23 Aug 2014
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COMMENTARY: Is the Fat Lady Singing?

And is Walker changing his tune?

COMMENTARY: Is the Fat Lady Singing?

The recall elections are over. Net result? Two seats in the State Senate changed hands - from the incumbent Republicans to the Democrats. What was a 19 to 14 dominant advantage became a slim 17 to 16, with a very tenuous, one vote margin. Given that there is at least one moderate among their Republican ranks, does this spell the end of the ideological blitzkrieg of the Walker regime? Is the fat lady singing?

After having picked up two seats in a flurry of recalls, the final two recall elections on August 16 went to the Democrats with Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) and Jim Holperin (D-Conover) successfully defending their seats.

To hear the spin from the right, the recalls were an enormous success and vindication of the direction Walker and Associates have taken this state. The claim has been made that the Democrats were soundly defeated. Really? A net loss of seats and reduced margin in the Senate is a victory? Sure, much like the Chicago Bears defeated the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game last year. Oh…wait, that’s right, the Bears didn’t win.

Make no mistake, the Republicans still hold an advantage in our other legislative body and the Governors mansion – and they still have a one-vote advantage in the Senate. We haven’t seen the last of Walker’s push to eliminate anything Democratic. A margin – even if only one vote – is still a margin. Don’t make the mistake of discounting Walker’s hubris.

If there is anything both sides would agree on, the amount of money spent by the candidates, the outside groups, and the PACS was obscene. What if there is an effort to recall Walker? Should enough signatures appear on the petitions for Walker’s recall, the sum we have seen spent recently will seem like chump-change by comparison.

On one side, union money will help fund the Democrats. Defending Walker? Big business, the Koch brothers, Chambers of Commerce ET al. If Walker faces a recall election, Wisconsin will truly become ground zero for an ideological money war that will have national repercussions.

Don’t underestimate Walker’s surprising offer to “reach across the isle.” Would he have any desire to do so if he did not see the writing on the wall?  Has he made any attempt up to this point to work with the Democrats? What Walker sees in his rearview mirror are the angry constituents he is also supposed to be representing.

It is the arrogance in the Governor’s mansions of other states that are an issue as well – those who have amorously embraced the fringe of the right wing. Consider the record making low approval numbers and challenges of the governors in Ohio, Florida, and Michigan. In Ohio, they have garnered 1.3 million signatures to put on the ballot the reinstatement of public employee’s bargaining rights. That’s 1.3 million signatures! The Governor there now says he would like to “reach across the aisle” as well. Hmmm.

It won’t be until November that petitions here can begin circulating for the final recall – the one with Governor Walker’s name on it. So maybe the fat lady isn’t singing yet, but is that her phone ringing?

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