Everybody Loses In Wisconsin


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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105 Responses

  1. Avatar Kimmi says:

    Governor Walker is a damn fool.
    When Palin fell for the same trick, we called her dumb. Which is fair — she’s mean, but not especially smart.

    Walker didn’t bother to close the door, and he wonders why the horses got loose? When his neighbor Palin down the road had hers get loose the year before?

    That’s the definition of a dang fool.

    It is a shame in this country it is legal to rob your citizens, to cheat them, so long as it goes to a donor and not to yourself.

    This recall election brings us one step closer to civil war. Not a big step, it is true, but it’s there.Report

  2. I think the recall was born more from the idea that Walker was trying to cut off a key Dem Party constituency at the knees. I don’t think it was necessary to do it, really, but I also don’t think it was simply a matter of disagreeing over policy. If Obama had passed a bill that banned members of churches from raising money for political candidates, that would be more of an equivalent. (I’m sure someone can think of a better example.) The line between policy and politics is always rather thin, though, so I could be persuaded that Walker’s attack on unions isn’t necessarily so different from liberals who want to ban corporate speech.Report

    • I probably don’t need to say this, but I think having recalls as a Plan B for losing elections is a remarkably terrible and short-sighted strategy. And I think assuming that the other side won’t start doing it back for even lesser reasons is naive.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Elias Isquith says:

      If Obama had passed a bill that banned members of churches from raising money for political candidates, that would be more of an equivalent.

      If LBJ had passed a bill that threatened loss of tax exempt status for churches that preached on ending segregation?Report

      • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Jaybird says:

        Did this happen? I wouldn’t be surprised — and yes, that’d be a better example.

        Tod: Yeah, as I said, I don’t like the recall for reasons that aren’t basically criminal. But I think it’s important to understand the motivation correctly which, to a significant degree, was not simply one of wanting a do-over of 2010. Right or wrong, recall supporters felt that some fundamental norm had been broken.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Elias Isquith says:

      To be clear on this, the teachers unions and public employee unions are the key Democratic constituency. Between them, they account for slightly over 50% of the AFL-CIO membership.
      Meanwhile, the trade unions (and the machinists) have signed a letter back in November boycotting the Democratic Convention, but no one seems to have noticed.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Elias Isquith says:

      EI & TK –

      It was not at all about the simple fact that that was what Walker did, i.e. about responding to policy they don’t like with a recall. It was about the fact that he hid the ball on this plan during the campaign, AND that once in office proceeded with it in concert with the partisan leadership of the legislature with such haste that it prevented what a critical part of the state considered the least even conceivable appropriate amount of time for deliberation on such steps either in the legislature or in the state at large. They perceived the state to have been denied essentially any reasonable debate over this action, which in the context of Wisconsin politics was a substantial and fundamental break with about a third of its political history, and considered that a breach of the bond of trust between the governor and enough of the governed to satisfy the requirements of the recall law that was on the books.

      Take it or leave it as sufficient justification for recall, but let’s be clear that that’s what the justification was.Report

  3. Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

    This recall was a terrible, terrible idea, born of nothing but the anger of not being the gal picked to go to the ball – in the same way that the great GOP freakout about Obama has been since November, 2008. My advice to everyone, right or left, that is asked to sign the inevitable petitions to recall the man or woman you didn’t vote for because they had the audacity to win is to say “No thanks” and move on to the next election.

    I’m not so sure, Tod. I am far from expert on the political currents of Wisconson (living in California and all), but I don’t believe the the central issue of the recall was simple relitigation of an undesired election outcome. Walker was trying to implement a political agenda that he kept hidden from voters during his first election, and in the process destroyed Wisconson’s civic culture of amiable moderation and compromise in the process.

    I strongly recommend this episode of This American Life about the destruction of that culture (which I would consider Walker’s greatest sin).


  4. Avatar Philip H says:

    My in-laws live in Green Bay, and one is a county employee, so I have followed this with more then the usual interest of a politically inclined outsider. For my Republican mother in law, her desire to see Gov. Walker recalled came down to two things – 1) he didn’t run on the platform he enacted, so there was a bait and switch aspect she couldn’t stomach; and 2) the legislation stripping the collective bargaining clauses was enacted in a way that prevented debate, foreclosed amendment and opposition, and basically reeked of “I won, so I’m doing it my way – the electorate be damned.” From that perspective, it wasn’t just sour grapes.

