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.

Austerity and Social Protest

by Henry Farrell on August 10, 2011

I’ll leave those who are better qualified than I to argue about the econometrics, but the timing of this paper’s release is extraordinary.

bq. Expenditure cuts carry a significant risk of increasing the frequency of riots, anti-government demonstrations, general strikes, political assassinations, and attempts at revolutionary overthrow of the established order. While these are low- probability events in normal years, they become much more common as austerity measures are implemented. … We demonstrate that the general pattern of association between unrest and budget cuts holds in Europe for the period 1919-2009. It can be found in almost all sub-periods, and for all types of unrest. Strikingly, where we can trace the cause of each incident (during the period 1980-95), we can show that only austerity-inspired demonstrations respond to budget cuts in the time- series. Also, when we use recently-developed data that allows clean identification of policy-driven changes in the budget balance, our results hold.

Via Kevin O’Rourke.