Wisconsin recalls

by Harry on August 10, 2011

We had the first set of recall elections for the Wisconsin State Senate yesterday. 6 Republicans, all elected in 2008 (during the Obama general election) were up; the Dems needed to take 3 in order to flip the Senate. In the end, they got two (districts 18 and 32), which is roughly what they expected. There had been talk of them hoping for District 14, but that didn’t seem realistic to me. It is a natural swing district, but the Dem candidate was uninspiring, turned out to have numerous moving violations and had, rather unfortunately, been caught on tape saying that paying child support to his exwife was a low priority; and Luther Olsen, the incumbent, has a strong personal following among independents which, given his competence and affable personality, was going to be hard to shake. His gamble (that he would be more likely to hold on to office if he caved into the Governor than he was to ever hold a committee seat again if he resisted) paid off. The appalling Alberta Darling held on to her seat despite a (to me) surprisingly strong Democratic showing, and I suppose it is still just possible that the results will turn out to be dodgy, reliant as her majority was on the reporting of Waukesha County, whose clerk is not renowned for her carefulness. But it’s unlikely. And there are some reasons not to be cheerful: the defeat of Randy Hopper, whose private life has been moderately scandalous, and who does not seem to have been living in his district, should have been much easier than it was.

Two Democrats face recalls next Tuesday (the 16th). The recall effort against the Dem senators was basically an attempt to divert energy and resources from the Republican recalls, but, perhaps predictably, the Rep candidate for the 12th district, a teapartier, has attracted a lot of out of state money (the estimate for yesterday’s elections is that $30 million was spent on the 6 races). If you want to pledge your own in or out of state support for Jim Holperin, the more vulnerable of the two Dem incumbents, click here.

Where does this leave things? Well, if things go well next week, the Reps will have a 17 to 16 majority in the Senate, vulnerable on a day to day basis to Dale Schultz, the one Republican who voted against the collective bargaining law, and who has been enjoying being seen as an independent. Some are declaring victory: as John Nichols points out, these were gerrymandered Republican seats, which have been Republican for a long time, and, as I indicated, privately I heard from a number of Democrats that they would be amazed to get 3, and please to get 2. And there is a case for saying that the momentum has been surprisingly strong, given that the protests ended in March.

Still, I am not personally thrilled, despite having not had high expectations. The left is clearly still galvanised, but the right has maintained its strength well. Walker has pissed off a lot of constituencies, but there isn’t enough momentum at the moment to make it clear that a recall will work, let alone that an as yet unknown Democrat can beat him. A recall of the Governor would require the collection of 550k signatures in 60 days, and because of the rules around recall, that signature collecting process cannot begin till November. If Darling, or even more so Olsen, had been defeated, it would have been a lot easier to convince an electable Democrat (i.e. Russ Feingold [1]) to declare prior to a recall which, in turn, would have made a recall more likely to succeed. All in all: things are not good, but they are not as bad as they might have been.

If anyone can find me a good link for contributing to the No (thanks Steve) campaign on the Ohio Collective Bargaining Limit Repeal, I’ll post it later. Update: contribution page here.

[1] Several other Democrats are regularly mentioned as potential candidates, but I am not aware of any who are dying to run, and no good candidate (that is, any candidate I would be interested in seeing become Governor) already has the kind of name recognition that would make it easy to define themselves in the campaign as anything other than the antiWalker candidate.

{ 80 comments }

1

Margaret 08.10.11 at 4:58 pm

I share your lack of joy and gladness and I would have been a much happier camper if Darling had gone down, but, even though a recall of Walker would have been a whole lot easier if more Democrats had won those elections, I wouldn’t despair. It’s not just that, in the recalls, the Democrats were playing in Republican territory, it is also the case that the major concentrations of Democratic voters (I’m thinking of Dane County and the City of Milwaukee) were sidelined. A statewide recall is a whole new ball game. But it is hard today to feel up for it.

2

Natilo Paennim 08.10.11 at 5:40 pm

I was inside the capitol on the day the police shut the occupation down. At the time, I was pretty concerned about taking a bust, but now I feel like I should have stayed. Not that my individual presence would have made much difference, but I wish more people had acted the way I felt. Direct action gets the goods! The decision of the unions and Democrats to channel all of that popular rage into the spectacular gymnastics of the recall movement was predictable, and predictably, it hasn’t done much good. A sustained occupation, even to the point of forcing the hand of the police, would have been a much more powerful statement. The naivete of many of the protesters was somewhat breathtaking. “The police are union members too!” came the call, but in the end, they knew which side their bread was buttered on. Police are always traitors to the working class, that’s their essential characteristic.

Anyhow, whatever, things are going to get MUCH, MUCH, MUCH worse before they get even a little bit better. When you make peaceful revolution impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable.

3

Steve LaBonne 08.10.11 at 5:48 pm

I think you meant the right’s $trength. Making any headway in the teeth of Citizens United has to be considered an accomplishment.

It’s very kind of you to be interested in helping us out in Ohio. The official campaign organization is http://weareohio.com/. There is a donation link at that site. By the way, given the way the ballot question is set up (the normal way for Ohio on such issues), NO is the vote for repeal.

4

MPAVictoria 08.10.11 at 6:14 pm

I understand that winning 3 seats was a long shot but I can’t help but find this result depressing. If people won’t vote for their own interests what hope is there? Is it just going to get worse and worse every year until eventually we all live in some sort of feudal dystopia? How bad does it have to get before people wake up?

5

Steve LaBonne 08.10.11 at 6:20 pm

If people won’t vote for their own interests what hope is there?

