Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why I Support the Walker Recall, Even as I Have Concerns About Recalls

[This article also appears on You can access it from my author page here.]

The minute the clock strikes midnight Monday night, signifying that November 14 has turned into November 15, the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin will begin.

The organizers of the Walker recall have some wind at their backs. They were able to recall two GOP state senators in August. And last Tuesday voters in Ohio overwhelmingly overturned a union-busting law (similar to the one that has made Walker a recall target) that was championed by the state's newly elected Republican governor, while voters in Maine restored same-day voter registration, which had been eliminated by the state's rookie GOP/Tea Party governor and the Republican-controlled legislature.

But recalling Walker will require accumulating more than 500,000 signatures in 60 days just to trigger a recall election. Then the Democratic opponent will have to face an incumbent who will be able to raise tens of millions of dollars from his corporate sponsors. (A Walker supporter formed a bogus recall committee earlier this month as a strategy, allowing the governor to get a head start on fundraising.)

There is one obstacle to a Walker recall that I understand fully, but that I hope won't stop people who oppose the governor's policies from signing a recall petition and voting against him: The idea that using the recall process because you don't like a governor's policies is wrong.

I get it. I admit that, ideologically speaking, I see a lot of merit to the idea that recalls should be reserved for moral, criminal or ethical misconduct. I know regular recall campaigns can create a state of perpetual elections that prevents government from getting anything accomplished. And I find the argument persuasive that the democratic process has to be respected.

I've often said that the democratic process works, even if you don't like the results. When Americans re-elected George W. Bush in 2004, anyone surprised at the incompetence that followed for the next four years clearly wasn't paying attention to his first term. And the same can be said about the 2010 elections. While Walker, like the other Koch Brothers-supported GOP gubernatorial candidates, campaigned on job creation, anyone paying attention had to know that a full-on wish-list of traditional conservative initiatives (union-busting, anti-abortion rules, concealed carry, tax breaks for the wealthy, cuts for education, corporation-friendly laws that hurt consumers, etc.) would ensue, not job creation (something not happening in significant numbers in Wisconsin).

And yet, I will be looking for a petition to sign on November 15. And, if given the chance, I will vote for a Democrat over Walker in a recall election.

Why? My inspiration comes from, of all places, the Tea Party-controlled Republican party. I've watched over the last year as an allegiance to blind ideology has pushed Republicans--in both state and federal settings--into corner after corner, making it impossible to govern responsibly. Want to bargain for long-term deficit reduction? There can't be any compromising because of Tea Party- and Grover Norquist-driven no-tax pledges. Think it might be a mistake to allow visitors to a state capitol building to carry guns? Well, you can't vote against it if you are a rigid ideologue wedded to a vision of Second Amendment supremacy. The list goes on.

The modern GOP, which puts a blind loyalty to far-right-wing ideology over practical governing, has provided me with a wonderful lesson, one I will put into action with Walker's recall.

Yes, in theory, recalls may not be ideal for the democratic process. But unlike the Tea Party-controlled GOP, I will not let ideology get in the way of helping people in need. And there is no doubt in mind that the vast majority of the people of Wisconsin are being hurt by Walker's agenda as governor. He is championing policies that, brick by brick, are rolling back the victories for the middle, working and lower classes won over the last eight decades, trying to turn the clock back to the Hoover years, all in service to his far-right ideology (and, of course, his wealthy and corporate donors).

In addition to the politically motivated union-busting "budget repair" law (he used a budget deficit as a cover to take aim at a key financial supporter of Democratic candidates, so his corporate money could go unchallenged, as well as to pay back his corporate donors like the Koch Brothers, for whom union-busting lies near the center of their agenda), Walker's education cuts are reason alone to support a recall, as they have left the finances of most school districts in trouble (and prevented local communities from taking action to raise money for education).

Walker has pumped out propaganda claiming his policies have helped school districts better handle their finances, but the evidence doesn't back up his claims. Susan Troller of The Cap Times conducted a survey of school district superintendents, and her findings are downright depressing: Bigger classes, discontinued programs, and 3,400 lost jobs (so much for Walker creating jobs). (Troller's piece is a must-read.)

Throw in the governor's concealed carry law, his own voter ID law meant to keep traditional Democratic voters like students and the poor from the polls, and the rest of his anti-middle class, traditional far-right laundry list of initiatives, and it's clear that Walker's policies are a constant attack on the quality of life of a majority of Wisconsin's citizens.

So my concerns about recall efforts must be set aside. It's more important to support the effort to recall Walker, for the good of the state. And I hope others who share my recall concerns come to the same conclusion.