Indeed, after polls just a few weeks ago had Walker up 7-9 points, as the election neared those numbers fell about 5 percentage points in most polling, and on election day, Wisconsin Democrats and their trumpet chorus on MSNBC were peddling exit polls showing that Scott Walker might indeed be recalled. Once the polls closed in Wisconsin, MSNBC's dime piece, Rachel Maddow brought on a correspondent at the Walker election party who asserted "this will go late into the night." Needless to say, it didn't.
Maddow then threw a bit of a tantrum (for her), whining that after all this hard work, a massive "Get Out The Vote" effort by Democrats and Unions put in, which made the exit polls indicate a very close race overall, the race was called in something like 40-something minutes. She then composed herself and conducted the final minutes of her show with dignity before appearing on Lawrence O'Donnell's
Now I love any thing that makes NBC's "Commentary" panel of hosts cringe and whine, but MSNBC's entire day was devoted to maintaining a prescription pilled erection over the exit polling numbers before the drug inevitably wore off, just about 45 minutes after polls closed in Wisconsin. They continued throughout the night searching for answers to questions only they could be asking, without finding any while conservative pundits and writers took to Twitter to engage in a verbal Mardi Gras over the results.
So if the exit polls indicated something different, why on earth did Scott Walker win so handily?
Well you don't really need to go past the exit polls to find the answer. Overwhelmingly, the voters who thought, or really had any notion about the recall election being inappropriate given the context of Walker's "controversial" policies, voted for Scott Walker. In total it comprised about 55% of the electorate yesterday. Turnout was huge among all voting blocks but it was especially huge among those who thought the recall was essentially a temper tantrum run amok.
Beyond the exit polls however, Scott Walker won because he had to match or better the Democrats' ability to turn out the vote-which is something that is in organized labor's wheelhouse. With donations from Wisconsinites and outside groups, not only was Walker able to frame the recall as childish, but he was able to use that notion to pull at the heart strings of the Wisconsinite, who by-and-large reflects the general Midwestern "we handle our business like adults, not kids" approach to just about everything. He was able to frame the recall in such a way that a vote against him, would somehow indicate Wisconsinites don't have the values that everyone thinks they have.
Make no mistake, Walker's victory is historic.
First off, only two other State Governors have been recalled. Unfortunately for them, heading into last night they were 0-2. Walker is the first governor to survive a recall in United States history. As a historian, you must consider the statistics against the probability. If you just consider the statistics, three gubernatorial recalls isn't a high number, and given the political heat surrounding recalled governors, an 0-fer record isn't surprising. But historically speaking, the United States has had thousands of governors, three have been recalled, a percentage well less than 1 of the total, but only one has survived it. There is no way around it, Walker winning was something unprecedented.
The Walker recall victory gives the GOP credibility on state budget cuts going forward.
If Tuesday night's results proved anything, it is the dwindling power and sway that Big Labor holds over any given electorate. This has been the trend in the private sector for years now-where unionized employees comprise less than seven percent of the total private sector workforce. But in the public/government sector, nearly a quarter of those employees are union members.
The consequence of that was seen clearly in Wisconsin. The state was facing massive budget deficits, and a large contributor to the deficit was the fact that Wisconsin public employees were receiving pensions that dwarfed those in the private sector while not contributing a dime of their paychecks to them. They also received bloated healthcare plans that they paid an exponentially lower percentage into compared to their private sector brethren. They were also making 28% more in income than the average Wisconsin private sector worker.
Walker's solution appeared to be commonsense. Start having them pay something into their own retirement plans. Make them pay slightly more into their health insurance plans. And finally, force them to take a pay cut, that brought their advantage over the private sector to a measly 23%.
Now by about halfway through the recall efforts, Unions and the public employees they took dues from, saw that those reforms were favored by a majority of Wisconsinites. So they shifted their plan.
It's fair to say that Walker didn't campaign on the negative impact the state's employees were having on the state's deficit, but he did campaign on reducing the deficit. It's perhaps even fairer to say that he did not campaign on "union busting". However, part of Scott Walker's public employee reform plan in general was to make sure that these cuts remained permanent, and the only way to do that was to limit the ability of Unions to cause those recent cuts to expire and thus cause more fiscal headaches for the States. Walker knew that in order to reform the public sector employment apparatus in Wisconsin, he would necessarily have to make unions weaker. And the way to do that is simple, and its the path he chose.
Unions in 2012 are for all intents and purposes, extortionists. If Walker's victory proved anything, it's that people will see the positive effects a state will experience when unions are no longer demanding wages that don't meet the value of the work their membership performs.
Where the rubber meets the road on the recall's justification of Governor Walker's policies is in coming gubernatorial elections in states that face massive budget deficits while carrying a staggering amount of public (unionized) employees. They will be able to point to the change going on in Wisconsin, and they will be able to cite the recall vote tally (namely the fact that more people voted for Walker in the recall, than voted him into office initially).
And what the recall election results are not.
Tuesday night's results in Wisconsin do not make the Badger State look "pink" for Mitt Romney: Sure, there is quite a trend going on in Wisconsin of late (2010 saw the ousting of State Democrats, and Russ Feingold-the penultimate darling of lefties everywhere, et al) but unlike some on my side, I don't read this as a propensity towards the Grand Ole Party or grassroots conservative policy principles. In fact, what I think Wisconsin is doing is simply slowly awakening from the political hibernation/somnambulism of the 1960s and realizing what those policies actually do to a state budget. In my mind, it's too early to even label Wisconsin as a sure "Toss Up" in the race for the White House.
No, Ms. Maddow, it was not the end of Democratic politics as we know it, either. Citizens United leveled the playing field, inasmuch as it allowed Republicans to finally open up their arms to donors who were previously not allowed to give as much money to a political cause or politician as their God-given right should have let them do and finally, finally compete with the Unions, who actually mandate political contribution from their members for better or worse. The reason, Ms. Maddow, that SuperPACs can greatly out raise, and thus outspend unions, is because they aren't a dying breed (more on this in a post to follow).
Continuing...Democrats will be fine. Indeed last night results were a massive set back as Greg Sargent points out, but election cycles never end. Policy propositions and their ultimate execution can lead to a shift back the other way in a snap. For the love of God, spare me the sore-loser whining and figure out what you have to do to play on the new field.
Finally, the election results from Wisconsin are not to be used as an "in your face" reference from my side to the other before November. What happened in Wisconsin last night was historic for so many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the issues of a recall itself, and the policy positions taken by each side really polarized the Wisconsin electorate. Something like 88% of voters had decided how they were going to vote with finality, weeks before heading to the ballot.
So lets savor the juices for what this was, fellow conservatives. It was a hard fought victory against an intransigent fringe base of a Party with a huge registration advantage. A hard fought victory against an apparatus that doesn't have the ability to self-reflect on its role in today's modern times. Above all, it was a victory for the cause.