Recalls: The people get it; the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel doesn’t.
While 100,000 people or more protested in Madison yesterday in a gathering some are saying is larger than any during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was running an editorial trying to tell Wisconsin citizens that legislative recall elections are unwarranted. Frankly, the bar is very high in terms of pulling off a recall election, but in this case it is more than justified and voters in a number of districts are likely to meet it. Yet the Journal-Sentinel opines:
“These senators were elected to do a big job, represent their constituents in Madison on a variety of issues. They were not elected to propose just one bill or cast only one vote on a particular issue. Their constituents – perhaps even some of those who voted for them – will disagree with the senators on individual votes. And if those constituents feel strongly enough about that vote or about a series of votes, they can cast their ballot for a different candidate next time around.
“How is a senator or any other elected official supposed to effectively do his or her job if any vote can spur a recall effort? How do they vote for controversial bills with one eye over their shoulder, wondering who they’re going to offend next?
The editorial goes on to try to cast the Senate Republicans in the same light as the 14 Senate Democrats, who left the state in order to give Wisconsin the opportunity to learn about the bill and to extend the public debate over the “budget repair” bill for several weeks. That’s the one that Walker and his legislative buddies wanted to conclude in a few short days, ultimately admitting that the union provisions had nothing to do with the budget after steadfastly maintaining the opposite for weeks.
“If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the union, what you’re going to find is President Obama’s going to have a much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin,” said GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald last week to Fox News, in a rare moment of candor.
Governor Scott Walker as much as admitted the same thing in a 20-minute telephone conversation with a blogger that he thought was billionaire right-wing bankroller David Koch. Never in the course of that conversation was there any hint that what the governor was doing had anything to do with the greater good of the people of Wisconsin. It was all about Walker, trying to make a name for himself on the national stage his personal, partisan, political ambitions.
Walker is having his script written by Americans for Prosperity, WMC, the Republican Governors Association, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC and other right-wing ideologues. For the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to try to throw the legislators from both parties into the same bag is a huge disservice and betrays either an incredible lack of insight into the situation or a deliberate attempt to cloud the underlying issues.
Instead, the Journal-Sentinel ought to be apologizing for their endorsement of Scott Walker. They should admit that they didn’t understand his true agenda — which is completely understandable, since he never revealed it in the campaign. They should own up to the fact that after having the best and longest look at the two candidates for governor, they blew the call and went with Charlie Sykes’ and the Koch Brothers pick. In a number of cases, those interests don’t match up with most of the GOP senators’ constituents and that is the whole point of the recalls.
Facing reality means admitting that the only near-term fix would be to successfully flip some state senate seats in upcoming recall elections to restore some checks and balances. Right now, we have a system that’s gone haywire, giving gifts to Walkers’ political supporters and systematically shafting those who see things differently – a group that includes working poor, children, labor, education, municipalities and just about everyone else. Expecting everyone to put up with it until the next regularly scheduled vote of the people is way too much to ask.
Every GOP legislator who blindly followed Scott Walker’s extremist agenda – and it IS extremist – after watching the backlash brewing over the past month, richly deserves to be called into account. It can’t happen too soon and it will be interesting to see how much damage the Republicans try to do as the possibility of losing majority status in the state senate approaches. That the Journal-Sentinel would chide those Democratic senators who selflessly provided the opportunity to actually have that debate by leaving their homes for weeks to give birth to a movement of the magnitude we now have is incredible. Defending the remaining terms of the GOP’s corporate cabal in the state senate who made it all necessary is politically tone-deaf and totally out of touch.
Fresh off an election that put him in office — in a period when most governors would be connecting with the citizens, trying to understand the issues better and being warmly received — Scott Walker appears almost exclusively in tightly-controlled venues that include only cleared media or his most partisan supporters. Despite that, large groups are still showing up to protest everywhere he goes. The airwaves continue to be filled with ads from his wealthy support network of apologists as his approval ratings drop like a rock. This isn’t because hard work is unpopular. It’s because Scott Walker is not leading and is instead attempting to rule. Wisconsin deserves much better. Recalling some state senators who are abandoning their constituents and long-held Wisconsin values to make it all possible for him is the right thing to do.