Walker Wins, 53-46

June 6, 2012

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker beat the recall yesterday.

This marvelous illustration (painting of Walker as Perseus, slaying Medusa, against the backdrop of the quasi-apocalyptic protests that rent Madison last year—when thousands occupied the capitol grounds and hundreds of filthy “residents” started living in it “24 hours a day”—see pictures of the general spectacle from the Daily Mail and Sacramento Bee—causing all kinds of mischief and leaving a multimillion-dollar mess for the grown-ups to clean up) is the cover of a recent issue of National Review.  That cover story is available here.

Public-sector unions should never have been allowed to exist.  They represent a structural threat to democracy, allowing government spending to be set, to a significant degree, by its beneficiaries (the government employees) rather than those who pay for it.  They create a vicious feedback loop wherein the government takes money from us through taxation, which it pays to its employees, which they then pay to their unions, which the unions in turn use to elect more Democrats, who raise taxes further, and so on ad infinitum, or at least ad insolvency.

John Derbyshire called repealing public-sector unions “necessary . . . but utterly impossible for political . . . reasons”, and with good reason.  Once invented, they take on a life of their own and fight to protect themselves from ever being uninvented.  In other words, we thought they were politically impossible to repeal for the same reason we would want to repeal them: their unhealthy entanglement of interests, money, and political power.

But Scott Walker did it.

I consider this very good news.  If American democracy still works well enough to turn back the clock on public-sector unions—even in Wisconsin, one of the birthplaces of the American Progressive movement, the first state to allow public-sector unions (1959)—maybe it’s not too late to undo other self-insulating structural threats, such as national entitlement programs.  Maybe we can actually reverse the seemingly inexorable growth of the federal government.  Maybe it’s not too late for America.

As Walker said before the election,

“We’ve got to drive hard all the way through to 8 p.m. on Tuesday,” Walker says. “The other day, Paul Ryan said that courage is on the ballot. He’s right. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about enabling elected leaders — at the local, state, and federal level — to have the courage to take on the tough issues,” from pension reform to entitlement reform.

Other notes of interest:

Walker won 53% to 46%.  His Democrat challenger was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett—the same opponent he had faced in the original 2010 election, when Walker very similarly beat him 52% to 47%.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Now that Walker has survived the recall, he cannot face another one for the remainder of his term, which runs until January 2015.

. . .

Barrett has now lost three races for governor — first in 2002, when he came in second in the Democratic primary, then in 2010 when he lost to Walker, and Tuesday when he again lost to Walker. The defeat likely means Barrett, a former congressman, has little hope of running for statewide office again, though he has a full term as mayor ahead of him after winning re-election in April.

. . .

Barrett had said he would have called a special legislative session to restore collective bargaining, but that would have proved difficult because of the large Republican majority in the state Assembly. With Walker remaining as governor, efforts to pass pro-labor legislation will be virtually impossible.

The Journal Sentinel also notes that Walker is now the first governor in America to survive a recall election—ever:

In one sense, Walker defeated not just Barrett, but history. Only two other governors in the U.S. have ever faced a recall election — California’s Gray Davis in 2003 and North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier in 1921 — and both lost.

(All of you who voted for Walker, or supported him in other ways, made history, too!)

Meanwhile his lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, made history yesterday by being the first lieutenant governor ever to face a recall election.  She also won.

The Democrats also tried to recall four Republican state senators yesterday.  Three of them held their seats by huge margins (57-43 or better), but the fourth one, as of this writing (with 100% of precincts reporting), appears to have lost 49-51—i.e., by only 779 votes.

If Democrat John Lehman wins, that one seat will be enough to flip control of the state senate; the Democrats would then have a 17-16 majority.  Lehman has declared victory, but Republican Van Wanggaard has not yet conceded, and is considering calling for a recount.

In November, 16 of the 33 seats will be up for grabs, and thanks to the redistricting that will be in place for the first time in that election, Republicans are supposed to pick up at least two seats.  The unions spent millions of dollars and over a year’s worth of effort to get a temporary one-seat majority in a chamber that will never meet in session.

According to the New York Times,

One-third of voters were from union households, up from one-quarter in the 2010 governor’s election.

Yet Walker won, and by a bigger margin than he did in 2010.

Also according to the Times, pro-Walker forces (i.e., including independent groups’ expenditures, not just direct spending by the candidates’ own campaigns) outspent the anti-Walker forces almost 3 to 1:

As of late last month, about $45.6 million had been spent on behalf of Mr. Walker, compared with about $17.9 million for Mr. Barrett . . . .

On the other hand, the Times also notes that it may not have made as much difference as you’d think:

The final flurry of television advertising — with Mr. Walker outspending Mr. Barrett seven to one — seemed to have little impact on the outcome. Nearly 9 in 10 people said they had made up their minds before May, according to exit poll interviews.

