Obviously, if you are a supporter of Scott Walker, his allies, and the policy positions they represent, you have to be delighted with the outcome of the Wisconsin Recall elections last night. GOP pundits are characterizing this as a victory for the cuts in taxes and the resulting cuts in social services, plus a blow against the public employee unions that represent one of the few means Democrats have of raising large sums of cash to compete with the GOP.
Well, not so fast. The pundits might be right, but how does one explain that the same electorate that retained Walker and his allies still supports Obama over Romney by nine percentage points? My hypothesis is that many people still hold to a very pure view of the reason for recalls to exist, which is not to remove politically unpopular people from office, but to remove people who are morally or mentally unfit to continue serving. Here are two contrasting historical examples.
Just over twenty years ago, my state senator was convicted on a sexual molestation charge involving his stepdaughter. He was successfully recalled from office. This is a clear-cut example of the intention of the recall.
More recently, Governor Grey Davis of California was successfully recalled because of how he chose to balance California’s budget, despite the fact that he has never been accused of malfeasance of any kind. This is absolutely not what the recall was intended for.
I’m no Scott Walker fan but, looking at last night, I think he falls much closer to Grey Davis than to the state senator. True, there is a criminal investigation in the works against Walker and it is true that he ran a campaign as a populist who has proven to be anything but. However, politicians who pull a bait-and-switch to get elected are too numerous to list, and any malfeasance on Walker’s part is, at most, in the accusatory stage. My hope is that what we learn from Wisconsin, in the long run, is that shady, egomaniacal billionaires and fatuous political operatives will do anything to win an election and that there are still enough morally-outraged Americans who will be mobilized by this to stop our beloved country from being turned into a plutocracy.