Wisconsin: Did Walker Wars Plant the Seeds of Dem Defeat?

Here in Wisconsin, we see ourselves as more than a state in play. When it comes to politics, we are not merely a “toss up” or metaphorical battleground state. We are an actual battleground.

Wisconsin has become the Bleeding Kansas of our political civil war. The open question is whether we are now the Ardennes Forest of Obama’s last gasp defense of the Progressive Millennium.

Following Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reforms in early 2011, our capitol has been occupied by mobs resembling refugees of the Sixties channeling the ghosts of the Wobblies. We have seen legislators fleeing the state and justices of our state supreme court scuffling in their offices. We have been subjected to a seemingly endless series of recall elections. Our governor’s reforms are entangled in the ministrations of judges from Madison – a polity roughly equivalent to Berkeley without the funk of the San Francisco Bay. Think Bulgaria and not Greece.

There is a conceit among the left here. They see Wisconsin as the natural home of progressivism and the righteous legacy of Fighting Bob LaFollette. The state was an historic leader in extending collective bargaining to public employment. The University of Wisconsin has long been one of the key intellectual homes of the officious intermeddler, and the city of Milwaukee had a socialist mayor – we’re talking admitted socialists running under the party label – as recently as 1960. Today, you can’t find that kind of thing outside Vermont.

So you can imagine the horror – the reflexive disgust – with which our friends on the left regard the prospect that we are about to become known as the land of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan. It is not simply that Walker and Ryan are conservatives, but that that they are conservatives who aim directly at what the left thought was settled. Collective bargaining, Walker argues, is not the apex of economic justice. Our sclerotic system of entitlements, Ryan explains, cannot be maintained. For the left here, the two represent the very real possibility that Wisconsin is about to have an outsized role in killing what it played a disproportionate role in starting.  Both must be destroyed.

Wisconsin progressives have, over the past eighteen months, gathered all of their resources and enlisted unprecedented levels of national support to drive a stake in the heart of this threat. So far, they have lost. Walker defeated the recall by a margin greater than that by which he was elected in 2010.  He lost control of the Wisconsin Senate only because state recall laws allowed the Democrats to cherry pick vulnerable Republicans. No one doubts that the state senate will return to Republican control next week.

Could Wisconsin progressives lose again? Here are the facts. A Republican presidential candidate has not carried Wisconsin since 1984. Barack Obama defeated John McCain by fourteen points. This is not supposed to be a state that the Democrats have to worry about.

But, still, while the state has been faithfully blue in presidential elections, the margins of victory for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 were razor thin.

And the polls are all over the place. Until just recently, a couple of polls had Obama up by five or so, but all other polls in the past two weeks have the race within two points. Wednesday, the Marquette University Law School poll, a survey that was accurate (but not exclusively so) on the recall, turned statistically schizophrenic. A month ago, it had Obama up by double digits. Two weeks ago, it was even. On Halloween, Obama was up by eight (although the margin among those that say they are both likely to vote and politically engaged is two points.) The Marquette poll even purports to find – over two weeks – a five-point swing on the Governor’s job approval. This suggests either an uncommonly fickle electorate or one that is extremely hard to capture.

A similar pattern is found in polling of the Senate race between former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson and Democratic Congressman Tammy Baldwin. A couple of polls have Baldwin up by four or so; all others report the race as a statistical draw. Marquette, again, yo-yos.

The intangibles are close. On the one hand, the state’s recently enacted voter identification law has been enjoined by local courts in Madison. For a state bordering Illinois, this may be significant. The polls suggest that Republicans are far more enthusiastic. But Democratic turnout is less concerned with enthusiasm than efficiency.

Then there is the recent unpleasantness. Having struck at the beast and survived, conservatives are energized. Romney, like McCain, was not their nominee of choice. Unlike McCain, he has somehow managed – at least here – to make them forget it. During the recalls, Democrats were convinced that they would win on the ground. But Republicans matched their turnout efforts. This is one place where the Republican ground game, honed over our summers of recall, may be better than the Democrats’.

