Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Results of recall elections show shift in voter attitudes

Wisconsin voters reject overreach of Walker administration

A quick thought occurred to me last night as I watched the recall returns come in (both Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch, Democrats, fended off recall challenges). After Democrats picked up two state senate seats last week, conservative commentators across the state declared it as a "loss," a rejection from voters overall of the opposition to Gov. Walker's agenda, all because they failed to pick up the required third win in order to take back the legislative body.

The "loss" left the chamber in a 17-16 split, with the Republicans still in control. With Wirch and Holperin both winning last night, those numbers are secured, at least for now, within the State Senate.

However, it's hard to understand how a "loss" of two pickups can be seen as a "win" for Republicans -- especially when it makes a moderate senator the most powerful man in the Senate. But what about the losses for Republicans last night? What did they represent, if anything?

Conservatives launched recall drives in response to Democrats leaving the state in order to stall Walker's controversial budget repair bill. Democrats' efforts failed, but only three of the eight eligible Democrats were served recall challenges (as opposed to six of the eight Republicans who received one due to their support of the bill).

Yet all three Democrats defeated their challengers. So with a record of 0-3 (and again, a loss of two seats picked up by Dems), it's clear that these results show us something...but what, exactly, is it that Wisconsin voters are trying to tell us?

I have one theory in mind. Wisconsin voters are acknowledging a gradual shift -- not a huge change, mind you, but a shift nonetheless -- away from the far-right policies of Gov. Walker and his allies. This shift was indicative in the election for Supreme Court, where Justice Prosser, a sitting incumbent (and ally to Walker), nearly lost his seat to an unknown challenger. The shift happened then, and it's continuing to happen now.

The people of Wisconsin want responsible governance, they want balanced budgets...but they also see the enormous overreach that Walker has performed as bad for the state, as running counter to Wisconsin's values. The shift is happening, slow as it is...but it IS happening.

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