These are hard-core Republican districts, IOW by definition they have a majority of people too stupid to vote for their own interests. It’s pretty hard to figure out how to suddenly make them smarter, especially when the enemy can afford a costly propaganda barrage designed to keep them stupid. This was always going to be a very heavy lift. But yeah, I was diasppointed this morning. So close…

6

Christopher Phelps 08.10.11 at 6:30 pm

Point in response to the above: We could have a long theory of the state debate. But let’s just observe in all revolutions, cops (and troops) come over to the side of the people as the state crumbles. In fact that could be the very definition of a revolution. Let’s just say you never get to that point calling the cops “traitors to the working class.” You get there by saying, “Come over to our side, join us, they’re out to get you too, can’t you see?” Even short of revolution, rebellion in the ranks has marvellous effects, as in the G.I. resistance to the Vietnam War. The movement to get the U.S. out of Vietnam always put G.I.s at the head of the marches, organized G.I. coffeehouses and underground papers, supported the G.I. resistance. Let’s keep the same perspective here and not succumb to taunts and misdirected rage. Keep the rage focused on the rich who are pillaging the country and their minions like Walker.

Harry, if Schultz is a swing vote, then the Dems have potential majority to repeal now if they can get him to come aboard. But Walker would veto. So a stalemate then exists that would need to be settled by the gubernatorial race, I gather. More analysis here. I quit reading the Wisconsin papers as life took hold. Is Feingold making any signals at all?

7

Steve LaBonne 08.10.11 at 6:34 pm

I can tell you that the cops here in Ohio have REALLY had it with Kasich and his sorry crew. Before I could get myself over to the local Dem headquarters to sign the SB5 repeal petition, one of my right-wing retired-cop colleagues surprised (and gratified) me by showing up at my office door with one.

8

Steve LaBonne 08.10.11 at 6:35 pm

(Here they weren’t smart enough to exempt cops and firemen from their anti-public-union bill.)

9

piglet 08.10.11 at 6:50 pm

How did the margins compare to 2008? Election outcomes are not binary even though in the US, they are treated as such. Never understood why.

10

Christopher Phelps 08.10.11 at 6:55 pm

By the way, Harry, also: Did the last two weeks of constant reminders of ongoing economic precariousness tilt things toward the GOP? That is, I think Obama’s rightward drift means Dems don’t seem an alternative, and the GOP has somehow managed to make this O.’s recession. So it still may feel like rebellion to vote GOP to some, esp. those exposed to F** News and talk radio, who blame the debt, the downgrade, the joblessness, etc. on Obama. I wonder if things were seemingly more stable, if the recovery seemed more definitively on track, if the vote would have come out differently – if people would have been more willing to say, we can solve these budgetary questions without stiffing public employees. And less likely to turn out for the GOP which right now is the party of disaffection, perversely.

11

Barry 08.10.11 at 7:08 pm

Harry, here is my almost obligatory ban-the-b*stards comment – on every other blog, a large number of concern trolls show up, lamenting that if Democrats and liberals use legal methods, then we will lower the standards of this country, and the Republicans will be forced (forced! I say) to get nasty.

Be prepared, if you don’t want the comment thread derailed.

12

Harry 08.10.11 at 7:12 pm

Thanks Steve, I’ll add the link later, and subsequently do a separate post for higher profile.

Chris: basically, the Dems need all three branches to get repeal, so it is a long haul; the Assembly isn’t up for reelection till Fall 2012, and we all know what is happening then. The point about Shultz is that if he is the swing vote, he can really have fun if he wants and both sides have to be nice to him. And there is no mileage at all for him in being nice to the Governor now: even if they threaten to primary him next time he can run as an Independent with a good chance of winning.

I haven’t checked, but I think that all the races were closer than in 2008: I’ll check. But, and this is my nonanswer to Chris’s question, it is very hard to know what is going on. I have to say that it seems the analysts all expected 2 at the most, so this is as good as expectations. But how they arrived at that, I don’t know, because their polling tools cannot surely be adapted to this sort of situation. The turnout was high, which I certainly found surprising, especially in the Olsen district (I live within media range) where the ads between them made both candidates seem awful! I don’t know how things changed in the last few weeks, or how they can tell.

Margaret’s point above is well taken: the Governor has a different kind of race, and it may be that the traditionally Democratic voters will be more animated by the recall than shows up in firmly Republican districts.

You see a lot of Draft Feingold signs and noise, but I don’t know anyone close to him, and don’t know what he’s planning. Things are complicated by the fact that one of our anonymous US Senators (forget his name, the one that is even duller than the one that just got elected) just announced his retirement, so Feingold must be tempted to run for that, a much better job which he’d be more likely to win.

13

Christopher Phelps 08.10.11 at 7:32 pm

Thanks. I feel somewhat better reading your analysis in the original post than I did reading the Times. It seems to me neither defeat nor victory.

What I think is needed is to get back out of electoral mode and into the streets again. Somehow this needs to go beyond the defensive fights in Wisconsin, Ohio, etc., and reclaim the initiative. What we need at this point is concerted,sustained, left of center mass mobilizing and protest and organizing a) for jobs, and b) for just solutions to the debt crises, namely taxing the rich and not gutting all that is valuable, like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. This will not come from the Dems. Or even the unions. Someone needs to do it, though. We need Wisconsins on a wider scale, and not just against the hideous agenda of the right but *for* tax justice and jobs.

I keep wondering about who could do this. In the thirties, there was the left, the CP, the SP, all the little grouplets, all of them shock troops for the CIO and for the unemployed. They pushed the New Deal way left of what FDR intended. Where will it come from now?

14

Jurgen Stizmuller 08.10.11 at 7:48 pm

Did the last two weeks of constant reminders of ongoing economic precariousness tilt things toward the GOP?”

I doubt it. The drama and barrage of political messaging here have been intensely local (and personal). For me anyway, it’s been difficult to pay attention to the Washington kabuki.

15

Marc 08.10.11 at 8:28 pm

I think that the post understates what happened. Local elections are just different from national ones. In states without term limits you get long-term incumbents who develop personal loyalties. In states with term limits they tend to be faceless partisan proxies, typically in carefully crafted districts where control is not in serious jeopardy.

(The remarkable thing about Democrats winning the Ohio House in 2010, for example, was that it was the first time in modern memory that a party had won a majority in the legislature without drawing the district lines for themselves first. District lines are drawn by statewide election winners.)

