residents have with the Walker agenda. Republicans will claim that by keeping the majority, the voters have voiced their support for their policies.
*Everyone lost. Looking at the initial results, I don't see any definitive outcome. Both sides will claim victory and the battle will continue. The fact that the final race came down to the already controversial Waukesha County results won't help clarify the political situation here. With the heated campaigns followed by a close result we are no closer to finding solutions to our problems that a majority of Wisconsinites can agree on. The rhetoric and vitriol will continue to divide us.
*No one won. Republicans need to realize that this isn't a mandate to continue their unilateral system of government. Yes, they did keep the majority in the Senate. However, the fact that the recalls occurred and met with some success shows that there is concern over the direction Wisconsin is headed. This may be dissatisfaction with the policies. It may be dissatisfaction with the methods. It could be any number of other reasons. The reality is that we need to return to a more civil and cooperative way of doing business in our government.
*That's a lot of money. If our economy is so bad, how did we manage to spend so much on these elections? Once the final numbers are in for spending on these recalls I'm sure we will all be amazed. Scott Walker's administration can certainly claim to have stimulated parts of Wisconsin's economy.
The saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words". It seems that if we can find this amount of money for political action then we should be able to generate some revenue for our other needs too. I recognize that significant amounts of money came in through organizations and large donors. It is difficult, if not impossible, to sort out where all the money came from. However, it doesn't matter where the money came from, but rather that it is available.
I know that conservatives will point to the union contributions to Democrats and use that as an example of why unions are so problematic for democracy. I would counter that the union money is still going to be overshadowed by contributions to organizations that operate under a questionable set of rules. The small percentage of my union dues that go to our PAC is easy to follow. I help decide where the money goes and the records are clear and meticulously maintained. That's not the case for many of the donations made in this campaign. We need to look at campaign finance reform in a serious way. We need to do this before we totally lose control of the process (if we haven't already).
Where To Now?.…
I'm not alone in feeling a letdown after last night. I started the day feeling optimistic and went to bed disappointed and frustrated. The emotional nature of these elections makes it difficult to reflect about results, but (after a few hours of sleep) it seems to me there are some key things to take from yesterday as we look to the future:
*What are we fighting for? This all started in Wisconsin with a response to the attack on collective bargaining for public employees. The movement has grown to include other groups and issues that are under fire from the Walker administration. This includes a wide range of interests and means that it can be easy to lose focus. We need to look beyond the immediate results and plan for the future, keeping our long term goals in mind.
*This isn't a short term struggle. American history is an ongoing struggle over the same issues that arose here in Wisconsin. History doesn't repeat itself exactly, but the themes are often consistent. Labor rights, environmental protection, gender equity, civil rights, and many more are all intertwined throughout our past. Frequently they are emphasized at different times, but they share some common values and have come together here in Wisconsin.
Had the Democrats won all six elections last night we still would be faced with a continuing struggle. The attacks on our rights won't go away with an election any more than our fight to defend them will. One day doesn't win or lose the fight.
*It's tough to beat money. In a time when you can reach a huge number of people quickly through mass media, money makes a huge difference in elections. This fact is obvious, but needs to be repeated until real campaign finance reform occurs.
*Organization is key. The only way to counter the influence of money is to have dedicated, well organized groups working hard to get the message out. The fact that the recalls were as close as they were is a testimonial to the level of engagement that citizens had. With the first wave of action drawing close to an end (after August 16th) we need to keep our efforts strong. This can only happen if there are people willing to organize and coordinate the efforts. This will take money, but more importantly time and energy.
I want to extend my thanks to all the people who put in time to help with the recall efforts. I met so many wonderful people who were so dedicated to the cause. Working together we are making a difference and will continue the fight.