Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Question for Liberals

Wisconsin: two Republican state senators were defeated this week in recall elections, but four others survived, leaving Republicans with a slim majority. Obviously, Democrats were disappointed that they didn't do better. But overall, was it good news, or bad news, for liberals?


  1. It has to be positive, no? I mean, we still have the GOP induced recall election next week to contend with before the dust "finally" settles (until the recall campaign for Walker starts in earnest). This is not to mention the fact that Labor has shown that it is still a force in this country _and_ that Americans in general still believe in the core tenants of organised labour.

  2. I'll lean towards good. At least it shows that if liberals get off their asses and try to change things it is possible.

  3. Not great, but certainly good news. As Dave says, it reminded people that organized action can work. The whole response -- massive demonstrations, the mounting of a recall, and success at unseating two guys -- established a deterrent that I think GOP legislators in a bunch of states will notice, and will have to factor in, before voting for radical anti-labor policies. It means Democrats have a head start at recapturing the Wisconsin legislature next year. The recalls presumably helped get organizing structures set up that can be reactivated then and in the future, and the fact that was a near miss (in the sense of almost flipping Senate control, but not quite) may actually energize people rather than dishearten them. By showing that every vote counts, it gives organizers a good argument when they're trying to round up support for the next thing.

  4. Good News. These are two flipped GOP districts and the other races were in GOP districts that are never blue.2012 recall of Scott Walker is next and he would need those districts to stay in office.

  5. It is defiantly good in that electing Democrats with left leaning policy positions is good for liberalism even if it is only 2 new state senators. That said the results were obviously less than optimal and there will be little changed in actual policy in the near future in the Badger State. I do think it shows that Obama’s “bargaining style” or the size of the stimulus in 2009 are not the only reasons the GOP won elections in 2010 and enacted conservative policies. The policies of Boehner, Walker and McConnell are still popular with lots of people—conservatives and Republican voters—no amount of better issue framing or harsher talking points coming out of the White House is going to change that.

  6. Republicans still control the Wisconsin Senate. Walker is still the Governor. His anti-labor bill is still law. It's hard for me to see all of that as a victory. If this ends up setting the groundwork to recall Walker and repeal his bill, then I could change my mind.

  7. Definitely good news. As a Wisconsinite, taking back the Senate would have been much better, obviously, but even having six recalls, let alone winning two of them is a huge achievement in organizing. Showing Democrats around the country that a populist message can win even in very red districts (like Holperin and Hopper's) and showing Republicans that they're not safe is a good message to send.

    The only reason Walker's still in office and the legislature wasn't flipped to the Democrats is because of the one year grace period in the Constitution.

  8. Good news. Under Wisconsin law, Walker and the other crazies elected in 2010, get to serve 1 year before theyre eligible for recall. The recalled Republicans were better established, ordinary Republicans from what they thought were safe districts.

  9. I think I saw I saw that there have been fewer than two dozen successful state legislator recalls in US history. Given that, our friends in WI got six on the ballot and two succeeded, has to be a Good Thing.
    The Walker recall will be big, but so will the union-busting bill referendum that's coming up in OH.

  10. Sweeping out all 6 on the basis of a bit of Ed Shultzian anger could have happened... in a country where the populace was deeply and broadly engaged in politics AND united around a coherent left-liberal program... except such a country would never have elected all those Rs to be swept out... unless things had gotten so fluid that anything is possible... but that wouldn't necessarily be so positive either... since sweeping in on slightly better than nothing is one election removed from getting swept out on slightly better than nothing else. yet once again, once one dismisses the rest of all possible worlds, one finds that this is the best of all possible worlds, to quote my favorite show-tune.

    (Tho whoever the Dem was who suggested that a sweep might happen should probably have his buttons ripped off and and his sword broken.)

  11. A sweep was hardly unthinkable or even terribly implausible given what was known before the fact, which was basically nothing. Yes there were polls, but given how unprecedented these kinds of elections are, it wasn't crazy to suspect that they might be systemically underestimating the Democrats' chances.

  12. In general, I think it is a good thing for Wisconsin liberals to know they can make a difference with concerted action. It is largely due to a lack of intensity on their part that the GOP gained as much ground in the state as it did. The broader question is whether it means much for liberals nationwide in 2012. Tougher question and way too soon to tell. Liberals will, however, need concerted action like in Wisconsin with a unified purpose to retain the gains made since 2008 and reverse the GOP majority in the House.

  13. Good or bad relative to what? To me what matters is good or bad relative to expectations and reaching one's goal. I strongly suspect progressives felt they would retake the Senate and at least 3 seats. That may be a tall order but I suspect their sense was that Walker so overstepped his bounds that enough people could see what needed to be done and would act accordingly. That this didn't happen was a big disappointment and given frustration looking towards dc that couldn't be good. The goal was retaking the Senate so that that didn't happen (if expectations aren't met but you gain significant power that may be enough). Furthermore alot of labor money was spent on these races.