It takes enormous effort to overcome the built-in incumbent advantage in either case. As long as both sides are motivated you need to get people to change tribal identity, or get an overwhelming edge among the small fraction of true swing voters. I’ve been on the losing end of local efforts which got almost half the vote – in a conservative suburb with a 62/38 partisan split. The other side has to really screw up to make it close.

Nate Silver noted that a Walker recall based on these results is a toss-up: that is, he’d be 50/50 to lose if the margins shifted statewide by the same amount as they did in these races from 2010 to 2011. I think these results are impressive and expected much less.

16

piglet 08.10.11 at 9:01 pm

Here’s the link: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/wisc-results-suggest-recall-of-governor-would-be-close/

It compares recall margins to 2010 gub but not to 2008 sen results.

17

piglet 08.10.11 at 9:11 pm

I looked up the 2008 results on wikipedia (2011 in brackets). They are:

2 Cowles 100% (60.4)
8 Darling 51% (53.7)
10 Harsdorf 56% (57.7)
14 Olsen 100% (52.1)
18 Hopper 50% (48.9)
32 Kapanke 51% (44.6)

18

Christopher Phelps 08.10.11 at 9:49 pm

Jurgen – You may well be right about all of it being locally focused. I think your perceptions being on the scene count for a lot. But to clarify I didn’t mean the Washington hijinks as in the GOP obstructionists so much as the stock market’s steep decline, the low jobs number data, the S&P downgrade of U.S. debt, the fear of a double dip, Europe’s mounting crisis, etc. The sense of unrelentingly weak economy. It feels worse now than it did two months ago, more fragile, everywhere. Anyway, time for a renewed mass protest and programmatic focus on jobs for all and restoration of fair levels of taxation on the rich.

19

jpe 08.10.11 at 10:23 pm

If people won’t vote for their own interests what hope is there?

How terribly overdetermined. First, it’s conclusory to put it like that, as if there can’t be any reasonable difference over how interests are best served. Second, it’s morally short-sighted: we vote on many things beyond our self-interest, and, importantly, ought to.

20

Marc 08.10.11 at 10:30 pm

@17: 2008 was a very good year for Democrats, so that’s an encouraging comparison. From both of the links it looks as if polarization is up; e.g. Walker has increased support in the most Republican areas and strongly decreased support in Democratic ones.

21

Matt McIrvin 08.11.11 at 3:11 am

Did the last two weeks of constant reminders of ongoing economic precariousness tilt things toward the GOP? That is, I think Obama’s rightward drift means Dems don’t seem an alternative, and the GOP has somehow managed to make this O.’s recession.

Nationally, there’s some evidence that this hasn’t been the case. A few recent polls have shown that Obama’s lead over “Generic Republican” in the presidential question has suddenly opened up wide, and dissatisfaction with Republicans has skyrocketed.

I don’t think this is to Obama’s credit at all; it’s an own goal by the Congressional Republicans. Obama’s job approval keeps inching downward, as you’d expect it to under the circumstances, but it clearly doesn’t mean that people are moving to the right.

22

Matt McIrvin 08.11.11 at 3:18 am

…The media, though, may be a different story.

I’ve noticed that every single headline I’ve seen about the Wisconsin recalls describes this as a Democratic failure or Republican victory.

23

MPAVictoria 08.11.11 at 3:46 am

“First, it’s conclusory to put it like that, as if there can’t be any reasonable difference over how interests are best served.”

Any “reasonable difference” that involves a working or middle class person voting republican is by definition not reasonable. They have conclusively demonstrated that they are making war on regular people.

“Second, it’s morally short-sighted: we vote on many things beyond our self-interest, and, importantly, ought to.”

Agreed up to a point. Though I draw the line at voting for people who want me to end up a penniless pauper on the street, whatever their other qualities. But what do I know? My side is losing.

24

kidneystones 08.11.11 at 4:29 am

I might be wrong, but it seems to me that the arguments for supporting a Walker recall are coalescing along partisan rather than policy lines. Cuomo in New York is arguing for and winning concessions similar to those that so enraged the Wisconsin union membership. And perhaps that’s it. Unions trust Cuomo to bargain in good faith and distrust Walker. Had a lengthy chat with a loyal Dem supporter who is just starting to lose faith with O over his failure to take a stronger stand on the debt negotiations. My counter-argument is that he lacks any clear vision or position on any of the issues. Hence, his reluctance to take a stand on the debt talks. The argument for a robust, large stimulus package that takes on entrenched interests is more relevant than ever. Yet, nothing of the sort is emerging from the Dem camp.

I don’t see Dems winning many of the message wars these days and I don’t see how losing 4/6 can be construed as “victory” in any sense, at least in the real world. There have been a number of excellent articles on the failure of the progressive left to take advantage of popular outrage over the excesses of Washington’s elites, fidelity to Dem politicos being the principal explanation. Similarly, a number of left-wing commentators have noted that the tea party is succeeding where progressives are failing. The explanation is simple. The tea party have principles and a set of wrong-headed economic principles they are willing to promote and defend, against the entrenched interests of the political party closest to them.

The poor and the unemployed have been badly served by Dems since 2008. Rather than hold Dems to account for these failures, progressives have climbed into bed with big labor (the teacher’s unions) to advance the losing cause of perpetuating contracts that Cuomo and his Dem union allies in NY recognize to be untenable in the current political environment.

Dems, and particularly progressive Dems, are losing on the issues and on questions of leadership. I read some of the pro-Walker material. Walker is claiming that Wisconsin created an enormous number of jobs in June and that the restructuring of the teachers’ contracts has resulted in more money going to schools, the hiring of new teachers, and a reduction in class sizes.

Until progressives come with simple, clear constructive ideas that make sense to voters the tea party and their allies are going to win the day. I don’t want that, but I don’t see the opposite occurring.

The comment at 2 about “violent revolution” being inevitable would be rightly condemned if uttered by a tea-party supporter. Democracy, as imperfect as it is, is alive and well in Wisconsin and elsewhere in America.

25

christian_h 08.11.11 at 5:11 am

Democracy, as imperfect as it is, is alive and well in Wisconsin and elsewhere in America.