My own sense is that I see little Democratic activity like what we saw with the failed recalls. I don’t see the Democratic signs on freeway over passes like I did in 2008 and during the recalls. But, locally, Mitt Romney is not Scott Walker and even our high turnout recall did not quite reach presidential levels. If Romney wins Wisconsin, it will be by the slightest of a nudge.

How likely is a Romney win? It is clear that both campaigns seem to regard Wisconsin as interesting but not Ohio. If you made me bet today, I’d predict narrow wins for Obama and Thompson in Wisconsin. My sense of the national political scene is that, if Romney wins Wisconsin, it will not be a close national election. But it is not implausible that Wisconsin will be the essential part of Obama’s Midwestern firewall that does not hold. If that happens, the seeds may have been planted by the Walker wars.

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  • kafir4life

    Wisconsin: Did Walker Wars Plant the Seeds of Dem Defeat?
    Like Jack and the Beanstalk!!
    President Stinky (BO) is going down like David Brock on Jay Carney and twice as fast!

    • mlcblog

      eeuww Gross

    • Zeek


      Hilarious… thanks for the laugh! Somewhat gross, but hilarious nevertheless!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerry.person.14 Jerry Person

    Walker is famous for act 10 that was ruled unconstitutional. His power grab of the local school control like the communist did in michigan was ruled unconstitutional. We realized he did not balance the budget until walker illegally used the money from the illegal morgage scams suppose to go back to the people. This was an outright theft, So walker has record of hating our constitution and ignoring it and complete failure. He is famous for not doing anything , but being a koch puppet and stealing morgage releif money from the vonerable people. If that helps Ryan our citizens are squirely.

    • David Caldwell

      If you poor grammer and misspellings are any clue to the quality of the Wisconsin teachers unions, then what Walker has been trying to do will only help education values in your state.

    • Mary Sue

      koch puppet? But aren't the koches in New York? :p

    • mlcblog

      You seem to be seriously misinformed.

    • Zeek

      Waaaahhhhhhhhhh! *sniff, sniff* You lefties' whining is getting old… and embarrassing too!

      On the other hand, I'm starting to get addicted to the left's never-ending whining! Come on, little man… let's hear some more "poor-little-me" whining and lefty lies… they are starting to become extremely amusing to my wife and I. I always have to visit some left-wing nut-blog or website at least twice daily to get my comic relief.

      Foul and disgusting, true… but funny!

      Doesn't matter whether Obummer wins or loses. He, you, and your party are juvenile, whiny, thieves and advocates of theft, who must have socialism to solve your lust for other people's money, your jealousy of those who've worked for more than you've managed to achieve (your nasty attitude and "feelings" of entitlement are probably the REAL cause for your lack of adequate success… what goes around comes around), and to make yourselves "feel" more important than you truly are! I call it the God complex.

      Trust me… you may act like God, but I know God… and believe me, you're no Gods!

      May I please hear some more disgusting, leftist whining now? Sorry, don't mean to plead… you just seem to be so darned good at it!

      *sniff, sniff*

      • amused

        That's allright , THE WHOLE NATION has had to listen to 4 years of Republican WHINING AND WRETCHING – go get a tissue Zeek your nose is running .

        • Mary Sue

          and during 8 years of Bush we had to listen to nonstop Democrat whining and retching (learn to spell). What's your point?


    If Republicans re-take the State Senate, let's hope they learned something from last time: progressives don't fight fair, and you can't treat them like gentlemen. So far, Walker's reforms have been too modest, although still helpful, merely restricting some collective bargaining "rights" and forcing the unions to get a member's permission before taking his money.

    This is a war, and Republicans need to start fighting to win against the enemy that is the Progressive Left. If they win, they need to revoke collective bargaining "rights" for the public sector completely and do everything else they can to break the political power of the public-sector unions.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jerry.person.14 Jerry Person

      Free speech ius a civil right. In your country they do not allow free speech. In America it is a right. Alec is all Walker knows and works for. It has cost Wisconsin 32 billion sinse 1996 when Walker and Prosser push alecs tuff on crime laws. Walkers law then force Wisconsin to hire 36000 public sector workers. It also built or remodeled 71 courthouse and county jails. Then Wisconsin started building prisons. Then they farmed out prisoners so alec could make billions off the Wisconsin taxpayer. Walker is pro public sector workers and forced Wisconsin to have it`s largest public sector worker increase in history. Only a fool beleives walker is small governemnt and anti tax. He is all business and anti citizen. You can not name one accomplisment he has done. Remember he cost Wisconsin 32 billion before he was even cheated to be goobiner.