If you don’t like it, recall that in Ohio last year, Issue 2/S. B. 5 was outspent 3 to 1, or maybe more like 4 to 1:

We Are Ohio raised more than $30 million for its campaign while Building a Better Ohio raised about $7.6 million, according to recent campaign finance reports.

(I don’t know exactly how much spending other groups did for or against Issue 2.)

Money is part of our democratic system.  The more people care about an issue, the more of their money they’ll be willing to spend on it.  Apparently a lot of us cared an awful lot about not letting what happened to Ohio happen to Wisconsin.

If you still don’t like it, consider again the possibility that all that money didn’t make that much difference.  After all the hubbub over Walker’s reforms last year, and after all the campaigning and scrambling for votes on both sides this year, in the end, yesterday’s election results were virtually the same as 2010’s.  Walker gained a point, Barrett lost a point—virtually the same.  Again, yesterday Walker beat Barrett 53% to 46%; in 2010, 52% to 47%.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has some blunt observations on the consequences of this election:

Though public unions will not disappear as a result, they were the clear losers in a race that confirmed Gov. Scott Walker as a national star for Republicans. They now have no prospects for recovering what they lost, with neither the money nor manpower they had when Walker rose to office.

Don’t worry, the unions will take it like a man:

Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, said his group would continue in much the way it did more than a half century ago, when it had no bargaining rights.

“We aren’t going to go away,” Beil said. “We’re not going to pull a blanket over our head and pee in our pajamas.”

. . .

Joseph Slater, a professor of law at the University of Toledo in Ohio who has written extensively about public unions in Wisconsin and other states, said they will have a diminished role going forward.

“Even though they don’t have collective bargaining rights, unions can still hang around and do stuff . . . .”

Now that’s a slogan to rally around!

Since Walker’s law ended the practice of having the government automatically take employees’ union dues out of their paychecks,

Beil acknowledged that the state employees union has reduced somewhat its average dues amount and still seen between 25% and 40% — he won’t be more specific — of its members stop paying dues. As a result, the union has had to leave some of its jobs unfilled when the positions open up and will have less money for other efforts.

Related entries: all entries about Scott Walker

Red State has some reflections on the political implications of yesterday’s events.

Glenn Beck reckons this victory means that the right has finally learned to do community organizing, too.  He recommends that as many conservatives as possible register to vote, starting by using this site to see whether you’re already registered—and while you’re at it, to see whether any dead people you know are still registered and possibly being used for voter fraud.

Update (June 6th, 2012):  Some of the blogs I read have also covered this:

Update (June 6th, 2012):

  • Apparently some in the liberal media thought a silver lining yesterday was exit polling that pointed to Obama still winning Wisconsin again this November, 51%-45%, but Michael Barone and Allah Pundit debate whether the exit polls actually predict a dead heat, or even a narrow Romney win.

Edit (June 6th, 2012):  I moved part of, and added to, my discussion of the New York Times article to make it flow more logically.

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23 Responses to “Walker Wins, 53-46”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    Anti-Walker forces outspent three to one! Where’s the outrage?!

  2. P. Henry Saddleburr Says:

    Thanks for the mention.


    • As Red State keeps pointing out today, there are so many opportunities to “feast on these tears”!

      • Snoodickle Says:

        Is schadenfreude endorsed by the Christian church now?


      • Interesting question—certainly we’re called not to hate, look down on anyone, or seek revenge, but I think it can be healthy and normal to have a sense of humor about these things, and even gloat a little.

        Think of it this way: Politics is, among other things, a game, or a sport (or, in your favorite metaphor, war). Obviously we do it as a means to an end—and some of us care very much about the end—but it’s also fine to enjoy the game itself. I also don’t think Christians are commanded to eschew the pleasure of a little good-natured trash talking when they play a board game or watch a baseball game; should politics be any different?

        It would be wrong to threaten (or entertain the desire) to kill one’s political opponents. It would be wrong to get a crowd of union members riled up and tell them, “Every once in a while you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.” I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to say, as Moe Lane did,

        I would like to offer these words of comfort. When you progressive/liberal/Democratic activists look back on your quest to begin the Wisconsin recall movement, I want you to appreciate the amazing amount of work that you spent on it. You called. You networked. You wrote letters and blog posts. You contributed to opposition groups. You reached out, and found people just like you, and you banded together to fight. You marched, and you stormed the state capital, and you were arrested. And you kept going, and calling, and struggling, and you put your time, your money, and every atom of your being on the line. For some of you, this was your finest moment. You fought for this. You fought so hard for this.

        Oddly enough, I didn’t do any of that, but I won anyway. That’s because you suck, and I don’t.

        Well, I didn’t say that they were words of comfort for you.

        (Emphasis omitted because it’s too much trouble to add it back in.)

        Or look at it this way: There’s entirely too much of people being embarrassed, or even ashamed, to hold conservative views, in the shadow of our liberal dominant culture. A little cultural confidence is a salutary thing, and I’d like to see more of it.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        So saying someone “sucks” isn’t looking down on them?


