“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”
I was pretty excited as I got home from work yesterday. I’d been hearing snippets of information coming out of Wisconsin that seemed to bode well for the effort to recall Governor Scott Walker and put an end to his assault on the working people of The Badger State. Turnout was massive, with polling places in Democratic strongholds reporting dwindling supplies of ballots. All the pieces seemed to be in place for a historic victory that would send a message to the nation that working people were not going to lay down and have the hard fought gains of generations of the labor movement rolled back. The initial call on MSNBC was “too close to call,” a good sign.
Then, forty-nine minutes after the polls closed, while some voters were still waiting in line in some crowded precincts, MSNBC projected that Scott Walker had won the election.
It didn’t make sense. All the indicators pointed to, at a minimum, a long night of watching returns, one that should have had a reasonable chance of ending in victory for Tom Barrett and the Democrats. I was waiting for something to give me hope. Rachel Maddow, one of the smartest political analysts around was on the air. She could only report. She wasn’t seeing the data. Surely there was something wrong with the numbers: a computer glitch, voter suppression, something.
But it was not to be. Ed Schultz accepted the results. Lawrence O’Donnell accepted them. Barrett conceded. It was over. There would be no recount or challenge. I even checked The Brad Blog. Brad Friedman is a pretty serious watchdog on election integrity, so if there was any hope, he would be reporting on it. Well, if you follow the link, you will see that we can’t know if there was anything wrong with the computers. There is no provision in Wisconsin law that would force elections officials to compare actual paper tallies with those recorded by computers. Short of a non-binding recount by a third party in the style of the media recount of Florida’s ballots in 2000, the paper ballots will never be counted.
So, Walker won. We have to assume “fair and square”, if you count robo-calls telling people not to vote “fair”. If we are prepared to accept Walker’s 8 to 1 fundraising advantage over Tom Barrett, overwhelmingly from out of state super PACs run by corporations and billionaires, as “fair”, we must accept Walker’s victory.
The problem is that we must, indeed, accept these things. The Citizen’s United ruling, the monstrous abomination of legal “reasoning” that sprang forth from the partisan activists on the Supreme Court, is the law of the land. This is the battle field on which we find ourselves. We can make all sorts of rationalizations. Wisconsinites find the idea of recalls distasteful. They anticipate that he’ll be indicted this week and leave office anyway. Obama didn’t put in an appearance (a decision that I support, actually). Barrett never led in the race. Recalls are hard. Wisconsinites really are that conservative.
There may be truth to all these rationalizations.It doesn’t matter. The lesson that we must take away from this defeat is that the electoral battlefield has changed because of the presence of incredible amounts of money coming into the race. Democrats can fight for campaign finance reform. We can try to get money out of politics. But for now, for this election cycle, it’s there. We have to accept that and we have to understand how powerful a weapon it is. We have to find a way to defend against it, or we will talking about President Romney and his GOP controlled Congress.