Next Tuesday, June 5, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to vote in the “recall” election of Republican Governor Scott Walker. Political junkies, in Wisconsin and nationally, will be watching the results carefully.
The recall election is the result of a petition drive that began after Walker pushed through reforms to address Wisconsin’s fiscal problems — reforms that public employee unions didn’t like, but that appear to be working and allowing the state and local governments to get their budgets under control.
The recall election is a rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial election between Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Huge amounts of money — much of it from out of state — is being spent on the election. Interestingly, Barrett’s chief objection to Walker doesn’t seem to be the merits of the reforms that produced the recall election. Instead, he has raised other, minor issues and seems most troubled because he thinks Walker has been “divisive.” If a politician has been successful in dealing with seemingly intractable problems, however, he’s likely to have upset some people. Why should that disqualify him from finishing his term and standing for reelection at that point?
The Wisconsin election just shows why recall elections are a bad idea and should be reserved for rare circumstances — like criminal activity by the incumbent. Recalls should not be had just because a segment of the population disagrees with the incumbent’s approach to issues. Elections should have consequences, and when they do the losing side shouldn’t be able to force costly redos that just distract from the public business.
The polls are indicating that Walker will survive, and national Democrats are downplaying the notion that the Wisconsin election reflects the national mood come November. I don’t think they need to worry about that. Wisconsin has been mired in a bitter brew of its own making over the past few years, and I’m sure that many voters just want to bring an end to the constant fighting and let Walker finish his term. I’d be cautious about drawing too many national inferences from the Wisconsin results.