    So the recall is done, and I agree the pundits will have about 48 hours to look this over before moving on. What I hope is that you, and others, come back in a couple of years and ask if Gov. Walker’s policies actually worked – or were they the usual Republican Trickle Down Flim Flam we have seen for 4 decades.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Philip H says:

      Do not think that my belief that recalls are a terrible way to overturn elected officials you do not agree with is an argument that you just sit back and live with whatever an elected official ever does without question.

      It’s not a fun fact, but democratically elected governments make decisions every day that people don’t like and effect people adversely, and on most days they vote on things that they never campaigned on. And sometimes those things are unpopular; if so, then you usually have an opportunity to change the direction immediately (if you have enough support to make people fear for re-election before they pass legislation), soon after (by replacing enough of the legislators to reverse it) of a bit longer than that (by replacing most of the legislators and the executive administration).

      What will be interesting to see to me isn’t what happens in ten years, it will be what happens in two: either everything Walker does will be overturned in which case the argument that the people really didn’t want any of this will be proven (and the state of Wisconsin corrected). Or everyone will move on to other things and let Walker’s changes stand, in which case it will not have been the mad power grab against the will of the people some claim.Report

  5. Avatar M.A. says:

    We’ve been listening to that horse shit for over 4 decades. For someone reason there are still people dumb enough to fall for it.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    A couple people have mentioned that Walker enacted a platform drastically different than the one he campaigned on. It is not particularly uncommon for a politician to fail to live up to his campaign promises. However, just reading the descriptions here, it seems that Walker did far more than is usual, and actually engaged in an apparent “bait and switch”, as one commenter called it.

    Here’s my question: Could a politician ever be guilty of fraud based on misrepresenting himself during a campaign? Is this currently a legal (or civil) possibility? If not, should it be, in cases that warrant it? I’m not talking about a guy who campaigns with a promise to work to lower taxes whose efforts are in vain; I’m talking about making explicit promises and then doing exactly the opposite. Thoughts?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      Leave Obama alone.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

      I’m certain the courts would be quite hesitant to weigh in on this.
      For one thing, imagine the situation changing dramatically (9-11, Lehman Brothers) — isn’t there a reason he might be breaking every single campaign promise?

      OTOH, if you were able to show clear and deliberate fraud — “I said one thing to these super seekret foreign people” and “I said something different to my voters” — and then I did the super seekret thing…

      Yeah, then you’d at least have a case.

      Most contemp example is Arafat.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

      There may be an argument for going down this road, but one should be aware it is a very academic road.

      Clinton, if I recall correctly, campaigned on many progressive civil rights issues (among other stuff, obviously). When elected though, he did not lift the ban on gays serving openly in the military, and he actually reversed affirmative action. Leaving aside whether or not those were good things, was he guilty of fraud? Should he have been removed from office?

      I’d argue that people are funny about how they perceive things, and that in such a system everyone would thing anything someone on the other side did was fraud and everything someone on their side did was justifiable if you took the time to go through this particular string of things they said/Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        As in any other fraud case, I think it would be important that the aggrieved could demonstrate damages. This would be a high burden in most cases. As a straight man, there certain are ways in which I might be negatively impacted by a continuance of the ban on gays in the military, but I’d be hard pressed to prove that in a court of law. A gay man who was dishonorably discharged might. A big donor who felt his money was swindled for him probably has an even stronger case. It would almost certainly have to come from supporters of the politician, in-and-of-itself a problem, since voting records are private. It might only be an option for donors than. As I imagine it, it would need to be a rare occurrence, in which the politician in question could be demonstrated to have knowingly mislead the public. Folks, even politicians, can and should be able to change their mind. But if a guy said, “I’m going to vote against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but need your financial support to get elected so I can do that,” all the while knowing and communicating to others that he never had any intention of voting against it… there *might* be a case.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

          My guess is that what you would end up with is not a system where people are honest and do what they say, but that you’d get more Mitt Romneys that would have a record of saying multiple things to multiple audiences.