      • Mary Sue

        stop reading the unionized newsletter claptrap. Or rather, read it, but read it critically instead of eating it up with a spoon.

  • Janice Borkenhagen

    An Anonymous Thank You Letter to the Left

    To all leftists, occupiers, unionistas and malcontents,

    Thank you! What an election! We couldn't have done it without you. Without your tantrums, outbursts and boorish behavior we might have stayed home for this election. Without your filthy, pot smoking hemp -headed minions occupying and violating the Capitol we might have been complacent. Without your obnoxious protests, boycotts and other actions from your union playbook, we might have sat this one out.

    But you couldn't hold back. You couldn't restrain yourselves and behave like adults. You couldn't accept the 2010 election results. We sat and watched as you erupted in a juvenile hissy fit that embarrassed Wisconsin. The spectacle you created is what motivated us. And thanks to your ill-mannered behavior, we won. We turned out. Big time! And now we are organized and energized. Committed. "All in". And we aren't going away. We now have our own organizations (no dues required), an army of volunteers and the means to communicate. And countless new sources of funding, including a donor base from all 50 states. And we have "iverifythe recall" to ferret out your infiltrators in our future local elections.

    So thank you Mike Tate, Graeme Zielinski, Fred "Loonie" Levenhagen, Ismael Ozanne, Maryanne Sumi, Noble Ray, Charles Tubbs, Joanne Kloppenberg, Segway Boy, John Chisolm, public employee union members, UW TA's, WEAC, SEIU, MTI, AFSCME Council 24 in Union Grove and WI prison guards,. Thanks for the death threats, the intimidation, the bullying, belligerence, thuggery and goonish behavior. The lack of ethics and the failure to enforce rules and laws. Thank you for putting your selfish, greedy motives on display for all taxpayers to see.

    Your antics might have made you feel good but they didn't make you look good. They sickened the rest of us.

    Thank you Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley. Your petty politics woke us up. Thanks you Miles Kristan for dumping the beer on Robin Vos's head. Thank you University doctors for writing the phony excuses; Madison teachers for calling in sick or dragging your students to the protests without permission. Thank you Katherine Windels for making death threats against the Governor. The noontime capitol singers who taunted Sheboygan high school students. Thank you WEA Trust for raping Wisconsin taxpayers. Thank you Gwen Moore for your embarrassing minstrel show. And thanks all of you for harassing the Walker family at their private home.

    You have all been exposed. Your tactics have been rejected. Your bad behavior has been forever captured on You Tube.

    Thank you Peter Barca and fellow Assembly members for donning your foolish orange T-shirts and screaming "shame" at legislators just doing their jobs.

    Thank you Mark Miller and all 14 senators for fleeing the state and making fools of yourselves in the process. Illinois need a few more village idiots. Thanks for showing us what democracy doesn't look like.

    And Mayor Barrett. How grateful we are that you chose one low road after another in your issue-less campaign against the Governor. This was your strike three. You are out. Take a seat on the bench and stay there. I have a hunch this was your final at-bat.
    All of you helped turn Wisconsin permanently red. Your Governor, Scott Walker, will not just complete his first term, he is all but assured as many future terms as he seeks. He will be your governor for a long, long time. Get used to it. And his national "rock star" status just might lead him to be your President some day. Just think, it couldn't have happened without you! So to all of you blue fisters, thank you from the bottom of my happy, red heart.


    A Wisconsin taxpayer

    • http://www.facebook.com/jerry.person.14 Jerry Person

      Mr wisconsin tax cheater.Your a fox channel propaganda man. Facts scare your kind. walker would be convict 33225522. He is protect by John Vadruel US attrney and his protection racket. I guess you must be alec the only one walker was done anything for the people except sell liberty and justice to alec for a dime. The GOP hate s freedom democracy and gun rights. Walker has taken hunting rights away from 3 million in Wisconsin. He is anti gun too.