      • I feel less comfortable with that penultimate sentence than with the rest of what he wrote, but I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, no.

        As to the outward expression, it may fall into the category of “good-natured trash talking”, approved above.

        Strictly speaking, the “looking down on anyone” that I mentioned is the sin of pride, an internal choice whose occurrence or non-occurrence may not be detectable from the outside, but if one were trying to guess whether it was present, I think signs might include feeling a need to be right all the time, whether morally or intellectually. I don’t think taunting necessarily implies pride.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        But doesn’t taunting violate the principle that you should treat others how you want to be treated?

      • Snoodickle Says:

        Also, doesn’t the death penalty violate the Bible’s prohibition against vengeance?


      • I guess I think the short answer, in both cases, is no, it doesn’t—God does call us to radical love; He doesn’t call us to be a bunch of sissies.

        Think of it this way (thinking of “how you want to be treated”): When you play whatever board game or sport you enjoy, would you want the other guy to eschew all trash talk and colorful commentary? Or would you think that that made the game less interesting, rather than improved it?

        As to the death penalty, perhaps some individual voters are committing the sin of wrath or hatred or seeking revenge when they vote (indirectly, I assume) for the death penalty. But most of us can’t be—how can we seek revenge if we were not wronged?

        To the contrary, I would argue that one of the reasons (there are other good ones as well) for having a death penalty is to diminish the temptation to take matters into one’s own hands and try to kill the criminal oneself.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        Right, but what if the condemned is no criminal at all, but entirely innocent. Do you not see the problem with that? Or to put it another way, if you were strapped to a gurney, about to be executed for a crime you did not commit, would you still be unwavering in your support of the death penalty?

        Also, do you believe that Jesus, who forgave murderers and rapists and never condemned anyone to death or condoning the condemning of anyone to death, would be okay with executing individuals, especially when one of the stated purposes of such execution is retribution? And if so, how do you reconcile that position with Jesus’s teachings in the Bible?


      • Hold on, the question was “Also, doesn’t the death penalty violate the Bible’s prohibition against vengeance?” I answered the question. If your first paragraph here is trying to change the subject to whether we should have a death penalty more generally, I’m willing to have that conversation (again), but if so, contact me off site (again). It’s way too off the topic of the original blog entry above.

        As to Jesus, again, I’ll be happy to have a longer conversation if you’d like, but not here. It’s too long.

        I suppose it would be glib for me to say that ultimately Jesus condemns many people to death; so instead I’ll say only that my short answer is Yes, my best guess is that Jesus approves of our having a death penalty.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        And this belief has nothing to do with your political beliefs?


      • I told you, I’ll be happy to discuss it at length with you off site if you’d like. I know you know how to contact me.

  3. Tevyeh Says:

    Here’s an interesting statistic: according to one exit poll, a full 38% of voters from households including at least one union member voted for Walker. Maybe this statistic is no surprise to someone more current than me on the state of U.S. organized labor, but it certainly says something about the disconnect between labor leaders and the workers they supposedly represent.

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/06/05/us/politics/wisconsin-recall-exit-polls.html


    • It seems impressive to me too. I was even more surprised a couple of weeks ago when I saw that We Ask America poll:

      ALL VOTERS—54% for Walker, 42% for Barrett
      PUBLIC UNION HOUSEHOLDS—47% for Walker, 50% for Barrett

      The actual election results weren’t quite as dramatic, but I guess you’re right, big disconnect. I think some commentators have said the same thing about the fact that so many public-sector union members (a third?) just quit paying their dues as soon as they were legally allowed to.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        Why would they pay their dues if their union isn’t allowed to collectively bargain on their behalf?


      • Good point, but if there weren’t a “disconnect”, one would expect that they would agree with their leadership’s intent to fight the law through recalls (and so these polls would look very different), and wouldn’t they want to support their union in the meantime? From that point of view, the law preventing the unions from doing all the things they used to do was only a temporary disability, to be remedied as soon as Democrats were in power again.


      • Alternative answer: So that their union could “hang around and do stuff”!

      • Snoodickle Says:

        Maybe if the union set up a slush fund and planned trips to Atlantic City and Vegas, and other wild, kooky parties.


    • I should amend that, I guess neither of the two sets of data (with respect to a union or public-union subset of the population) we’re comparing represents the “actual election results”; the one is a poll from before the election, the other a poll from after.

      Anyway the public-union poll number is unbelievable—47% for Walker!


  4. […] He managed to get elected in a liberal state and enact vital, impossible reforms.  Democrats, in repeated efforts to reverse the reforms, tried to recall and defeat state legislators from his party, tried to defeat a key judge on the state supreme court, and finally tried to recall Walker himself, all (fortunately) to no avail.  Now, approaching the regular election, he and his opponent are in a dead heat. […]


  5. […] might lose because of those reforms, were re-elected.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tried to reform public-sector unions and succeeded.  Ohio Governor John Kasich tried to reform public-sector unions and failed.  Florida Governor […]


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