No seriously, that’s just humbug. For tactical reasons any kind of violence is currently a bad idea but what is going on in the US doesn’t even function as a liberal capitalist democracy any more (probably never did due to the lack of a politically organized labour movement).

On the recall efforts, I thought from the beginning that it was a dangerously wrong approach as an attempt to defend union rights. Even if the Democrats took the Senate, and even if they then actually made reinstating collective bargaining rights a priority (and there’s no reason to believe they would have) the state house and Walker could block it all. So basically what happened is that a movement was demobilized and channelled into an electoral effort that could not possibly be decisive.

In other words, the recall was never going to be more than a statement – a statement better and more clearly made by staying in the streets in the first place. It’s a classic case of cooptation.

26

christian_h 08.11.11 at 5:14 am

As for “bwaaah the Dems are controlled by the teachers unions and that’s why workers hate them” that is so laughably wrong I have to believe “kidneystones” is taking the piss…

27

Myles 08.11.11 at 6:28 am

The basic problem with this recall isn’t the Democrats, or the (fictive) strength of the Republicans, but merely that nobody likes what is essentially meta-political nonsense, of recalling politicians because a specific political group and a very specific constituency (i.e. the minority of people who are actually politically focused) don’t like what a specific group of politicians are doing on a specific issue. I mean, when people recalled Gray Davis, it’s because he was being just really unlikeable in every way.

GOP senators voting on what is pretty much a party-line vote really doesn’t fall in that category. The system we have in the West is representative democracy, not direct democracy, and this necessarily implies that politicians will sometimes take decisions in lieu of the voters even if the positions of the two, on that specific issue, differ. People who aren’t political junkies just vote for the politician they prefer and they leave the politician to do the job for the enumerated term, even if they might not like a specific decision.

When you try to rouse people on the basis of a single decision which, by the way, was not in any hidden from the voters in advance, and in any case fully within the prerogative of the elected politicians to take, the reaction you should expect isn’t “Right on,” but “Oh for heaven’s sake bugger off.”

28

kidneystones 08.11.11 at 6:36 am

christian_h writes…

Staying in the streets? What planet and age are you living in? This wasn’t a general strike or a response of workers in any classical sense. Teachers’ unions and their public service union allies occupied the state capital briefly. Sympathetic physicians wrote “sick notes” so the teacher’s could argue dishonestly and in bad faith that they did not break their contractual obligations and lost across the board. As for 25, at no point did I state “” that Dems are controlled by the teacher’s unions. That’s clearly not the case. What is clear is that direct hiring of the poor and the un-employed is not taking place now, nor will such hiring take place under the present alliance of Dems and public service unions. FDR did it and the current crop of Dems will not. As a result, UI benefits are extended to a group of workers who need to be working, not sitting at home against their will. They want work, any work, I’d argue.

Your flip indifference to the real plight of the millions of poor and under-employed is the fodder for the tea party. Teachers in Wisconsin are not struggling by any metric that can be applied to the poor and under-employed. These aren’t bread riots, they’re demonstrations by public service employees guaranteed employment, more or less for life, with blue-chip benefits packages. The poor and under-employed are not rallying in the streets in support of the Wisconsin public service unions because the “I’m all right, Jack” brand of trade unionism has taken firm root in America.

29

logern 08.11.11 at 8:04 am

@28Kidneystones -Your flip indifference to the real plight of the millions of poor and under-employed is the fodder for the tea party. Teachers in Wisconsin are not struggling by any metric that can be applied to the poor and under-employed. These aren’t bread riots, they’re demonstrations by public service employees guaranteed employment, more or less for life, with blue-chip benefits packages.

And the Tea Party seems to do a pretty good job of defending the rich from increased taxes without mentioning how much much much more (is that enough much-es?) well-off their patron saints are. There must be some sort of irony there somewhere.

30

logern 08.11.11 at 8:06 am

sorry about the strikethru Must of triggered that with a dash.

31

joel hanes 08.11.11 at 8:58 am

when people recalled Gray Davis, it’s because he was being just really unlikeable in every way.

More completely, because Gray Davis was unlikeable and because Daryl Issa was willing to spend many millions of his own money promoting the recall, on the mistaken calculation that Issa would be the R candidate if Davis lost, and because the Rs demagogued the end of the “temporary” vehicle registration tax abatement.

32

Steve LaBonne 08.11.11 at 10:44 am

Predictably we get the right-wingers (pretending to be) oh so concerned about the poor in order to bash workers. Nobody is fooled by this tired tactic except the people who are already teabaggers.

33

kidneystones 08.11.11 at 11:42 am

Steve LaBonne,

I’ll assume you’re referring to me. My record is hardly noteworthy. However, I consistently opposed the Iraq invasions (both) and did what I could to drum up opposition to the war. I’m an active member of a union and have belonged to several different unions over the course of my working career. We struck last year.

I oppose the tea party policies but do not think of the supporters as “crazy, racist, or extreme.” The hyper-sensitive American left has failed to produce any meaningful improvements, in the larger sense, for the people they purport to care about most: namely the poor and the unemployed. The anti-war movement has disappeared as many of the Bush wars’ leading critics assume new roles as apologists for O’s wars of regime change in Libya and elsewhere. In short, the left has no policies and no principles it is willing to defend beyond those of self-interest.

The example provided by the tea party confirms that the main battles the progressive left face are with Dems, not Republicans. I’m becoming increasingly convinced, btw, that the root problems of the left are rooted in atheism and secular humanism. It’s extremely difficult to imagine Britain getting rid of slavery with the Methodists. The major American civil rights actors in recent history have often been from religious movements.

In any event, I’ll applaud any major Dem willing to call for a bold, expensive new stimulus package that provides shovel-ready jobs to the unemployed. I’m just not holding my breath.

34

kidneystones 08.11.11 at 12:07 pm

Apologies. Should read “without” the Methodists.

