Ann Arbor – June 7th, 2012 11:39 AM

Keep your heads up … a battle has been lost, but not the war …

Yes, the results of the recall election in Wisconsin are disappointing.  The Republicans have gotten fresh wind in their austerity sails and will continue on their path of union busting and power grabbing. It will become more difficult to stop the right wing swell in our country.  It will become more important to heed this most important wakeup call.

But how can one explain the fact that the people of Wisconsin voted Scott Walker into office with even more votes than the first time he got elected in 2010?  Why did 37 % of union households vote for a program of removing collective bargaining rights for public unions?  How does Walker win with a lead of 7% while exit polls show that those same voters would have voted for the Democrat Barack Obama by more than 11% over the Republican Romney?

After reading a short analysis of the results by Rob Zerban , who is running against the Republican Paul Ryan, the right wing budget congressman from Wisconsin,  I did get help with some explanation:

  1. The people of Wisconsin do not like the idea of a recall.  The mobilized base of the Democratic Party and of union members was able to generate enough opposition to Walkers union busting activities in order to get the necessary amount of signatures for the recall vote.  But many Wisconsinites including many Democrats, do not like the idea of a recall.
  2. Most Wisconsinites had their mind made up way before election time.  And part of their opinion was formed by the huge amount of anti-recall advertising by the Republican Machine with support of the Koch Brothers saying – a recall vote is not necessary, is expensive and is bad for the state.
  3. The anti-public-union propaganda of the Walker campaign tried to explain the debt of the state being the fault of union contracts which included expensive pensions being paid for by the normal taxpayer.  So Walker successfully put an ideological wedge between the working people and the state employees.  It is hard to believe that he was successful with this in a state which introduced collective bargaining rights with public employees more tha 50 years ago.
  4. Even though the urban areas of Milwaukee and Madison (Dane county) beat the Republicans by more that 100,000 votes each, the rural and provincial counties and precincts of Wisconsin gave Walker the lead

One bright spot for Wisconsin Democrats is, that one of the four recall votes for Wisconsin Senators was narrowly won in Racine County.  That means, that the Democrats have the majority in the Senate and that Gov. Walker will not be able to walk all over Wisconsin.  However this important check on the power of the republican governor will probably be short lived.  Republicans have changed the districting of Senators for the election in November to their advantage.  And basically the Wisconsin Senate is out of session until November.  So the Democratic advantage is somewhat subdued.

The Milwaukee Journal writes:

“The state Senate appears to be a blue spot of consolation for Democrats on an otherwise red fabric of Republican dominance in Tuesday’s recall elections. …  Though the Racine County race has not been called or a concession made, Democrats appear to have picked up the one seat needed to take a narrow 17-16 majority in the Senate and serve as a check on Republicans for at least the next half year….Easing the loss for Republicans is the fact that the Senate has already adjourned its regular business for the year and that a new set of legislative district maps approved by GOP lawmakers last year will give their party a strong chance of reclaiming the Senate in November’s elections.”

Thge people of Wisconsin have a long tradition of progressive politics.  This battle was lost, but the fight continues.  Unions are not giving up. The state is still very much divided.  The election in November will show that the mobilization of Wisconsinites during this recall battle  will pan out.  Democrats have organized an unbelievable ground game in spite of the fact that they were “outspent” by the Republicans by 7:1.  Yes, money does make a difference, but people are the deciders.  The next election in Wisconsin is about moving forward and not about recall.  We already see the signs of victory in the badger state…

Michael Steltzer