Reflections of a Humanist


Why the Democrats Will Lose the Wisconsin Recall Effort

     As i write they're voting in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin has an active recall election tradition; once in the 1990s, Democrats took control of the State Senate by flipping a seat.  Today the effort is to flip control of the Senate again because of the popular disgust with the legislation pushed through by the new Republican Governor after the Governorship and both houses of the legislature went to the Republicons in the red tidal wave that swept the country, as disaffected liberals simply stayed home.  They shot themselves in the foot again, as they have done so often.

     In today's election, Democrats are fighting uphill all the way.  All these districts are ones in which Republicons actually hold the registration edge.  The only way Dems can take at least three races is with massive turnout and by winning independent votes.  But tens of millions of dollars of outside money, poured into the state from sources such as the infamous Koch brothers, most of it unidentified as to source, thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, have flooded these districts with pro-Republican, anti-Democratic media advertisements, aiming to create a drumbeat of support for the conservative, soak-the-middle-class policies of high school graduate Scott Walker and his conservative allies.

     To battle this, Democrats relied on the organizing efforts of unions and liberal pressure groups such as Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.  They have knocked on doors, button-holed voters, passed out literature, made hundreds of thousands of phone calls.  It's a classic people vs. money fight.  So why will the Republicans win?

     First of all, it's a terrible mistake to underestimate the magic of money.  Americans have made Madison Avenue legendary by responding to their advertising campaigns with epic buying sprees.  Advertising simplifies buying decisions and makes the product attractive.  In these recall campaigns, the Republican incumbents have been cast as the purveyors of a brand of fiscal sanity that the public desperately needs.  On the other side, their challengers' backers say the lesson of this election will be that Republicans who harm the interests of working families will be punished.

     But, second, to punish them they have to get their supporters to the polls.  And the huge money advantage of the Republicons has let them hire workers, mount robocalls, and beat the bushes to get every identified Republicon elector to vote. They may have money, but they also have people-power, and they have really turned it on.  And don't forget their registration advantage.

     Third, just because union workers have been hurt by the reactionary state government doesn't mean everyone has been... or even a majority.  And many vogters are vulnerable to the anti-spending, anti-tax message which in red states has been enshrined as virtual gospel.  They see the unruly demonstrators on TV and don't identify with them.  They want peace and quiet, law and order, and don't see any reason to trade in their favorite Republicon Senators for some noisy upstarts.

     Fourth, all the races up for grabs tonight are in confirmed Republican areas.  To win half of them, the Democrats have to produce a virtual revolution.  One wonders why they didn't pick districts that were more of a tossup to begin with.  But remember the words of the immortal Will Rogers: "I'm not a member of an organized political party; I'm a Democrat."

     Fifth, the Democrats have made the classic error of mistaking the energy of a loud minority for the conviction of a stolid, and largely silent, majority.  People vote the way their parents did, and their parents before them, unless something happens to give them a reason to change.  Remembering how few people belong to unions nowadays, and how unpopular those unions - teachers, for example, or service workers - can be, when scapegoated by experts, one wonders whatever gave Democratic leaders the fantasy that they could prevail against inertia, money, vigorous propaganda, electoral history, and lack of compelling issues.  Unless it be the hope that reason and good sense would prevail at the polls, finally, after all.