My anticipation about Tuesday’s election was high. My information about the how, why, when and what of this recall election came from the Left side of politics. I generally avoid the blogs and the radio and television shows of the Right.
I am pro-union because I am pro-worker. No business can operate without employees, no business can succeed without employees. Employees are a vital part of any business and are, all too often, dismissed or ignored when the success of owners and CEOs are applauded. And unions give employees a voice in working conditions, employee safety, wages, health care and pensions. Within large companies and/or corporations individual employees have relatively no chance to ensure their health and welfare, along with what they are paid. That isn’t saying that employee versus employer is a good guy versus bad guy situation. It is more like one person, with no weapons, facing another armed with guns, ample ammunitions, tanks, missiles and more. Or even going into a poker game where one person is dealt a single card while the other has six cards. It simply isn’t a level playing field.
Regardless of what news outlet you follow, there have been a wide variety of speculations, theories and hypotheses about why the election turned out as it did. Personally, I don’t think the outcome can be narrowed down to one single reason that Walker won the election or that Barrett lost.
Walker is only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall. The other two both lost and were recalled. Each of the political pundits is feverishly competing to come up with the definitive explanation for this outcome. Personally I think the bigger story is the solidification of the division between the opposing sides and the repercussions which will follow for, not only, the state of Wisconsin but the rest of the country as well. Families and friendships have broken apart because of this battle. For me it seems our increasingly contentious political system is becoming as toxic as the lead up to the Civil War and the animosity between those who supported slavery and the abolitionists.
Initially, I felt certain that the imbalance of money in the election would be the determining factor in the election (Walker is estimated to have outspent Barrett 7 to 1). After reading some of the post election coverage, I am not so sure that the enormous amount of money spent (estimated at $60 million) really had much impact on how people voted. In one post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/wisconsin-recall-vote_n_1572662.html) it was pointed out that the vote split in the recall almost matched the initial faceoff between Walker and Barrett. Basically the people of Wisconsin voted this time the way they voted in the governor’s race in 2010. The undecided voters only amounted to about 8%, with new voters accounting for around 13%. To me that means that those 8% were the only ones who might have been influenced by “the money” issue. The article goes on to say that Walker managed to turn out a higher percentage of his original supporters than did Barrett.
Recall elections are few and far between in the U.S., as evidenced by my earlier point that Walker is only the third governor in our history to face a recall election. Several sources, including the one I’ve cited above, have put forth that about a third of people polled don’t support recall elections unless the politician has done something egregious, like committing a crime. Their political affiliation doesn’t matter. The seriousness of the offense is the concern of to the voting public regardless of political party. What that says to me is that most voters believe in democracy, meaning the voters have chosen and the person with the most votes, whether or not you voted for him/her, is the winner. Shut up, bite the bullet and let the winner serve out their term. (NOTE: I am not saying that I believe we actually live in a democracy, but that the general public believes in democracy and that our American system is a democracy……..because that is what they have been told. The formerly and currently disenfranchised probably have a different perspective).
Add to this that the opinion of unions, unlike in the mid 20th century, is mostly negative. After about 50 years of chipping away at the number of American workers who belong to a union or have a union member in the family, the number of union workers has declined substantially. Where once both union and non-union workers banded together in solidarity, it has become a mostly contentious relationship, where union workers are seen as greedy, lazy and recipients of unfair pay scales, benefits and pensions. Big business has succeeded in demonizing the collective power of unions who were responsible for the 5 day 40 hours work week, minimum wage, paid sick time and the formation of OSHA to protect the safety of workers on their job. For me, that is the story, not the fact that Walker successfully kept his job. It’s the workers and employees of America that are the losers in this race.