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Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics, US Politics.

“Initiative, referendum and recall” is the legacy of the Progressive Era.

English: Great Seal of the state of Wisconsin

English: Great Seal of the state of Wisconsin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These prescriptions for direct democracy within the context representative government have in practice proved often to be problematic. If the purpose of the recall election in Wisconsin was to remove the Governor  that objective failed.

Governor Walker won the recall election convincingly by attracting 53% support from voters compared to the 46% given to Milwaukee Mayor, Tom Barrett. He did not seem, from the little I saw to be very charismatic, although I notice that he won 63.3% of the vote in Milwaukee County.

Interesting to note that President Obama is using “Forward” as his campaign slogan and positioning statement. He did not visit the State to his personal support for the Democratic Party Candidate, because he is hoping for support from independent voters, who were voting against the Recall Election. It turns out the major figures involved were the same as in the previous election.

So real question is how significant was  the large disparity in campaign spending. Election spending favoured the Republicans by 8 or 7 to one, and that is just counting television advertising. Does propaganda and advertising work?

John Nicholls for The Nation provides his assessment:

The failure of the campaign against Walker, while heartbreaking for Wisconsin union families and the great activist movement that developed to counter the governor and his policies, offers profound lessons not just for Wisconsin but for a nation that is wrestling with fundamental questions of how to counter corporate and conservative power in a Citizens United moment. Those lessons are daunting, as they suggest the “money power” populists and progressives of another era identified as the greatest threat to democracy has now organized itself as a force that cannot be easily thwarted even by determined “people power.”

The Wisconsin result—which followed upon a campaign that saw Walker outspend his Democratic challenger by perhaps 8–1, as the governor’s billionaire backers flooded the state with tens of millions of dollars in “independent” expenditures on his behalf—should send up red flares for Democrats as they prepare for this fall’s presidential and congressional elections. The right has developed a far more sophisticated money-in-politics template than it has ever before employed. That template worked in Wisconsin, on behalf of a deeply divisive and scandal-plagued governor, and it worked.

But the quick calculus that says organized money beats organized people misses the fact that those who sought to depose “the imperial Walker” were also experimenting. They made mistakes, particularly as regards messaging. They were let down by national Democratic players who never quite recognized that Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus and “independent” groups on the right were testing and perfecting strategies for November.

At the national level, the Republicans do not have the advantage of occupancy.The Presidential Election is going to come down to the state of the economy, especially employment, and how well Obama has used the bully pulpit. Still it seems that advantage in money was used to wrong foot the Democrats. The long Republican campaign that particularly identified dissatisfaction with the Recall process, trumped the final spluge approach when significant voter segments had made up their minds.

Peter Dreier suggests that with more money the Democrats would have won:

But the reality is even worse than this, because the $34.5 billion figure does not include so-called independent expenditures and issue ads paid for primarily by out-of-state billionaires (like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and Joe Rickets), business groups, and the National Rifle Association, which were skewed even more heavily toward Walker. Once all this additional spending is calculated, we’ll see that total spending in this race could be more than double the $34.5 billion number, that Walker and his business allies outspent Barrett by an even wider margin, and that he had to spend even more than $23 for each vote.

In other words, business and billionaires bought this election for Walker. The money paid for non-stop TV and radio ads as well as mailers. There’s no doubt that if the Barrett campaign had even one-third of the war- chest that Walker had, it would have been able to mount an even more formidable grassroots get-out-the-vote campaign and put more money into the TV and radio air war. Under those circumstances, it is likely that Barrett would have prevailed.

Pundits can have a field day pontificating about the Wisconsin election, but in the end its about how Big Money hijacked democracy in the Badger State on Tuesday, and how they’re trying to do it again in November.

Americans for Prosperity was running bus tours across Wisconsin. This organization was “founded by David H Koch and Charles G Koch, both of Koch Industries”:


To me the Wisconsin recall election has been of great interest, in part because of the recall process.  The politics of wedging, here as there, in my opinion, is adding to the adversarial divisiveness of the political process, which has always existed but now is  beginning to affect the body politics in a detrimental, and non democratic, way. It strikes me that political parties are inevitably coalitions of different, often conflicting and frequently mutually misunderstood political coalitions. The top of the mind political issues for a transitioning industrial city, such as Wollongong, and the surrounding rural areas are different.  Wisconsin has its own political history. Clearly political messaging, and the inability to counter positions was critical advantage, and that includes identifying the  self interest of the money power – which I think is inherently non-democratic. Living in a federal system, although the American one is better regulated with respect to elections than ours, I can appreciate the resentment to having an election. On this basis calling the election may have been a mistake, although changing the numbers in the State Senate is a definite win. Why are not the ballots and their counting checked by representatives of the candidates as happens here?




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