    What is unclear is whether the effort to recall will bolster the same effort next year and also help in the presidential campaign. But I suspect the energy that was building towards a Walker recall was somewhat punctured..

  14. Contra all the rah-rah stuff, a failure to regain the WI senate for the Dems is -- well . . . a failure. They needed three seats and didn't get them. QED.

    Maybe this is something to build on and there will be success in the future, but this is not success today.

    Will this deter Snyder or Kasich or Christie, or even Walker? Don't hold your breath.


  15. The Left already lost on policy, no matter what happened in these recalls, even if they'd won all 6.

    The SC judge election decided all this, and they lost that. They went all in... and lost it.

    They went all in on the recalls, too, and picked up a +20D district with a vulnerable incumbent, and that of a middle aged man who dumped his wife in January to shack up with a gal young enough to be his daughter, plus he got her a state job with a pay raise. So he's a nepotist on top of everything else. So actually, I think the Left did everybody a favor knocking that guy out.

    But it isn't political victory, or even close. And the numbers may just even out this Tuesday, plus we'll all be ahead with the nepotist gone, and his seat will likely swap back following redistricting.

    If the Left can't pull more than 47% in swing districts, with all this resource commitment, in WISCONSIN of all places, then they are truly in the hurt locker.

    If you go all in and lose, it demonstrates weakness, and that weakness is sensed all across the country now. Same here in Michigan, the public employee labor unions went all in on the 2010 Schauer and Stupak Congressional seats, and got smoked. Weakness. And Kildee's seat is gone rural this redistricting, too, and he's now retiring and that seat's gonna flip, I bet.

    These losses are bad in these states, but they are REALLY bad for the Left nationwide. It's time for some serious soul searching, for them.

    They are an endangered species in rural America, and they are as good as cooked in the Midwest. 2012 may very well be armageddon.

    You can blame the stupid voters, or you can re-engineer. I'd suggest the latter. It's not gonna be good for the country, for a bunch of Republican stooges to be waltzing to victories. The stupid voters are slapping the Left in the mouth. They're not embracing Republicans... they're slapping the Left in the mouth. Now, all the Left's gotta do is figure out a way not to deserve getting slapped in the mouth.

    But blaming stupid voters will just get them slapped in the mouth again. And Wisconsin shows that they're not gonna slap Republicans for doing what the current Left thinks is anathema. That dog won't hunt. They put it up, went all in and lost on it. Time to re-engineer.

  16. I'm not sure how much a partisan election can really tell us about the strength of "liberals." In any election in which a Democrat is attempting to defeat a Republican (or vice versa), the whole universe of feelings about each party comes into play. The Wisconsin Democratic Party is not simply composed of "liberals," so I'm not sure how much any one victory or loss means.

    The most salient role liberals played in this process was providing the manpower and passion necessary to force these elections in the first place. In that sense they were successful. But once they elevated the issue to the level of a partisan election, liberals returned to being just one constituency in a much broader coalition (and, as is often the case in the Democratic party, a junior partner at that). To the extent liberals want to flex their muscles and attain power comparable to conservatives in the GOP, they really need to go after Democratic politicians.

  17. I think it's progress. Three would have been about all we could expect, given the composition of the districts in question. Two still seems like an achievement. There are, obviously, various caveats. In Wisconsin, hopefully, it will inspire some moderation in the pivotal members of the Senate.

    That may well depend on the narrative, however, that filters into Republican office-holders. Many members of the media are spinning this as an affirmation on the basis that 4 > 2. If I were an incumbent contemplating a 33% chance of losing my seat, I might not be so sanguine. I am, as part of this analysis, assuming that the Democrats up for recall this Tuesday will be retained. That could change things drastically.

    As a further thought, I think there's going to be a lot of pushback from conservative activists against any notion of success in the recall. It seems to be very important to their worldview that the only possible threat to a Republican incumbent is from the right, i.e. being primaried. They're likely to be very jealous of any possible influences that would push for moderation, or against any narrative that suggests the median voter doesn't buy into the entire Republican agenda.

  18. It's like being 8 and getting a bike for Christmas. Not the bike you wanted, but still a bike. It's good news, just not the best news.

    I think Pat has an excellent point about making it clear to Republican pols that being primaried is not their only danger. Just that message might be enough to positively affect policy if only by keeping Republicans from going all the way to eleven.

  19. Relatively minor good news. Nothing particularly huge. In these low-turnout, highly partisan affairs, you can't expect recalls to deliver much. And, they didn't.

  20. The conservative cash supply is their sole strength. Any advantages they have flow from their ability to deploy cash. When they are forced to spend it in defense instead of expansion Progressives win.

    Their cash seems infinite, but it is not.

  21. Anonymous: I was under the impression that this post was titled "Sunday Question for Liberals," not "Sunday Question for the Resident Tiresome Anonymous Right-Wing Troll."


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