Thursday, March 10, 2011


Because right-wingers have more unity, more money, more determination to dig in their heels, and a permanently solidified national base, the Wisconsin standoff has ended pretty much the way we should have assumed it would: a surprise move earlier today, Wisconsin's Senate Republicans rewrote the bill and left out all the parts that spent money. Then they quickly convened and passed the new law, which included the provisions stripping most public-employee unions of their collective bargaining rights but excluding everything in the law that spent money.

What happens next? Expect the protests over the next few days to be ferocious. But unless a judge rules the move illegal -- and I don't know how to judge the likelihood of that -- Walker's proposed law will go forward. The question is whether Walker and the Republicans who voted for it will do the same....

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- Walker and the bill itself are well below 50% in the polls. But surely you've noticed: for Republicans, 40% is 50%. For Democrats most of the time, not even 60% is 50%. (I'm rounding the numbers, but I'm comparing this situation to, say, the opportunity Democrats in Washington had to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy before the November 2010 midterms; they didn't have the guts to do what the public clearly favored.)

In the Wisconsin situation, I really, really want to believe that the GOP and the right and the Koch brothers have awakened a sleeping giant. I really want to believe that this will be a watershed, not just in Wisconsin but nationwide.

But I don't even believe that the likely recall elections are going to make much difference. When Chris Bowers looked at this, he described only six of the eight Republican state senators who are being targeted for recall as vulnerable -- and of those six (all of whom ran in districts Barack Obama won in 2008), two won running unopposed and one had a 13% margin of victory. How vulnerable are these folks, really?

I just don't trust that saying "disapprove" to a pollster is the same in all cases as maintaining a level of anger that will translate into a recall vote months later. Yes, some of the disapprovers in recent Wisconsin polls are genuinely enraged -- but others are just leaning. I don't trust that they'll show up to throw the bums out.

Ben Smith says:

The mechanics of this favor Democrats: The numbers, and the union organization, are well-suited to signature gathering; what's more, Republican statewide success means more Republicans occupy swing seats.

Yeah, but the mechanics of the actual recall elections will probably favor the right-wing money machine. This is going to be a national campaign, with national money -- Koch money, Rove money, online money-bomb money from the wingnut base, and so on.

I really want to eat massive amounts of crow on this -- but it just seems to me that the right sustains efforts much more successfully than the left does. We may get a few people recalled. But the winners last night aren't going to relax. They aren't going to take a victory lap. They're going to stay on offense. They're going to be sore winners. (The right may get a few Democrats recalled.) They're going to keep the Fox/talk radio troops rallied nationwide. Based on past performance, I think they're going to wear our side down. Prove me wrong, folks.

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