8 Ways Delusional Right-Wingers Are Blowing Wisconsin Out of Proportion
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On Tuesday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker held onto his job with a typical Republican campaign built on trickery, wildly dishonest messaging and a massive budget courtesy of a handful of ideologically like-minded sugar daddies from out-of-state (according to Mother Jones, about two-thirds of Walker's donations came from outside the Badger State, compared with just around a quarter of his opponent's).
In the aftermath of the vote, conservatives, proving typically magnanimous in victory, spun the results like a top. They claimed the outcome spelled doom for Obama this fall, marked the death of the labor movement and was a pure reflection of voters' love for Scott Walker's economy-crushing austerity policies.
“This is what democracy looks like,” Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch crowed after hanging on to her job. “Public sector unions are over,” rejoiced libertarian blogger Radley Balko on Twitter. The Breitbart kids, furthering a standard-issue conservative lie about unions, happily reported that, “Walker won 36% of Wisconsin's union households, which isn't surprising, considering how workers reacted when emancipated from forced dues.” (By law, nobody can be forced to pay union dues – workers in union shops can only be compelled to pay the direct costs of representing them.)
We shouldn't kid ourselves; it was obviously a serious defeat for the progressive movement. Yet the triumphalism is more a manifestation of conservatives' wishful thinking than a reflection of objective reality. Here are eight reasons why.
1. Wisconsinites Just Didn't Like the Idea of Recalling a Sitting Governor
An honest reading of the published exit poll leads to an important conclusion about Walker's victory that has little to do with unions, Walker's policies, the economy or any of the other factors that have pundits' tongues wagging.
Fully 70 percent of those voters polled believed that recall elections are either never appropriate (10 percent) or are only appropriate in the case of official misconduct (60 percent).
The governor won 72 percent of this group. And it's worth noting that a third of those voters who said “official misconduct” is a good reason to recall a governor voted to oust Walker, who has seen six of his staffers charged with 15 felonies in the “John Doe” probe.
While Walker himself has not yet been charged, reports suggest that the investigation is circling closer to him. Over the past seven weeks, he transferred $160,000 from his campaign funds to a legal defense fund, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. In a recent interview with AlterNet, John Nichols, associate editor of the Madison Capitol Times, noted that the governor “is now represented by four separate law firms, including two of the top criminal defense law firms. These aren’t firms that deal with election law; these are firms that deal with major crimes.” He survived the recall, but his problems are by no means over.
2. Wealthy Wisconsinites Voted Their Self-Interest
Also belying the spin that this was a referendum on public sector unions is the fact that the wealthiest fifth of the population – the people who have benefitted directly from Scott Walker's tax cuts (passed during a supposed “fiscal crisis”) and probably worry too much about the social safety net he has ripped apart – made all the difference in the race.
Scott Walker and Tom Barrett were tied among the 80 percent of Wisconsin voters who make less than $100,000 (Walker got 50.2% of the vote, but the poll has a 4-point margin of error). Among the 20 percent who make $100 grand or more, Walker trounced Barrett, 63-37.
3. About Those Union Households