35

Marc 08.11.11 at 12:19 pm

@33: Sorry, no sale. The full-throated hostility to teachers, the utterly false assertion about the religious leanings of liberals (do you even know that the black church exists?), the claim that liberals don’t actually care about the poor and unemployed…

It’s like a string of ad hominum attacks, all speaking to a deeply simplistic and radically reactionary mindset. There is no point of common ground; you hate people like me. What is there to talk about, besides trying to deal with a string of ignorant insults?

36

Popeye 08.11.11 at 12:42 pm

Is the Tea Party extreme or opposed to the interests of poor and middle-class people?

Relevant evidence: bombing of Libya; something about “hypersensitivity,” “atheism”, and “secular humanism”; Democrats extended UI benefits to lazy unemployed people who need to be working; Democrats suck because they’re not arguing for a large stimulus that takes on entrenched interests

Well, I’m convinced.

37

kidneystones 08.11.11 at 1:01 pm

Marc writes….

I teach and enjoy the classroom immensely. I can’t think of anyone I hate and I’ve never met you or have the faintest idea why I should hate you. I’m well aware of various black churches. I was thinking of them specifically. Unfortunately, much of the opposition to legalization of gay marriage and decriminalization comes from African-American churches. O himself is opposed to gay marriage. When Bush was sinking in the polls and a majority of Americans opposed sending more troops to Iraq he did exactly that because he had a vision of what he hoped to achieve. If we believe in Keynes, and I do, why the retreat? The circumstances have not changed for people paying the price. These people need jobs and the trickle down theories of this administration and the Republicans have clearly not provided addressed this need.

Tell yourself the administration and the progressive left are doing all that can be done, if you like. Chris Matthews, of all people, notes that with a collapsing infra-structure and huge numbers of unemployed, the notion that there are no-shovel ready jobs is ludicrous. Except to Dem apologists. The federal government should be paying the unemployed to clean streets, refurbish parks, clean and re-stack libraries, etc. etc. etc.Duncan Black has been beating the same drum for about two years. But even he isn’t willing to grasp the nettle and point out that Dems could have done precisely that when they controlled all three branches of government. They still can. Like I said, not holding my breath.

38

Popeye 08.11.11 at 1:17 pm

Chris Matthews, of all people, notes that with a collapsing infra-structure and huge numbers of unemployed, the notion that there are no-shovel ready jobs is ludicrous. Except to Dem apologists.

Dem apologists, and also the non-extremist political party that insists that we should balance the budget immediately without raising any taxes.

39

kidneystones 08.11.11 at 1:28 pm

Popeye writes….

The tea-party is welcome to insist we all wear our underwear on the outside of our clothes. That doesn’t mean Dems need to take the proposal seriously, or allow the national debate to devolve into a discussion of the merits of weekly versus daily inspections. That’s the current state of affairs. Some call it victory.

I’m personally not looking forward to a tea party presidency, but that’s what we’re looking at. I suppose you think that’s a measure of progressive success. I don’t.

40

Margaret 08.11.11 at 1:39 pm

I’m not sure how a victory for the Democrats got defined as “flipping the legislature.” It would have been nice, but there are two more Democrats in the State Senate now and it will be a great deal harder for Republicans just to railroad things through with scant regard to normal procedures. Change has happened. What was surprising and disappointing to many Democrats (and we learned this in the State Supreme Court election) was that the Republicans–all of them, not just a mad fringe– were as angry and as energized as the Democrats. As a state employee, to have to confront the rage that vast numbers of the citizens of Wisconsin feel towards state workers, is quite shocking.

41

Popeye 08.11.11 at 1:42 pm

And whose responsible for the Dems taking the Tea Party seriously? It’s people like kidneystones, who say: I oppose the tea party policies but do not think of the supporters as “crazy, racist, or extreme.” By refusing to portray crazy policies as crazy and people who support craziness as crazy, you contribute to a political culture that grants Michelle Bachmann a seat at the adults table. By blurring the distinctions between the Democrats and Republicans on issues like gay marriage, foreign policy, and government spending, you and your ilk undermine responsible governance more than anyone else can.

How can you live with yourself? Instead of coming here to lecture progressives, why don’t you go over to right-wing blogs and show conservatives the light? Or even better, why don’t you just jump off a bridge? The damage you’ve done to this once great country is immeasurable.

Physician, heal thyself.

42

Steve LaBonne 08.11.11 at 2:04 pm

Margaret, “divide et impera” should be the official Republican Party slogan.

43

kidneystones 08.11.11 at 2:59 pm

Popeye writes…

Most amusing, I so rarely get blamed for the collapse of civilization as we know it that I’m positively thrilled by your response. I fear you overstate my powers. The progressive left and its media allies has hurled abuse at the tea-party supporters since the loss of the Kennedy seat: as racists, bigots, crazy people, etc. and that behavior has had the net effect of doing what precisely? When Jon Stewart is lecturing Keith O. on over-the-top rhetoric you know there’s a problem. Or should know. The left has gone from ill-founded hubris ( Gitmo is closed, hooray!) to well-founded despair: we can’t get anything done. True.

The name-calling hasn’t worked and has denuded the most poisonous terms “racist” of pretty much all meaning. Shovel-ready jobs exist now and existed when O claimed they didn’t. Pointing this simple fact out isn’t “lecturing” anyone. It’s stating the obvious, or at least, what’s obvious to most people. Anyway, I promise not to try to destroy America, at least tonight. Tomorrow, who knows. Margaret got a taste of some of the emotion out there. I sincerely hope that all can disagree without getting mean-spirited. A good starting place, for me, is to treat all concerned with respect. That’s probably a minority view, but I’m good with it.

44

anon 08.11.11 at 3:20 pm

As a Wisconsin resident I was bombarded with Darling and Pasch ads over the last month. Apparently Pasch is soft on criminals and doesn’t support the troops. What’s up with people who respond to silly fluff like that?

45

Popeye 08.11.11 at 3:40 pm

Oh wait, it’s not your fault, it’s all the fault of the progressive left! What was I thinking?

Fascinating how although you supposedly share all of the left’s goals, your sympathies are entirely with the left’s political opponents.

