Monday, March 14, 2011


Presumably, you've already seen this elsewhere (such as the Monkey Cage, or -- where I saw it, a Brendan Nyhan tweet), but those interested in learning about the accumulated expertise on recall elections should go to a Michael Alvarez post that summarizes and links to the academic literature.

(First thing to point out: obviously anyone interested in links to currently relevant political science research should be reading the Monkey Cage, but also I highly recommend following Brendan on twitter for that sort of thing. Very, very, helpful).

I'm no expert on recall elections, but I'll go ahead and say something about them anyway, which is that I really doubt that the California gubernatorial recall will shed a whole lot of light on the upcoming Wisconsin recalls. Not that you shouldn't read the various papers Alvarez links to -- something is better than nothing -- but the situations are apt to be very different. For one thing, the mechanics matter, and WI procedures (if I'm reading this correctly) will be different than the goofy mechanics in CA. For another, we're talking about a series of legislative districts, not a statewide race. Then take out the celebrity circus, add in the specific issue-based impetus for the Wisconsin elections, and you just have a very different context.

What I think is possible to say, from the outset, is that if elections do go forward (seem likely!), whoever wins is going to generate a lot of hype -- but it really won't matter all very much, at least outside of state government in Wisconsin. The losers, whichever party it is, will attribute it to Wisconsin-specific circumstances, and go on doing whatever they believed was in their interest before the recall elections. The winners will be energized...a bit, but not in any way that likely will affect their actions.

It's a good political story (and getting better, already!), but it's very likely to be overhyped, in exactly the same way that special elections get overhyped.


  1. So assuming the recall vote for Gov. Walker succeeds, would that fail to have a national impact, or is that a dramatically different scenario from the legislative recalls currently underway?

  2. Yeah, I don't think it would be dramatically different. It would take a lot more than that for movement conservatives to change their understanding of how the world is -- and as long as they don't change, it's going to be hard for even GOP pols who have a more realistic understanding of public opinion will still mostly be pushed by the primary.

    But I should add: the one thing that successful recalls would do is to encourage more recalls, in WI and elsewhere.


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