Recall election thoughts: Is glass half-full?

After the recall elections lastTuesday night (Aug. 9), one conclusion and only one is clear:  the glass is half-full . . . or, is it half-empty?

The truth is that both  Democrats and their progressive partners  and Republicans and their corporate partners will have reason for hope and despair from the elections.  If you read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (which endorsed Gov. Scott Walker in the 2010 election), it’s all over for the Democrats and labor.  They say the Democratic recall effort was a costly, unnecessary bust.  (See editorial for Aug. 11.)

Turn to the New York Times and you’ll see them editorialize from their perch in Manhattan that the Democrats showed power and strength in the results, since they ran better in 5 of the 6 districts over the 2008 elections. (See editorial for Aug. 11)

Listen to John Nichols of The Nation – and a state boy who was here for the whole affair – and you’ll see lots of hope that Democrats and labor have a chance to slow down and maybe stop the Walker pro-corporation express train.  (See interview with Amy Goodman.)

Looking at it realistically – and trying not to see through rose-colored glasses – the showing of labor-backed State Senate candidates was about as good as can be expected.  All six of the districts have been traditionally Republican districts, all of which were gerrymandered into “solid” districts.  The two “wins” were about what could be expected.

Yet, that so far is not good enough to change the political climate in Madison, particularly with so much of the state media cheering the governor in his radical ways.  Witness the state’s largest paper, the Journal Sentinel, whose coverage of the campaign and the election seemed to lose sight of the vast amounts of rightwing money that went into the Republican campaigns, while reporting over and over about the amount of money provided by labor, which was made public.  The rightwing money – coming in the form of independent advertisements – was not reported thanks to the Supreme Courts Citizens United decision and flew under the radar.

While some media commentators seem to be convinced that Tuesday’s results will dampen spirits of Democrats to recall Walker, we haven’t seen any signs from leading progressives that would show they plan on quitting the effort.  And they shouldn’t.

It won’t be an easy chore.  The recall can’t begin until November (just three months from now) and then petitioners need to get over 500,000 signatures statewide by January.  It sounds like a daunting task, but remember petitioners in Ohio gained nearly 1.3 million names – about six times the required amount — to force a ballot referendum in hopes of stopping that state’s new anti-labor public employee law.

If enough signatures are gained to bring about a recall election, the tough part begins to win the statewide vote.  It’ll be a rough campaign, to be sure, but based on Tuesday’s results, it appears that voter trends are still tiding against Gov. Walker.   Then – as in Tuesday’s voting – it’ll come down to turnout.  Remember, too, that if a recall election of Walker becomes reality, it will be held under the new voting rules rammed through by the Republicans earlier this year; that means showing an ID at the polls and being prepared for challenges.

The biggest task will be to continue to educate the voters about the true issues.  Walker has a clear message:  Cut taxes and reduce the size of government.  That will a difficult message to overcome, since it appeals to all voters and is so simple it is easy to understand.

The message from Progressives needs to be direct as well; it won’t be enough to merely concentrate on the collective bargaining law and labor issues.  We must continue to show how the Walker budget will further damage the middle class and push more and more people into low-wage jobs, dropping more families from the middle class.  We must show how it will affect lower-income families, and how that will eventually affect all of us.

We’ll also have to educate voters about the need to get State Identification Cards before the election so that they will be able to vote.  That may take some doing for those voters who might have difficulty getting to State Motor Vehicle Department sites to obtain such IDs.

We can’t help but be disappointed by Tuesday’s election results, but in those results we see the seeds of victory in eventually unseating Wisconsin’s radical governor.  It will take lots of work and we can’t let a possible letdown from Tuesday’s vote cause us to quit the fight.  Consider the glass half-full!  Kenneth A. Germanson, Aug. 11, 2011