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Message to Wisconsin: Fight the Power, Forget the Polls

With the recall election for Walker coming up on June 5, every little development, every possible indicator of how the public mood is shifting, can cause ecstasy or agony.

The following article first appeared at Working In These Times, the labor blog of In These Times magazine. For more news and analysis like this, sign up to receive In These Times' weekly updates.

The last 16 months have provided an unpredictable emotional roller-coaster ride of demoralizing lows and exhilirating highs since Scott Walker declared war on workers on Feb. 11, 2011.

With the recall election for Walker coming up on June 5, every little development, every possible indicator of how the public mood is shifting, can cause either ecstasy or agony for the many thousands who have been actively fighting Walker and his billionaire backers all these months.

Late last week, a new poll by Marquette University Law School showed Walker ahead of labor- and progressive-backed Democratic opponent Tom Barrett by a 50 to 44 percent margin.

So on Monday night, when my long-time friend and  Uprising author John Nichols—who also hails from Racine—and I gave talks about new books on the significance of the Wisconsin labor rebellion, there was an undercurrent of anxiety running through the crowd of 150 or so that filled Boswell’s Books in Milwaukee. John has developed a large national following through his work as correspondent for  The Nation, his frequent commentary on  MSNBC, and the seven books he has authored.

In stressing the "secession" of  the “job creator” class from any responsibility except profit maximization, I fear John and I may have merely deepened fears in the crowd, already put on edge by polling numbers and Walker's  $25 million war chest, which gives the governor close to a 25-1 edge over Barrett. (Despite this gross imbalance, the mindlessly  pro-Walker Journal Sentinel headlined a story in this "even-handed" fashion: "Barrett, Walker have one thing in common: Out-of-state donors.")

Fortunately, John lightened the mood with an hysterically funny account of the lies and hypocrisies of Scott Walker, his corporate sponsors, and his flunkies, included in his superb new book  Uprising.

John Doe vs. Scott Walker

John also called attention to the ongoing John Doe probe of Walker’s administration  when he served as county executive of Milwaukee. The investigation has already produced numerous indictments (on charges like looting a fund for wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans), and several top Walker aides—and family members—have accepted immunity in exchange for testimony. Of course, the content of some 1,300 Walker e-mails has yet to be revealed to the public. 

But the focus of our discussion remained largely on the impending recall and the prospects for Walker's foes. John stressed optimism, recounting all the times we faced seemingly impossible barriers and still managed to overcome them (as when activists gathered more than 1 million signatures—twice the required 540,000—to trigger Walker’s recall).

An incisive critique of the Marquette poll, which John later  expanded upon in print in the  Capital Times, also gives reason to hope:

The previous Marquette poll, which showed a dead heat between Walker and Barrett, found that 43 percent of those identified as conservatives, while 32 percent identified as moderates and 22 percent as liberals.

In other words, the new poll upped the number of conservatives interviewed — those most likely to support Walker — by five percentage points while it reduced the percentage of liberals polled — those most likely to vote for Barrett — by two points. [The dramatic shift in the polling sample] accounts for the entire boost in Walker’s number and the entire drop in Barrett’s number.

Wisconsin labor and progressives can also take heart from a new poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research from May 19 to 21,  showing Walker leading Barrett by only a 50 to 47 percent margin, which is within the poll’s four-point margin of error. Even more encouraging, “Barrett  leads with independents, 50 percent to 44 percent.”

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