Aug 10, 2011 11:04 PM GMT
It is unfortunate that there are those for whom no results would be "legitimate" unless they happened to coincide with ones they agreed with politically. It is also useful to remember that $30 million was spent in union dues for these results.
An energized Democratic base was supposed to turn out yesterday. It was supposed to pry away from Republicans their total control of Wisconsin's state legislature. Republicans had gone after the state's public employee unions, and this was supposed to be an overreach that would cost them dearly in yesterday's recall elections. If Democrats could pick up three of the six seats under recall, they could win back the state Senate and block Gov. Scott Walker's agenda.
Every Republican I spoke to before the election expressed pessimism. The expectations were clearly in favor of a Democratic takeover -- so much so that Republicans in Wisconsin's legislature took the extraordinary step of passing an early redistricting bill.
And then...it just didn't work out the way the unions had hoped.
In the end, the union-backed Democrats picked up only two state Senate seats in Wisconsin last night, at a staggering cost in time, effort, and of course money. One of the seats was solidly Democratic, held by a Republican due to an apparent fluke of nature. The other was held by an alleged adulterer who had moved outside his district to live with his young mistress, and whose wife was supporting his recall.
As for the other four Republican incumbents the unions tried to recall, they didn't end up coming very close. And remember -- these weren't just any Republican incumbents. These were the ones that the unions judged most vulnerable, which is why they collected petition signatures against them.
How did Republicans hold out? It hasn't hurt that Walker's reforms have dramatically helped school districts within the state save millions of dollars by abolishing the main Wisconsin teachers' union's insurance racket. Nor does it hurt that Wisconsin, under the business-friendly leadership of Walker and a Republican state legislature, created more than half of the jobs created in the United States during the month of June.
To be sure, yesterday's contests offered few lessons for 2012, as far as the status of swing-state Wisconsin is concerned. But at the state level, and on the level of ideas, yesterday's elections have deep meaning. And with two Democrats in the state Senate facing recalls next week -- perhaps one is genuinely vulnerable -- we may have seen the unions' high political tide, especially if Walker's reforms really do weaken their clout.
"The people" were supposed to be on the side of the unions who protested at the state capitol when Walker's bill passed, limiting the unions' collective bargaining privileges against taxpayers and school districts. But it turns out that "the people" had other ideas. In the end, even a massive infusion of cash and union volunteers was not enough to deliver the three state Senate recall races the unions needed, despite the fact that President Obama carried all six of the seats in question in 2008.
This marks the unions' third huge defeat in Wisconsin this year. The other two were the passage of Walker's bill and the re-election of David Prosser to the state Supreme Court. The grand talk of recalling Walker himself next year seems a bit blustery now, given the great failure of last night.