Republicans portray Obama as a “soc1alist” but you say the left insists that all criticisms of Obama are “racist” (even though the left criticizes Obama). Republicans oppose all government spending but you’re mad because Obama said there weren’t enough shovel-ready jobs. Michelle Bachmann thinks homosexuality is a disease but you’re bothered because Obama avoids tackling the gay marriage issue heads-on. You wet your diapers because Keith Olbermann is on TV but in your view the left is “hypersensitive.” The angry left hurls insults at the Tea Party but you believe the anger directed at state workers needs to be respected and understood.

It’s almost as if you’re not actually a progressive at all, but a bored conservative troll!

46

Steve LaBonne 08.11.11 at 3:46 pm

Anybody seen that can of Troll-B-Gone? Must be around here somewhere.

47

Myles 08.11.11 at 3:51 pm

“because Gray Davis was unlikeable and because Daryl Issa was willing to spend many millions of his own money promoting the recall”

Dude, the second paragraph[1] of Gray Davis’s Wikipedia article says that part of what annoyed voters about him was his massive negative campaigning. I mean. This guy is a nasty piece of work people just don’t want to keep seeing on their TV screens. Blaming Issa is not going to cut it.

[1]“Voters were also alienated by Davis’s record breaking fundraising efforts and negative campaigning.”

48

Popeye 08.11.11 at 3:53 pm

Someone as unlikeable as Gray Davis would never win an election in California.

49

Uncle Kvetch 08.11.11 at 4:52 pm

It’s almost as if you’re not actually a progressive at all, but a bored conservative troll!

Either that or an aspiring writer for Slate.

50

ajay 08.11.11 at 4:56 pm

Voters were also alienated by Davis’s record breaking fundraising efforts

Really? I can’t see that happening unless he was raising funds in a particularly obnoxious way (eg. armed robbery).

51

Satan Mayo 08.11.11 at 5:12 pm

Dude, the second paragraph[1] of Gray Davis’s Wikipedia article says that part of what annoyed voters about him was his massive negative campaigning. I mean. This guy is a nasty piece of work people just don’t want to keep seeing on their TV screens. Blaming Issa is not going to cut it.

It’s not “blaming Issa”. It’s crediting Issa. If Issa hadn’t paid for the recall, there wouldn’t have been a recall.

52

mpowell 08.11.11 at 5:21 pm

Not everyone who sounds a little like a concern troll is actually a conservative. Sometimes they are a person with roughly liberal views but with a very confused view of the world of politics and how it functions. So they assign blame in all sorts of nonsensical patterns.

53

Sebastian 08.11.11 at 5:49 pm

Surely there is an irregular verb lurking if we are going to try to condemn the in-state money spent on the California recall while simultaneously lauding the recall effort in Wisconsin.

54

Myles 08.11.11 at 6:15 pm

Someone as unlikeable as Gray Davis would never win an election in California.

I was about to say that it was a wonder he won the election at all. This guy is just a creep.

Surely there is an irregular verb lurking if we are going to try to condemn the in-state money spent on the California recall while simultaneously lauding the recall effort in Wisconsin.

Well said. Progressive out-of-state money is awesome, while conservative in-state money is shit, amirite?

55

harry b 08.11.11 at 6:22 pm

I thought the criticism was that he is a multi-millionaire who spent millions on the recall, assuming that he would then be the Rep candidate. Fortunately, of course, he was able to buy the recall but not the candidacy, let alone the governorship.

56

Steve LaBonne 08.11.11 at 6:28 pm

Fortunately, of course, he was able to buy the recall but not the candidacy, let alone the governorship.

Which is why I don’t criticize him- I laugh at him. (Myles is funny too.)

57

Sebastian 08.11.11 at 7:16 pm

Oh, it sounded like the California recall was being criticized for being inauthentic or something. But if we’re just laughing at Issa for being a tool, I’m all behind that.

58

PHB 08.11.11 at 11:08 pm

It seems to me that the WI results show Walker to be exceptionally vulnerable.

In this set of recall elections people were being asked to dismiss their State Senators who had in some cases represented the district for years. Those are not the people most voters are going to consider to be most responsible for Walker’s antics. Democrats are going to consider them equally to blame but I suspect the average voter does not.

A recall election on Walker is going to be a direct referendum on the Walker governership. I expect that is going to bring out a lot more people who are upset with his antics than the Senate level recalls.

Of course the results were a massive defeat for the GOP, they just lost a third of their seats that were up for re-election and that was from a very low base. The relevant comparison on the Democrat’s side would be to note the fact that the GOP failed to gather enough signatures to hold recall elections in most Democrat’s districts and have so far failed to unseat any Democrats (nor do they appear likely to do so).

The big decision for Feingold is whether he runs for governor or tries to return to the Senate. He probably stands a better chance of the Governership than returning to the Senate.

59

logern 08.11.11 at 11:51 pm

mpowell@52Not everyone who sounds a little like a concern troll is actually a conservative.

If a person has a known previous track record before they claim to have become disenchanted and concerned. Sure.

If they don’t. Hmm.

60

Sebastian 08.12.11 at 12:57 am

Does anyone have good statistics on recalls, or are they too infrequent? My impression would be that once you get all the way through the annoying process to a recall vote, that the elected official would be very likely to get recalled. I would think that because recall elections are by definition not held with regular elections, so voters most interested in the recall would be more likely to vote. (I.e. you aren’t getting the normal distribution of voters, you are getting a distribution which skews heavily toward interest in a recall which I would suspect would be the pro-recall voters).

But that is just off the top of my head B/S. Is there anything that looks at it from that perspective?

61

kidneystones 08.12.11 at 2:38 am

Popeye writes…

I think you’re somewhat confused. I’m explicitly calling for another expensive stimulus packaged based on FDR style direct hiring of the unemployed by the federal government. The tea party is diametrically opposed to such programs. I enjoy invective. I’m asking you to question, in the basis of the the past two years, the efficacy of your approach. We are being inundated with left wing spin arguing that losing 4/6 in a recall effort is a reliable benchmark of success. The tea party, Christie, and Walker have effectively demolished their opposition in the Republican party and out. That’s an astonishing development considering how badly the Republican brand was damaged in 2008. The left wasted time, energy, and valuable political capital defending wars most opposed and a health-care plan that enriched big pharma. Meanwhile, life for the poor and under-employed deteriorated. Some call it progress.

