Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chris Rickert: certain (in his own mind), and wrong

Wisconsin State Journal columnist wrong to believe Walker undeserving of recall

Chris Rickert, columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal, sparked a bit of controversy on Thursday through some very contentious claims.

His piece, entitled "Supporters of recall are certain, and wrong," makes a lengthy claim that numbers don't necessarily mean anything until the election occurs -- alluding to the 300,000 signatures that were gathered in the first two weeks of the recall campaign against Scott Walker.

Rickert also points out that, even if indicative of the majority, a sizable number of people don't necessarily make a movement "right" or justify a vote for/against someone.

Rickert's analogy examines the re-election of former President George W. Bush, who won handily against his Democratic opponent John Kerry (though to Wisconsin's credit, Kerry carried the Badger State):
Americans were getting killed in Iraq due to a poorly supported but greatly hyped allegation that turned out to be flat wrong. And here enough people were apparently OK with that to re-elect the falsehood's cheerleader-in-chief.
It's an assertion that most on the left would gladly agree with: Bush's war in Iraq, then a popular policy, was still wrong, despite his being re-elected president. I had written on the subject myself extensively while I was still at UW-Milwaukee -- our presence in Iraq was wrong, and we stayed there for too long a time as well. How Bush had been re-elected was a mystery to many ideological colleagues of mine.

That analogy aside, Rickert's column made another bold assumption, one that struck a nerve for many progressives throughout the state:
It's one of those weird ironies of life that majority rule is both a linchpin and a drawback of representative democracy. A man who dragged the country into an unnecessary war got a second term in the White House, and a man who's done nothing worse than employ conservative principles to balance the state budget is facing recall. (Emphasis added)
OK, Time Out -- did he really just say what I think he just said?

It isn't just that I disagree with Rickert's assumptions about the merits of the recall -- it's also that he's flat-out wrong. This isn't just about's about much more than that.

The recall movement against Walker didn't take hold until after two big pieces of "conservative principles" (tort reform and tax breaks to the corporate elites) were passed in January. Even after these items were enacted (and a train plan derailed), the idea to recall Walker at that time was a joke more than anything else. Fighting against conservatism overreach, while a huge part of the recall movement now, wasn't the catalyst for what began this fight.

It took an attack on state workers to really get the movement going, not to mention a budget bill that blatantly attacked the middle and lower income classes, with several other pieces of legislation and failed policies, adding fodder to the fire.

Walker's "conservative principles" included: Stripping the rights of workers that have been in place for over half a century; a $1.6 billion budget shortfall for schools across the state; half a billion in cuts to health care; $2.3 billion in tax giveaways to the wealthy and corporations, meant to spur economic growth and job creation, that has fallen flat on its face; a drastic departure from voter rights in favor of unnecessary restrictions; and a demeanor from this governor that indicates he cares not for the common man, woman, or child in this state (unless they happen to be wealthy million- or billionaires).

None of these things can simply be called "employing conservative principles." This is a radical change from what is Wisconsin...and the recall is much more than a response to conservatism.

Rickert is right in one thing: the numbers game, while impressive at this point, won't guarantee victory. But he's wrong to assume he's the sole decider of what is right or wrong -- and while democracy, too, can't necessarily determine that either, it's still the best thing that we've got.

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