Recall is never a good idea

I didn’t agree with everything that E.J. Dionne said in his column about the failed Wisconsin recall effort, but I was pleased to read this part:

Perhaps the most significant exit poll finding was this one: Only about a quarter of those who went to the polls Tuesday said that a recall was appropriate for any reason. Roughly six in 10 said a recall should be used only in the case of official misconduct. And another tenth thought a recall was never appropriate. Most voters, in other words, rejected the very premise of the election in which they were casting ballots. This proved to be a hurdle too high for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), Walker’s opponent.

Voters should have to live with their bad decisions until the next election, to allow for some order in government — and to lessen the already toxic atmosphere of the perpetual campaign.

If an official does something really heinous, there’s impeachment. But this “make us mad and we’ll have another election” stuff is inimical to our system of representative democracy.

E.J.’s column was about what left and right should learn from Wisconsin. He suggests, although doesn’t say  it overtly, that it would be wrong to think the left has a losing proposition with its support for public employee unions.

But it does. I found this piece, also in the WashPost today, more to the point:

“Anybody, anybody would have been better than Scott Walker,” said Gregory J. Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents workers in more than a dozen federal agencies. Junemann commutes weekly to Washington from Milwaukee, where his union member wife is a public school employee.

Like many political observers, Junemann can point to the tremendous funding advantage Walker had over Barrett, but the union leader isn’t satisfied with that as an excuse for the mayor’s defeat.

“The people of Wisconsin said that the attack by Scott Walker and his allies on public employes and their unions was acceptable,” Junemann said. “That’s what they said with their votes. This puts us in a very uphill battle for November.”

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, has a different spin: “I do not believe the results of the Wisconsin election demonstrate strong support for anti-employee policies.” Instead, “the broader long-term message,” she said, is “working men and women, and their unions, will not stand idly by while reactionary forces attempt to roll back hard-won rights.”

They might not stand idly by, but they also might lose.

14 thoughts on “Recall is never a good idea

  1. Brad

    What I would really like to see pols learn from Wisconsin is that whether you are left or right, highlighting your deep love affair with some of your less-cuddly constituencies is NOT the way to victory. Also from the Dionne column:

    “Exit polling showed the same electorate that backed Walker giving President Obama a seven-point lead over Mitt Romney, which underscores the problem for conservatives who want to give the Wisconsin outcome an excessively ideological spin. Roughly one Walker voter in six picked Obama over Romney, and this was a group of classic swing voters, made up disproportionately of moderates and independents.”

    Note — these independents (my people!) are willing to go with Obama over Romney, a fact which should give the left joy. But these same independents did NOT go for the Dem’s all-out effort to defend the prerogatives of public employee unions.

    So, the message to Dems and the GOP: If you want to win, pick battles where the swing voters are on your side, not battles such as this one.

  2. Silence

    I think the bigger issue with the recall attempt was that Walker didn’t really do anything wrong, certainly not anything that was illegal. The recall was stirred up solely because of a policy disagreement, and that may not have played well with a portion of the typical Democratic voter base. That’s not really how we do business in American politics. If you have a political disagreement, you start working on getting rid of someone at the next election cycle, not mid-term.

  3. bud

    Sadly it has come to this. The so called independents have become anti-union. And we venture still further to the right.

  4. Silence

    @ bud – the 8% of the electorate that self-identifies as independent? Serious question here: How can you even begin to justify a closed shop, union shop or agency shop? Seriously? Do individuals not have a right to enter into contracts in this country anymore? Would you like to see Taft-Hartley repealed?

  5. bud

    Unions serve a purpose in acting as a countervailing force to the hostile power of monopolistic capitalists. Unions cannot be effective unless they have some governing rules.

    Silence you should be happy. Unions are pretty much powerless in 2012. The result is declining wages and a greatly concentrated wealth into the hands of a very few. The result is a declining standard of living for millions of Americans. How can that possibly be a good thing?

  6. bud

    Of course the REAL lesson learned from Wisconsin (and the failed attempt to increase the cigarette tax in California) is that money is very powerful in influencing voters. With union power on the wane the only real players in this money game are the corporate plutocrats.

  7. Phillip

    I found this from David Gergen at CNN to be a pretty level-headed take on the whole thing. The fact is that Democrats like Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown, and Rahm Emanuel are having to come to terms with some of the greater excesses built into some public union contracts.

    But the fears of my many friends in Wisconsin who have been so upset by Walker are that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hence trying to draw the line in the sand here, which I agree with you and others (Barney Frank said this too) was a bad idea and may have hastened, not delayed, the demise of unions. But I can understand those fears, given the powers/money/motivation behind Walker and others.

    After all, listen to what Nikki Haley herself says. It’s not public employee unions that Haley does not want here. It’s NO unions, no protections for workers, the playing field 100% tilted towards management, a world that predates the advent of the 5-day workweek, minimum wage, safe working conditions, and who knows what else. And what better time than in today’s economy, when people should be happy to get any job, at any wage no matter how low, under any working conditions. Right? Unshackle those job-creators!

    I liked Gergen’s article because it articulates the rational viewpoint that may have been just enough to keep Walker in office: there needs to be serious reform in terms of these public employee contracts, but most working Americans would not (I don’t think) endorse taking those reforms to the point of destruction, even it that is the ultimate goal of the Koch Brothers or the Nikki Haleys of the GOP.

  8. Steven Davis II

    Unions were a good thing a century ago, today they’re just a bully tactic. Besides, do you really need to be a licensed electrician to plug in an extension cord? It’s amazing what you can’t do when you go to a conference or convention in a union state.

    True Story – A friend of mine works out at Los Alamos National Laboratory, they had to carry flashlights to the bathroom in their building because the bulb burned out and they were threatened with being terminated if they attempted to change the bulb unless they were a licensed union electrician. It took six months before the lights were working in the bathroom.

  9. Silence

    @ bud – “Unions serve a purpose in acting as a countervailing force to the hostile power of monopolistic capitalists.” Since the bulk of union members are now public sector employees (52%), do you mean the monopolistic capitalists in local government, state government or the federal government?

  10. Steve Gordy

    If Barrett had won, Walker would’ve challenged him at the next regular election. I think the folks in Wisconsin decided that two Walker-Barrett races were enough.

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