I generally enjoy the discussions here, but I am busy.

Good luck with the name calling.

62

Popeye 08.12.11 at 3:26 am

Wait.

You want a big stimulus.
You are getting bupkus.
And you want me to question the efficacy of my approach? Why don’t you question the efficacy of your own approach? How is that working out for you?

63

kidneystones 08.12.11 at 5:16 am

Popeye writes…

Fair point. Congratulations on finally reading the black print. Am I still the root of all evil or are your previous ravings no longer operative?

Until progressives are willing to “hold Dems hostage” the way the tea party does to the Republicans I don’t see much movement to the left. You’re still blaming the wrong people. The enemy isn’t the tea party, it’s vested Dem interests, like the public service unions.

64

IM 08.12.11 at 10:24 am

The theory that unions, especially public sector unions are to blame for the opposition to the stimulus is very dubious. “Moderate”, that is neoliberal democrats like kidneystones were the reason the stimulus was much to small.

65

kidneystones 08.12.11 at 10:41 am

IM writes….

Interesting. I’ve been called a lot of names, but neo-liberal isn’t one of them. Harold Myerson is callling for a second stimulus in the Post today. The fact that Myerson is calling for a stimulus is, imho, the clearest evidence of the challenges dems face pretending they’re republicans. Spent the afternoon watching the republican debate in Iowa and an interview with Romney after. O better come up with something real very, very soon or he’s toast. Romney was surprisingly real and rational. His harrowing through the Republican primary is going to inure him to the personal attacks on his religion that are sure to form the basis of the high-road attacks from dems. More of the same is a sure path to defeat.

I opposed O, btw, and have been pretty much vindicated. Spend big. Just make sure the cash pays people to work.

66

Uncle Kvetch 08.12.11 at 10:42 am

The theory that unions, especially public sector unions are to blame for the opposition to the stimulus is very dubious.

It’s more than dubious, it’s utterly bizarre. I’m pretty much convinced at this point that kidneystones is really Mickey Kaus.

67

IM 08.12.11 at 10:54 am

I don`t believe in left wing union haters, sorry. Rather like unicorns.

Regarding being vindicated about Obama, I don’t think moderate democrat and war supporter Hillary Clinton would have been much different. Six and half a dozen.

68

Popeye 08.12.11 at 12:25 pm

Clearly to get more stimulus we need to attack the progressive left and its media allies, stop them from being so angry and churlish, and grant more respect to the angry Tea Party that fetishizes cutting government spending. This is the outside-the-box thinking that we need,

69

kidneystones 08.12.11 at 12:27 pm

IM writes,

You may have missed my early comment about being a union member. I realize that you may want all unions to be the same and want to believe that labor solidarity trumps all. But that isn’t the case. I support direct hiring of the unemployed by the federal government as SCABS, a term you may be familiar with. Unusual circumstances call for unusual measures. Extending UI benefits to people who have already been doing nothing but waiting for a check isn’t making anything better. Myerson’s proposal, btw, is more of the same: funneling more borrowed money to bankrupt local and state governments. You’re entirely welcome to believe Hillary would have been worse or the same. Like I said, the Republicans are going to probably present someone highly electable. If Dems have to run on their record as it is, the next president will be a republican. Might even be Bachman.

70

logern 08.12.11 at 1:04 pm

@69kidneystonesMight even be Bachman.

There might also be snowballs in Hell.

71

IM 08.12.11 at 2:04 pm

>If Dems have to run on their record as it is, the next president will be a republican. Might even be Bachman.<

True. But your cure – moving right – is worse then the sickness.

And if you are pro stimulus, then you should recognize that longer unemployment benefits are stimulus and that help to local and state governments is at least atomic stabilisation.

And your refashioning of the New Deal and FDR as some sort of strike-breaking is… original.

72

Bruce Wilder 08.12.11 at 5:31 pm

I don’t think kidneystones is talking up “moving Dems to the right”. I know he’s hard to hear, but that difficulty — your difficulty, if you are trying to make him out as a neoliberal — is part of what he’s arguing.

The reference to public service unions as part of the problem threw me for a bit of a loop, too. But, I can make some sense of it, as other than than trollish concern, if I keep calm.

The neo-liberal, corrupt preservationist/incrementalist politics of the possible, plus “we got to keep the crazy Republicans from power, or else! Nothing else matters” are a prescription for policy paralysis and electoral failure.

Nationally, Obama’s policy choices and leadership are catastrophic for progressive/liberal causes, by objective measures. I am not interested in analyzing his personal psychology on this. He’s not someone I can vote for again, no matter who the other candidate is. I fully expect that the neo-liberals in the Media and blogosphere will support him, though. Blogosphere-wise: Kevin Drum, Matthew Yglesias, Scott Lemieux, Brad DeLong, Steve Benen, Ezra Klein — I don’t imagine any of these voices will regard perpetual war, endemic business corruption, high unemployment and falling wages, as un-progressive enough, to jump ship.

There’s a preservationist/incrementalist instinct at work, which, in combination with a lack of conviction and absence of imagination and too much dutiful Democratic partisanship, tends to make ostensibly liberal Democrats into weird kinds of ineffectual conservatives.

On the electoral front, to achieve a voting majority, Democrats have to be willing to make populist appeals to people, who are not politically astute, and whose politics are pretty much limited to feeling scared and passionately resentful. You don’t get there, by starting with contempt for Tea Party folks, who are not politically astute, and who are, clearly, scared and resentful. I know a lot of highly educated, liberal Democrats are uncomfortable with populist appeals, which rely on felt solidarity, because such principles can easily slide into nationalism or racism, and they prefer philosophical principles and 14-point programs, to resentment.

