Elections have consequences for Wisconsin’s Scott Walker
by Russell's Rants
Originally published April 6, 2011
No, not that election. Scott Walker won the last election in November for governor. He then promptly began acting as though he never expected to face another one. In point of fact, he started to dismantle his opponents’ political base by stripping public employee unions of their right to collectively bargain.
But that great Republican overreach of March 2011 has now had an effect just one month later in April 2011. In the first statewide election in Wisconsin since Walker did his nasty deed last month, Supreme Court Justice David Prosser appears, subject to a likely recount, to have narrowly lost his bid for reelection to the court.
Usually a little-noticed affair, this Supreme Court election became a referendum on Scott Walker and his campaign of intimidation and confrontation. The judicial election was Prosser’s to lose. He is a former Wisconsin Speaker of the House, where he was Scott Walker’s mentor. He won a seat on the Supreme Court and was expected to easily win reelection to a second 10-year judicial term. But that was before the tide began to turn against Walker and his allies.
Prior to Walker ramming passage of his “budget repair bill” through the legislature (which had nothing to do with the budget or repair), Prosser was a shoe-in. His Democratic challenger, JoAnne Kloppenburg, is an assistant state attorney general who had little name recognition or campaign funding. Kloppenburg began receiving funding from liberal groups, while the usual David Koch-type suspects began pouring approximately $2 million into “independent” advertising on behalf of Prosser. The result was that Kloppenburg inched passed Prosser with a victory margin of 204 votes.
This Wisconsin Supreme Court election win is the Democratic political equivalent of Scott Brown’s Massachusetts Senate victory in January 2010 that startlingly filled Ted Kennedy’s seat with a Republican (and lost the Democrats filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate). Scott Brown’s election took place during the tumult of the Health Care Reform debate with unemployment stuck in double-digits. It was an early indicator of the anti-Democratic wave that crested in the mid-term elections in November 2010.
The pendulum has now begun to swing the other way – in part because of the nascent turn-around in the unemployment rate due to President Obama’s efforts to stimulate the economy (which Republicans are doing everything they can to reverse with premature spending cuts). The other reason for the swing back to the Democrats is the Republican overreach of which Wisconsin’s Scott Walker is emblematic. But Walker is not the only Republican doing the Tea Party’s bidding. Other Republican state governors, from John Kasich in Ohio, to Mitch Daniels in Indiana, to Rick Scott in Florida, have also been enacting anti-collective bargaining legislation. By one count, more than 700 anti-union bills have been introduced in state houses around the county to curtail collective bargaining rights. And the national Tea Partiers in Washington, D.C., supposedly elected to create jobs, have spent their time trying to roll-back Health Care Reform, eliminate National Public Radio and defund Planned Parenthood. The culture wars of the 1980’s are back! And these right-wing hors d’œuvres are just a prelude to a government shut-down and Paul Ryan’s budget blue print to privatize Medicare and Medicaid. With opponents like these. . . .
JoAnne Kloppenburg’s come-from-behind election victory on Tuesday is an early indicator of a new anti-Republican wave that is likely to sweep President Obama back into the White House in 2012. His reelection is, of course, more substantively dependent upon the unemployment rate continuing to decline (hopefully to well below 8% by early 2012 with momentum downward) and economic growth continuing. While things outside the President’s control (the price of oil, the Arab Spring) will continue to have an impact on his standing, Obama has done everything under his control to keep the stimulus running (through a combination of spending and, less efficiently, tax cuts) and the economy growing. His efforts should redound well to his benefit next November – an election that Scott Walker never saw coming.
UPDATED April 20, 2011: Due to an election-night error by a county clerk in a convervative district, an additional 14,315 votes were found and reported two days later that put Prosser ahead by 7,316 votes. Kloppenburg is now seeking a recount. However the recount turns out, the fact that this election was so close demonstrates the backlash Republicans can expect to continue to receive due to Governor Walker’s overreach.