          (“Of course I said I’d try to end unions! Here look at this speech at the Heritage Foundation…”)

          I think the current way is best: You interview the person, you give them the job, and then at review time you decide if you’re going to keep them on or if you’re going to terminate their contract. Everything else gets too muddled, and as a general rule of thumb the more muddled things get where power is concerned the more little levers there are where a small coup of people really make the decisions.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Good points. I’m not necessarily saying that politicians should be pursuable for fraud… I was wondering IF they were and, if not, SHOULD they be? I’m sure there exists a case where it might be a legitimate approach, but the evidence and degree of fraud would need to be overwhelming.

            Hell, Seattle couldn’t even keep the Sonics despite point-blank evidence that the new buyer had no intention to hold up his end of the deal! (I sure hope to God Anne doesn’t see this…)Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

              I tend to think of campaigning politicians the way I do TV ads. I might like them, or I might hate them, but I kind of assume they’re focusing far more on what they think I want to hear than reality. (See: Every McDonalds commercial that links McDonalds with athletes and healthy lifestyles.) And my assumption is that’s what everyone else does too, and that if there are these times where we all get carried away with the WHHHHHAAAAATTTZZZZ UUUUUPPPPP!!!! ad campaign then we invariably have a “learning moment” we have to deal with after the election.

              That’s why I think looking at the record of a candidate’s competency is a better bet to good government than a “where I stand on the issues” scorecard. It’s why I’m convinced that despite his pandering to the far right to get the nomination and get the base out in November that in the highly unlikely event Romney were elected we’d find he was a moderate, and that what he did in MA would be a pretty good precursor for what he’d do in the White House.

              Now, in terms of where Scott Walker’s history would have put him when he was elected, I couldn’t really tell you. Should WI have known what they are getting, or was he really a stealth candidate that bamboozled everyone? Dunno, but come November when the state puts have of its upper house and all of its lower house up for reelection we’ll have a pretty good idea.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Wow, I have a totally different approach. I think you can tell almost exactly how someone will govern by the letter next to his or her name. The parties are pretty well-sorted at this point, and they have defined platforms that are agreed upon by virtually all of their members and candidates.

                This, incidentally, is why all of the new Republican governors – Walker, Kasich, Snyder, Scott – have governed fairly similarly, despite some of them (Snyder in particular) running as moderates.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                There certainly is some variance, at least in terms of what their pet projects are. Obama was focused on Health Care. While other Dems might have felt similarly about reform, they wouldn’t necessarily have made it the lynchpin of their administration. I don’t know that every GOPer would have gotten us into Iraq as Bush did.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                you don’t even have the good graces to mention Pa’s governor?
                so, um, yeah. pa’s generally too mediocre to even do extreme well.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                “I think you can tell almost exactly how someone will govern by the letter next to his or her name”

                I have never, ever found this to be the case.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I can’t think of the last time it wasn’t.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                So out of curiosity, who do you think was a better governor – knowing, of course, that neither was probably your governor – Rod Blagojevich or Jeb Bush?Report

              • This seems like kind of a trick question. In policy terms, they governed like a Democrat and a Republican. Blago supported increased funding for education and infrastructure, gun control, etc. Bush slashed public spending and signed Terri’s Law. My policy preferences are closer to Blago’s, if that’s what you’re asking.

                As for the rest, obviously Blago was corrupt and an altogether crappy person, but that didn’t change the fact that the letter next to his name told you everything you needed to know about his policy positions.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                At the risk of nitpicking, policy positions are not one in the same with how they govern, if by “how” you mean the way in which they approach governing, leadership, collaboration, etc.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Marion Barry springs to mind. But then again, the mayor of dc doesn’t govern.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                You won’t agree with me of course, but I think you’re wrong. If this is true, than all government is is sexy FOX/MSNBC, Sunday morning talk show, bloggy debating. But I’d argue that that’s just the most tiny part of government. While we talk about what Mitt Romney is or isn’t going to say next week, government is getting shit done – really, really, important, tedious shit. To say that it doesn’t matter if people who do it are competent or corrupt, just so long as they agree with you on the sexy-sexy issues, is to greatly devalue what it is that government does.Report

