By Kevin Binversie
So with Wisconsin’s historic gubernatorial recall now in the past, let’s take a look at the Wisconsin political landscape. Who are the winners? Who are the losers?
Gov. Scott Walker. Forced to stare into the abyss of political hell, he survived — or, rather, thrived and brought in more votes than in 2010. He looks all but certain to win re-election in 2014.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. If there was an ace up Walker’s sleeve, it was the former Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman who now heads the Republican National Committee with all of its resources at his disposal. The unassuming lawyer from Kenosha with the funny name went all-in for his long-time friend, and the investment paid back in spades.
The Republican Party. Does this mean Wisconsin is now in play for November — that the state is no longer a Democratic certainty for President Barack Obama? That may well be the case. The Republican Party is already integrating Walker’s win into its presidential election plan. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has wasted no time in using Tuesday night’s results in the fight for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat.
Voter turnout. This is what democracy looks like — people voting in elections, in some places in bigger numbers than in 2010.
Wisconsin’s business climate. With the uncertainty surrounding the governor’s mansion finally over, business finally has a clear sense of the state’s regulation and tax policies.
Labor. As the old adage goes, “When you aim at the king, you better not miss.” Millions of dollars spent, political energy squandered, and a platinum-plated Cadillac-level voter-turnout program ended up producing naught.
The recall had its origins in the controversy over collective-bargaining reform. But that quickly took a back seat to political pragmatism (most voters don’t have a dog in that fight) and the primary loss of organized labor’s preferred candidate (former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk). Enter the “more electable” Tom Barrett. What happens next to Wisconsin’s public-sector employee unions after Act 10 will be the subject of analysis for years.
Wisconsin Democrats. Their public spin will be that they won — that they succeeded in taking control of the state Senate. But few political watchers see John Lehman’s victory over Van Wangaard as much of a long-term takeover for Democrats. With new legislative elections in November — in newly redrawn and more GOP-friendly districts — it’s more like a rental agreement. That might be the only good news for the Democrats. The future looks worse from there. The party has almost no recognizable bench of candidates for the 2014 gubernatorial race, and its legislative ranks are full of characters happier as bomb throwers than leaders. Does someone step up in the next two year? Or does the party cater to its militant wing and engage in an ideological purge of legislators who dare to try to compromise with Walker?
It could be a long, cold weekend in Appleton starting Friday as state Democrats gather for their annual convention and look toward November and consider the self-inflicted damage of the past 16 months.
Recalls for recall’s Sake. If anything is certain in the future of Wisconsin, it is that change will be coming to the recall system. State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, has all but assured his plan to “recall the recalls” will be on the next legislative calendar.
Civility. Booing during Barrett’s concession speech as he’s congratulating Walker on his victory. The random lady slapping him moments afterwards. Death threats against Walker. The potential for Walker supporters to gloat in victory. All of these are danger signs in the road to healing. If this was “Wisconsin’s Civil War,” then the Reconstruction period has begun. Grownups don’t only have to start showing up; they have to be heard. Is that likely? Not if one side is seemingly hell-bent on not just ensuring Gov. Walker fails, but that he is destroyed on every level imaginable. Wisconsin moves forward through the actions of adults, not petulant children.
Veteran political blogger Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native. He served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous state Republican campaigns, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at [email protected].