      • Maureen55

        Interesting, but incoherent comment. Clearly the left has problems expressing themselves as adults which is probably why they needed to resort to the tactics that they did. They could not debate any of the real issues, because like you, they couldn't string more than a couple of words together. I just hope that you are not a teacher, but your students would be doomed.

      • Mary Sue

        Says the person who gets their "facts" from a horribly biased union-produced newsletter that is about as foreign to the truth as free speech is to the Mullahs of Iran.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerry.person.14 Jerry Person

    Like Roland Reagan stated in his speech. The unions is the sole reason America is the greatsest and richest country in the world. It allowed all to be prosperous not just the greedy few. Unions created American equality something the GOP hates, freedom democracy and libery and just for all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jerry.person.14 Jerry Person

      I ment ronald reagan

    • Mary Sue

      Unions also happen to be full of NDPers (Hard core left wing Democrats) and outright socialists.

  • amused

    Keep dreaming Rick , although , the Walker recall vote went virtually according to party lines , it did not include nearly all Wisconsin voters , and it doesn't take into account Independents . Not to mention those who while liking Walker , might not appreciate the Lies and Flip Flopping of Romney ,that they have been exposed to since . Gonna have to wait til Teus.nite .

  • amused

    Dont count your chickens before they hatch Janice broke-whatever , Walker didn't get any landslide , and unfortunately for all the p[eople of Wisconsin , you still haven't figured out just how much Walker screwed you , but you will . As for that longwinded hatespeech against the peope who teach your children ? They're better than you , they will continue regardless,because theirs is more vocation than job , and they wont take it out on your kids , [if you have any ] , and if you do , YOU SHOULD thank them , for they taught your kids a valuable AMERICAN LESSON , even though they got screwed out of a BASIC AMERICAN RIGHT -CollectiveBbargaining .When the results are in for Walkers term , I can guarantee you one thing , no matter who wins THIS election , Walker will be voted out when his comes up .

    • Mary Sue

      I don't want socialists teaching kids anything, tyvm. The fact that the ones that are socialist are socialist reduces my respect for teachers by 95%.

  • amused

    Oh ….and BTW Rick and Janice , you should also thank your nemesis Obama for the close to$4 Billion in Tarp Bail Out money your State got and has not yet paid back even half . Yea three cheers for TARP , oh and remind your boy Ryan that he went-a-beggin' to the Obama Admin. for Tarp money claiming it would create jobs , you know , what all people like you two have been ranting against , [LOL including the hypocrite Ryan himself ] which DID in fact save and create jobs in Wisconsin . Consider those votes come Tues .

  • amused

    What's that ? Wisconsin "didn't take none of that TARP MONEY " ?
    Go look it up .Go call out Ryan on his LIE while he still has scrape marks on his knees .

  • Jim_C

    I do think Wisconsin makes for an interesting example, and I think both Walker and Ryan make pretty good candidates for the GOP on a national stage.

    To play devil's advocate, though–I think if the recall had taken place in a shorter time frame, Walker would not have had time to raise as much out of state money. Also, public opinion had cooled by the next year before the recall. I wouldn't be as sanguine about his chances had that recall taken place earlier.

    Walker's actions struck more of a nerve than I think he may have expected. The unions, after all, got impressively immediate support and took immediate action–whatever your opinion of the unions, that's nothing to sneeze at.

    Now, that said, I thought the recall was just sour grapes, anyway And now that Walker survived a recall, he's going to look stronger, so I disagree with my enlightened friend, amused, that he's "toast" next time around. I do think he will have to play the moderate, though. If he pushes the Koch agenda too far it'll go against him.

  • Hammad Aamir
  • Hammad Aamir

    Rick Esenberg is president and general counsel of the Wisconsin
    Institute for Law & Liberty and an adjunct professor at Marquette
    University Law School. The opinions expressed here are his own. car+buying+leads