              • I suppose that’s fair, and it might matter to someone more centrally located like Tod, but I’m not that interested in the difference between a congenial Republican and one who’s an asshole. They both want to create a world I don’t want to live in. In fact, the congenial one might be worse overall if he can get people to play along with his plans.Report

              • Which government is getting shit done? Surely you don’t mean the one Mitt Romney is trying to become the head of.Report

              • Also, while we’re on the subject, it’s worth pointing out that Blago didn’t sign any laws violating the basic dignity of any human beings other than himself. I’m glad he’s in prison, but Terri’s Law is an abomination. Maybe you think that’s just too “sexy” to give a shit about, but I can’t say I do.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Dude, how different do you think the government becomes when a different party takes power? Take something relatively simple, like making sure impoverished people have something to eat. Debating theatrics aside, you know how much Carter/Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama changes that? Not a whit. You know what does create problems in making sure budgeted money of food for the impoverished actually becomes food that’s deliver to the impoverished? Corruption and incompetence.

                Yeah, yeah, every GOP candidate that runs for president or governor says in some debate that they are going to cut state or federal NPR, or eliminate public schools, or take away support programs for the poor. You know who actually does it? Nobody.

                Jeb Bush and I agree on not many of the Big Sexy issues of the day, but if I have a state to run, with food to get to people, and checks to get to people, and services to get to people, I will take him over Blagojevich any day of the year.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                no, but removing the entire Equal rights division of DoJ is a DAMN good way to bring back redlining!
                NC sued the companies for the whole damn thing (think they won). Shouldn’t need to be a state issue.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                to be clear, i’m pretty much only complaining about GWB’s admin, which was a special case.
                denuded us of a lot of good republicans too in the CIA.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I had an argument with my step-dad after the 2000 election. He said that America’s grand respect for the rule-of-law is what separated us from so many other countries, and this was evidenced by the fact that despite a disputed election that many felt was a sham, there weren’t violent riots or armed militias or all of that stuff you often see in other countries. My argument was that this had a lot more to do with the fact that there wasn’t nearly as much difference between the parties to justify any of that. For most folks, life goes on as normal despite who is in power. This isn’t true for everyone (one need only look at the prospects for gay soldiers before and after DADT to see how drastic a difference it can make), but for the majority of folks, losing an election is not something worth rioting over.

                Losing a basketball game… well… that’s a different story…Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                ” I think you can tell almost exactly how someone will govern by the letter next to his or her name.”

                Whis is why the prison at Guantanamo Bay is empty and nobody’s being killed in Pakistan by aircraft flown from Idaho.Report

              • I’d say “Democrat” is a term that has long since encompassed a taste for the war-making state. The difference on that dimension between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans don’t particularly care how people get dead, whereas Democrats have a decided preference in favor of using good government to kill people.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck says:

                The USAF drones are flown out of Nevada and New Mexico. A few are flown out of Florida. CIA’s drones are flown out of Langley.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP says:

                So far as you know. And that ain’t as far as you think.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Perhaps a few are flown out of your capacious ass, Duck. None are flown out of Idaho.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise mentioned having boots on the ground (spies) in Pakistan. Maybe he knows a bit more than you think…? It could be!Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Good point. But if there were an acceptable way to make what they say actually matter, that would be a good thing.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                How many Kochfights did he get into before he was governor?Report

    • Avatar Ryan in reply to Kazzy says:

      Pretty comfortable saying no, categorically not. Read up on the political question doctrine.Report

  7. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Level-headed thoughts, Tod. I don’t really have an opinion on recall elections, but you’ve given me good cause to move off the fence.Report

  8. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    You might wish to revisit that bit about “accused of no crime”. Governor Walker has been accused. He hasn’t yet been indicted. Enough of his subordinates have been convicted, enough people are now seeking (and being granted) immunity. As of May 10, David Halbrooks, a Milwaukee attorney and formed Milwaukee assistant city attorney and municipal judge, has been granted immunity.

    This does not look good for Walker. This is exactly how the governor of Illinois went down: picking off subordinates.Report

  9. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Coming in real late, because I’ve been out of town, but, thanks, Tod. This is the best post about Wisconsin.Report