Staging a huge popular campaign, and recalling only 4 of 6 is a political failure. The goal was not achieved. If the Democratic candidate, in some cases, was weak and troubled, choosing that person to represent the cause was a mistake. If a Republican clerk can get away with election stealing, that was a threat unmet. If these were unassailably strong Republican districts, why were they chosen as recall targets? I don’t know diddly about Wisconsin politics, but I can recognize, post-game, errors of strategic leadership in the excuses for failure, being offered. I don’t know how much of that is attributable to the influence of unions, with a preserve-my-good-job-and-don’t-criticize-my-performance attitude, interfering with the ability to deal with a politics of populist resentment. (I’m pretty sure Obama’s ability to demoralize Democrats in the 2010 elections had a part in setting up this mess.)

We are in a Depression. The zeitgeist is one of rapid decline, of the passing of a way of life, even. People are scared by the rapid change, and, being weirdly human, thrilled by it, too. It is like being in the midst of some great natural disaster or conflagration — or witness to an endless series of car wrecks on the freeway. It’s tragic and sad and, also, an amazing antidote to depression. People want to preserve what they had, and, at the same time, they feel an impulse to bring the whole paralyzed, corrupt, obsolete structure down.

Republicans have been doing an amazingly effective job responding to the zeitgeist, making populist appeals to this psychology, and producing corrupt, “tough guy” authoritarians like Scott Walker by the bushel basket. Democrats have Obama, busy enacting a plutocrat’s wet-dream agenda.

Something is seriously wrong with the Democratic party leadership, in terms of personnel, policy ideas, strategic conviction, and tactical flexibility.

73

Steve LaBonne 08.12.11 at 5:40 pm

If these were unassailably strong Republican districts, why were they chosen as recall targets?

Because only officeholders who have been in office more than a year can be recalled in Wisconsin. And Republicans elected before last fall are, naturally, the ones in the most Republican districts. Your lack of that basic piece of information, I’m afraid, invalidates much of the rest of what you said. Also, as public employee though non-union, I resent your apparent willingness to join kidneybrain in throwing us under the bus. Count me out of any version of the “left” that wants to do that. You want me to have your back, you’d better have mine.

74

David W. 08.12.11 at 6:54 pm

Harry, I can see Tom Barrett running against Walker again in a recall election. To the best of my knowledge Barrett hasn’t said no to a rematch.

75

Bruce Wilder 08.12.11 at 7:47 pm

@73

I don’t particularly want to throw anyone “under the bus”.

I do think the dichotomies shared by the two parties leave both parties, wrong about everything. And, no, I’m not a corrupt “third way” fool, either; it’s third-way, DLC, neo-liberal nonsense, which put the Dems on the “other side” from the Tea Party crazies, with both sides focused on an agenda of non-issues. That’s how the Democrats became the Party of non-performance, which lost, and lost big in 2010 elections, setting up the fiasco in Wisconsin.

American politics is very tough right now. People are motivated to hold on to what they have, if they can. I get that. I just don’t think that kind of politics, by itself, can solve many of the problems that face us. (See this Ian Welsh essay.)

76

Steve LaBonne 08.12.11 at 8:36 pm

I just don’t think that kind of politics, by itself, can solve many of the problems that face us.

Not making them worse is a good first step, though. Where the Democrats are concerned, defending what’s left of their institutional base is, too. As is preserving examples of the way things SHOULD be for all workers, instead of allowing them to be destroyed. Normally I find your comments exceptionally well thought out, but I think you have stumbled into one of your own blind spots here.

77

logern 08.13.11 at 1:50 am

Nationally, Obama’s policy choices and leadership are catastrophic for progressive/liberal causes, by objective measures. I am not interested in analyzing his personal psychology on this. He’s not someone I can vote for again, no matter who the other candidate is. I fully expect that the neo-liberals in the Media and blogosphere will support him, though. Blogosphere-wise: Kevin Drum, Matthew Yglesias, Scott Lemieux, Brad DeLong, Steve Benen, Ezra Klein—I don’t imagine any of these voices will regard perpetual war, endemic business corruption, high unemployment and falling wages, as un-progressive enough, to jump ship.

I’m not sure what the line, “He’s not someone I can vote for again, no matter who the other candidate is. ” is meant literally, but people must enjoy the anti-science, anti-abortion, anti-gay, faith-based initiative, pro-corporate, anti-union, and anti social service, anti-environment battles that will come times 2, or times 3 with one of these other alternatives. And you will still get perpetual war and business corruption to boot. You’ll likely get increased employment with decreased benefits and lower overall wages, and eventually we’ll still outsource jobs, and deregulate.

But hey, what’s the difference? It will be just like Obama.

78

Bruce Wilder 08.13.11 at 3:29 am

@77

I’m powerless. What are you?

79

Marc 08.14.11 at 11:12 pm

Criticizing people for what they do, as opposed to the evil motives that you divine for them, would be a useful start.

Blocking incredibly regressive policies counts for something, even if you use language that makes the online purity squad go nuts.

I live in Ohio. People here, and in Wisconsin, and Florida, and Texas, and a lot of other places are getting an object lesson into what happens when the loons run the place. It is different from what happens when there are Democrats here.

On the “appease the fringe nuts ” thing: You’re not going to appeal to the Tea Party crowd, because they’re the same people they always were: reactionary right-wingers. The Republicans didn’t appese the New Left: they demonized them and generated a backlash against them among the actual moderates and the soft conservatives. I think a strategy of calling extremists extreme, and calling crazy people crazy, has a far better track record than being squishy.

And attacking your actual enemies works better than heightening the contradictions.

80

understudy 08.15.11 at 1:58 am

Well, I only wish I could live in Wisconsin or Ohio… here in Pennsylvania, I have to be reminded every week by right-minded Democrats that our hard working, unionized, state Liquor Control Board employees must not be privatized, because buying liquor from a private company will start a process where we all end up penniless, working for, and shopping at, Walmart (while drunk too).

What agenda does the provision of liquor by government monopoly support? If it is a good thing for Pennsylvania, I assume it should be pushed in WI, or do you not have “these PA employees backs” covered?

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