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In a not surprising result, the attempt to recall a governor with a 30 million dollar bankroll did not work out for his opponents – or at least did not work out, completely. With the aid of tens of millions of out of state corporate dollars, Walker held back the challenge to his office. He did, however, lose the ability to push his agenda through the state legislature. Scott Walker may have held his office, but with Democratic state senate challenger John Lehman’s defeat of incumbent state senator Van Wanggaard, Democrats gain a one-seat majority in the Senate. This effectively brings the Scott Walker right wing agenda to a grinding halt. And that, ultimately, was the aim of the recall process. It was a power move to counter a power grab. To quickly review the facts: after the 2010 election, the Governors of Ohio and Wisconsin used their new power and legislative majorities to move beyond dealing with state budgets (something unions were at the table to deal with) to attempt to effectively destroy public employee unions by stripping their right to collective bargaining. When similar union busting laws were passed in Ohio, voters were able to defeat the measure directly, without going through the more difficult task of recalling elected officials in the middle of their terms in office. In Wisconsin there was no other option to counter the Governor’s power grab other than to use the recall process to curb his power.
With the victory in the state senate last night, that goal was achieved.
And that is the problem with power grabs. They leave the other side with two options: surrender or fight. Not surprisingly, the public employees chose to battle for their rights rather than surrender them.
Where will Scott Walker go from here? Will he be a chastened leader who tones down his rhetoric and looks to find common ground solutions? Will he continue to be the divisive Governor of Wisconsin, building a national fundraising network?
Likely we will see a muddled version of the two. Walker toning down his rhetoric a degree or two in state while playing the firebrand radical right wing spokesperson on national television and at Republican functions across the country.
Republicans are already claiming this a victory for Romney. This despite the fact that Mitt Romney did not involve himself in the recall and that he trailed badly in exit polling on a night that Scott Walker won pretty big.
Ultimately the Wisconsin election results are a local story with few national implications. But the process we are witnessing is reflective of a number of troubling trends in our national politics that are antithetical to democracy: striping people of their rights, partisanship over cooperation and large undisclosed donations owning the airwaves and drowning out other voices.
About Bill Buck
Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist and President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.