The American Future Fund put together a very funny video that shows Progressives before and after the Wisconsin election. Before, defeat meant an imminent apocalypse; after, defeat meant . . . nothing:
You can’t blame the Progressives for their differing before and after statements. With the November 2012 election coming up, one could argue that circumstances forced them to take both positions.
But we here at the Bookworm Room aren’t Progressives, and we’re not trying to induce people to vote one way or another. Perhaps, then, we can come to a consensus about the implications of Walker’s victory in Wisconsin.
I’m too lazy right now to hunt up links, so I’m going to make factual statements that I’m 99% certain are accurate. You can accept them as true, or you can call me on my errors. This also isn’t a carefully framed essay. Instead, I’m just throwing out ideas.
1. Here’s a fact I know for certain, because I was there when it happened: I heard a pro-Obama liberal say, “Oh, my God! This is a disaster.” When I asked why, she said, “Because I wanted Obama to win in November, and this means he won’t.” The media and White House may be spinning, but at least one (wo)man on the street thinks that the Wisconsin election, rather than being an anomaly, is a harbinger of things to come.
2. Many have commented on the disparity between exit polls and votes. I’m not ready to draw a conclusion from those discrepancies. Roger Simon suggests a Bradley effect, one that sees political ideology, not racial views, as the opinion people are trying to hide during face-to-face interviews. If he’s right, the polls in this election season just became meaningless, and all bets are off for November. DQ, however, had a good point, which is that, until we know how many absentee ballots were cast in Wisconsin, we can’t know how anomalous the poll results really were. Here in Marin, for example, up to 60% of voters do so by absentee ballot. With only 40% of voters showing up at the polling places, and the pollsters only catching a small fraction of those, there’s going to be a wide margin for error in any hypothetical exit polling.
3. Some man-on-the-street interviews saw people saying, “I just don’t like the recall idea.” Maybe that’s true. Or maybe people are lying about their motives for voting conservative in order to hide their resurgent conservative identity. In any event, a couple of interviews does not a statistical sample make. What’s of some significance is the fact that Scott Walker is the only governor to survive a recall vote. In other words, in other places and other elections, people weren’t so squeamish about kicking out a governor who was fighting a recall.
4. Money matters — and I’m not talking about money spent on elections. Scott Walker, in the short time available to him as governor, shifted the Wisconsin balance sheet away from a huge, even catastrophic deficit. People who are not ideologues will vote for someone who is manifestly preserving their way of life, even if they’re voting outside of their normal party identification.
5. The unions are in serious trouble. It’s not just that they lost. It’s that, when workers in Walker’s Wisconsin were given a choice to walk away from the unions, they did so — causing a 2/3 drop in union rolls. This means that the unions are serving only the politicians and the union leaders. The rank and file might have been getting good benefits, but they realized that good benefits are meaningless in a broke nation. They opted for social stability, rather than being forced to turn over their money to a union that didn’t serve them well and that didn’t serve their community well.
6. This is deeply damaging for Barack Obama. Oh, I know that Wisconsin is just one state. There might have been all sorts of unique Wisconsin factors at work here that, practically speaking, have no relationship to Obama and to the nation as a whole. But this was a big Democrat push. The unions, which are synonymous with Democrats, put their all into this. The protests against Walker were tied closely to the Occupy movement which is, in turn, tied closely to the Democrats. The two candidates took positions that perfectly represented the dividing lines of political thought in this country, with Walker being the principled, budget-cutting conservative, and Barrett promising the same old big-spending, pro-union Democrat governance that saw Wisconsin slowly go broke in the first place. When the Democrat side lost, you could practically see the stench start rising from the corpse. That stench is going to stick to Democrats nationwide and, naturally, it’s going to stick hardest to the top Democrat. It’s not the nail in the Obama re-election coffin, but it’s certain equal to a handful of nails, and joins other painful moments, ranging from big failures, such as the dismal job reports, worldwide economic collapse, and the scary despotism of the Arab Spring that Obama helped usher in, to small failures, such as the dog wars, the mommy wars, the bullying wars, etc. Obama is looking like a very weak horse indeed, and in unstable times, that’s the last person the voters want shepherding their nation.