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On Wisconsin!

I’ve been following the recall election news from Wisconsin all day and from the looks of it, turnout is very high and it looks like it will be a squeaker between Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger Tom Barrett.  Turnout is estimated at 119% in Madison.  That number only looks strange because it is a relative number compared to the last election.  Wisconsin allows for same day registration so the number of first time voters is up.

[There seem to be an awful lot of people on twitter who are confused about the math when the turnout is reported to be above 100%.  So here’s how it works: Take the number of voters who turned out for the last election.  That’s your baseline.  If you get less than that number this year, you have less than 100% of the last voter turnout.  This happens a lot, especially in off year elections.  It’s not unusual for your some of your registered voters to stay home.  If you get more voters, you get more than 100% of the last voter turnout.  In Wisconsin, it is possible to register to vote on the same day as the election.  Since this is a very high profile election, there are a greater number of voters coming out to vote so the number exceeds the turnout of last time.  It only sounds strange because the numbers are not absolute and they are not absolute because there is no hard count of voters by registration rolls when same day registration is permitted.  I assume that the new voter had to fill out a voter’s registration card and they will be vetted later. The number exceeding 100% doesn’t necessarily mean there were out of state voters or dead people.]

Update: Bernie Sanders weighs in on what a Walker win would mean to the rest of the country:

I love this headline from Andy Borowitz: Canada Bracing for Massive Influx of Wisconsin Boat People.

Charles Pierce is on the ground in Wisconsin and writes his usual witty, pithy, brilliant first hand account in Scenes from a Recall (I hate him for that).

The accusations from both sides are flying thick and fast.  The hallucinating nutcases at Fox are saying that Barrett is busing in people from Detroit to vote.  The voters have been reporting misleading robocalls that assure them that if they signed a recall petition, they need not trouble their pretty little heads about voting today.

Then there are the excuses and rationale that are coming from Obama friendly sources.  Rumor has it that he didn’t campaign in Wisconsin for Barrett because he thought Walker would win and he didn’t want to be seen standing next to a loser.  That’s a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy if ever I heard one.  Once again, it’s all about Obama.  Nevermind that there are public service workers and regular working people and women who may suffer the consequences if Walker wins.  What’s most important is maintaining Obama’s image.

The new spin from press secretary Jay Carney is that Wisconsin won’t be very  predictive of Obama’s chances in November at all.  I disagree.  Let’s look at the possible scenarios:

1.) Walker wins big.  This is bad news for working people.  It also proves that with a lot of money, you can buy a lot of megaphone volume to spew lies out to the public.  It would set a really bad precedent.  Republicans would gleefully pull out all of the stops.  Obama’s carefully manicured image would be in danger, especially if he economy gets worse.

2.) Walker wins small. If it’s really tight or if there’s a recount and Walker squeaks by, we’ll always wonder if Obama’s active presence and support would have been enough to change the outcome.  I think we’ll hear a lot of criticism from Wisconsin if that happens.  And if they’ve fought this hard and lost the war anyway, what would be the point of showing up in November?

3.) Barrett wins small. This would be a great outcome for Wisconsin and working people everywhere.  But it’s hard to see how Obama benefits from a win when he has scrupulously avoided any association with the campaign.  His tepid endorsement after Barrett won the primary and his single motivating tweet on the Wisconsin election this morning just goes to show how little influence he had on the outcome.  On the other hand, Barrett is going to owe Bill Clinton.

4.) Barrett wins big. In this scenario, the sentiment is that working people are pissed and won’t be shoved to one side while the Republicans swagger all over them and the Democrats go out of their way to court the snippy suburbanites who have stay at home moms like Michelle Obama and don’t hang around with working people if they can help it.  The party may have to start paying attention to working people and unions, something they’ve been avoiding for the past 4 years.  Hmmm, how do they start to look sincere this late in the game…?  Or the party could continue on it’s single minded quest for complete control of the message and just ignore Wisconsin.  In neither case do I get the impression that Obama will motivate the base to vote for him in November.  In fact, working people might just start feeling their Cheerios and start issuing demands.

Are there any other scenarios that would favor Obama?  I don’t see them but I might be suffering from a failure to imaginate.  It just seems to me that the Obama campaign kind of let Wisconsin down here.  Sure, Debbie Wasserman Shultz says the DNC and Obama’s campaign org in Wisconsin helped out but one gets the impression from the candidate himself that he was dragged into it very reluctantly.  And against this much cash pouring into Walker’s campaign, boots on the ground and a serious, DNC GOTV effort was more than justified.

