Is it too early to recall what happened yesterday? It’s hard to tell; for some it’s over, but for others it’s just begun.
With the dust barely settled, the final vote counts likely still trickling in, and the passion and fervor slowly giving way to exhaustion, the spinning begins: Walker’s survival is a message, a bellwether, a local event, a hijacking. Pick your pundit and you pick your propaganda. Tune in and listen to those saying what you probably already believe and then sleep well tonight.
But, of course, it isn’t that simple—it never is. So here’s my take, given with appropriately mixed feelings.
Scott Walker’s fundamental actions should have been no surprise to anyone. He came in on the 2010 conservative tsunami, campaigning on a promise to take a fiscal belt sander to the budgets. The fact that, as a Republican, he went after unions wasn’t unexpected. Not at all. And, frankly, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not anti-union in some knee-jerk thoughtless way. I’m not anxious to see another Triangle factory fire. But there are unions and there are unions, and it would be hard to argue that many of them haven’t become a way to amass political money for the purpose of driving an ideological agenda, something that, as you know, I deplore on both sides.
There’s also the fundamental attitude I have about “getting a do-over,” as one person I spoke to put it. Walker may have been a bit unscrupulous (more on that in a moment), but he was elected and he fundamentally did what he said he was going to do, after which those who elected him said “uh-uh.” I’m sorry, but that just feels wrong to me. If you don’t like what you elected, then vote him out next time around. It’s sort of like ordering a meal at a restaurant based on the menu description, getting exactly what you ordered, eating two-thirds of it, and then changing your mind. Well, you had your primary and you had your general, Wisconsin. And in the absence of gross negligence or misconduct, the whole “do-over” thing feels wrong to me, both morally and ethically.
Okay, Scott: it’s your turn, and I just have to say that as a “people person,” you suck. You arguably made a fiscal situation worse, then used Machiavellian techniques in exercising polemic and policy to create an emotional groundswell against decent and hardworking people, people who work honestly and meaningfully for the citizens of your state. You didn’t treat them right, not at all. You depersonalized them, made them seem like they were runtlings staying too long at their mother’s teats. You disrespected them.
As important as doing what you say you’re going to do is how you do it. What do you think it takes, attitude-wise, for you to single-handedly drive the entire Democratic delegation from the state in order to avoid what you’re doing? You took a “Game of Thrones” approach to the whole sordid affair, swinging battleaxes, throwing burning oil from parapets, severing thumbs and fingers when you could. Were you really all that surprised at the reaction? Now, you might say that it’s all for the best and, anyway, look at what happened: you survived the recall. But the rest of your term is now most likely wasted. You’ve lost the political will of your own people, and I can’t imagine anything you say—ever—will be taken at face value. You are a governor doomed to living in subtext, and that’s not an easy place from which to lead.
THE VERY, VERY UGLY
With all that being said, there’s one important and scary thing that worries me thoe most: I have no idea what the people of Wisconsin really think about these issues.
I do know, quite definitely, what very powerful non-Wisconsinites think about these issues. They told us very loudly and clearly when they virtually trampled every inch of the state with their money and their advertising. By one accounting, nearly 70% of the money spent to support Governor Walker came from outside the state. That doesn’t strike me as even the most rudimentary definition of “democracy.” It strikes me, instead, as a rudimentary definition of “manipulation.”
So: the bottom line for me as I recall yesterday’s events? We still have no clue what people really want, and until those same people first recognize the manipulation and then decide they no longer accept it, we never really will.
But at least it will be fun listening to the pundits, I guess... though it's starting to feel like I've had enough of that kind of fun...