Does Obama even realize that working people are his base or is he still buying into that crazy ass stuff that Donna Brazile was peddling in 2008 when she said they were the “old coalition” and the Democratic party didn’t need them anymore?  Because I have news for the party. The suburbs aren’t doing so well these days either.  There are just as many of us out of work and much, much poorer than we used to be.  And as we move from being wage slaves with company benefits to involuntary entrepreneurs, footing the bill for everything ourselves, the conservative message starts sounding a lot less painful.  Not everyone has the interest to become a political junky and tease out fact from fiction, cause from effect like we do.  I wouldn’t get to comfortable if I were the DNC.  Or Obama.

Maybe he should have gone to Madison.  Some things are just worth the risk.

Tuesday: Wisconsin has more cows than people

Or so the NYTimes would have us believe. This comment is from clueless Wisconsinite in the NYTimes:

But others suggested that unions had perhaps had outlived their usefulness. Carrie Fox, who works at a billboard advertising company, said she hoped that the battle would encourage other governors to rein in public- and private-sector unions.

“I know there was a point for unions back in the day because people were being abused,” she said. “But now there’s workers’ rights; there’s laws that protect us.”

Riiiigghht.  Protect us from WHAT, exactly?  If you can casually sweep away the promises you made to your workers who negotiated in good faith, what real rights does a worker have anymore?

I get pissed off by stupid comments like this.  What’s worse?  That Wisconsinites don’t seem to realize that what unions do has a trickle down effect on nonunion workers or that media sources like the NYTimes provide so many quotes from these dunderheads?  I mean, do we really need more ignorance cluttering up our media?

Where is the labor leadership in Wisconsin making the point that it’s not that public service unions have it so great with salaries and benefits.  It’s that we ALL should be getting the same benefits they do.  Where’s the argument that during this Greaf Recession, you really don’t want to diminish the buying power or increase the financial insecurity of one of largest employment blocs.  Because when teachers and prothonotaries and DMV clerks have less money to spend, that means small businesses get fewer customers.  It affects everyone, from the day care center workers to the waitress, to the piano teacher.  Everything but necessities becomes a luxury.

Yep, there definitely are things the unions should negotiate on.  As a board of ed member in NJ, I got the feeling that teachers got tenure way too early, recieved incrementals and promotional raises without a lot of proof that they had earned them and in some cases, could retire with a stash of unused vacation and sick days that needed to be paid by the district a very high cost.  It was also nearly impossible to fire a teacher who may have engaged in illegal sexual activity with his students.  Union grievance rules required a lengthy process, ususally resulting in a large financial payoff to make the teacher go away.  So, there is definitely room for improvement and teachers and other private section unions should be willing to examine whether some of their rules gives their public relations image a black eye.

But renegotiation is not the same as breaking the ability of the unions to negotiate at all.  Do we really want to go back to the days when teachers worked for subsistence wages, had no benefits and could be fired at will for lifestyles choices that are none of the public’s business?  Will premarital sex be used a reason in some rural Wisconsin district as the means to get rid of a female teacher?  How does Wisconsin plan to prevent that?

And what happens to the students of those teachers?  What happens to the quality of the instruction when the worker feels unappreciated?  I mean, have been on a United Airlines flight in the past ten years?  The flight attendants that are left the most senior ones and they look like they’ve lost their mojo.  If you like your job, you should have mojo in ample supply.  But when your airlines slashes your pay, pares down the staff to skeleton crews and starts tinkering with the pensions, you get a lot of very beaten down flight attendants whose tight little smiles can’t disguise the sadness in their eyes.  They’re going to have to make transcontinental flights until they die.  My guess is that you get what you pay for.  Happy flight attendants of any age make a flight more enjoyable and make that obstacle course in security worth the effort.

But the cows, er, clueless Wisconsinites think the workers are protected.  And the media have workers focussed on each other instead of the people up the food chain who are sitting back in their limos, chuckling at the carnage they are observing but do not feel compelled to join.  If you make a lot of money in Wisconsin, or NJ or Ohio or any number of states that are hurting financially, it’s perfectly ok to stay above the fray.  No one is asking you to make a sacrifice.


If they cows ever got a clue, they’d realize they don’t have to sacrifice their neighbor’s financial  well being or their children’s education.  All they have to do is start looking up the food chain instead of down.  Zero in on those wealthy with the tax cuts who are stashing money in the bank.  Money they might have used to give you a raise and better bennies.  And as Paul Krugman said last week, get all Willie Sutton on them.  Why should states tax the rich?  Because that’s where the money is.

If children end up going to bed hungry, it’s because the rich are holding out on them.  Don’t blame the unions, cows.

You’ve been eating grass.