Posts Tagged With: Koch brothers

Signs of recall sentiment in Germantown

Proudly displayed by a homeowner on a bucolic residental street in Germantown, Wisconsin.

A large banner supporting the imminent recall of Scott Walker from the post of Governor of Wisconsin deserves some mention, when it appears in Germantown, the south-east corner of Ozaukee County, north of Menominee Falls and just diagonal from the northwest corner of Milwaukee County.

The largest bloc of Republican votes in recent elections came from counties that surround Milwaukee like a siege ring. Without them, the reliable Republican vote spread thinly through the rest of the state would be a feeble challenge.

Of course this is the United States of America, so there is no constituency where any candidate or party can count on 90 percent, or 99 percent, and seldom even 70 or 80 percent. In a presidential election, 60 percent is called a “landslide,” even though it means 40 percent of the voters wanted another candidate; even 55 percent is considered a strong showing.

Scott Walker was elected governor with 52 percent of the votes in 2010, that is, 52 percent of 49 percent of eligible voters. In Ozaukee and Washington counties, 66 and 60 percent of eligible voters turned out, among the top three counties in the state, giving Walker 68.9 and 75.2 percent of the votes cast.

If Walker’s support in these bastions of loyal support drops by five percent or so, without his support drastically improving somewhere else in the state, his effort to retain office is in serious trouble. A recall election is not about the losers getting a second bite at the apple. If recall petitions were mostly or only signed by people who voted for a different candidate in the general election, a recall would simply result in roughly the same result. A recall is about people who did vote for the incumbent, expressing shock and revulsion over his (or her) performance in office. It may also, secondarily, be about people who weren’t inspired to vote for anyone. This last group, if motivated by the incumbent’s performance to get out of their comfy couches and go vote in the recall, could swing the result as well.

Democratic Party fundraising appeals are highlighting Scott Walker’s highly successful out of state fundraising. The names of Texas millionaire Bob Perry, and of course the Koch brothers, are a natural foil. Reportedly, these villains from central casting have pledged that they are “going all in to save Scott Walker.” No doubt they are, and they have the money to pour into it.

But this time around, they really don’t matter. When voters don’t know the candidates well, millions of dollars buying a non-stop stream of TV spots can swing an election. You can fool all of the people some of the time. A lie repeated often enough will be believed, at least for a while, just as Joseph Goebbels said. But the recall is not about doubt, confusion, and uncertainty. Most voters in Wisconsin made up their minds in February 2011. Everyone in Wisconsin has seen Scott Walker on display, and either approves or does not. No amount of television advertising is going to sway opinion this time around. It’s just a show, with both sides preaching to the choir.

Walker still has support – nobody should make a mistake about that. He’s not going to be turned out of office by a 90 percent majority, or even 70 percent. He is likely to win 45 percent of the votes, quite possibly even 47 or 48 percent. But that falls short of a majority. There are “I Stand With Walker” signs in various parts of Germantown, Waukesha, and along the lonely stretch of Highway 20 west of East Troy. But there are “Recall Walker” signs in Waukesha, in Germantown, in Whitewater, Watertown, and Fort Atkinson.

A governor who does a decent job usually gets an approval rating above the percentage of people who actually voted for him. Walker’s approval rating plunged sharply below his 52 percent majority in his first couple of months in office. If his support slips even five percent in the recall, he’ll be looking for a new job. This one will be decided by the well-informed citizens of Wisconsin, not by out-of-state money.

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Millions for television spots, but not one cent is persuasive

There are elections where money talks – whoever can blanket the airwaves with their carefully crafted propaganda can create an atmosphere, set the agenda, and turn voters, like a herd of sheep, to vote for the preferred candidate of the man with the deep pockets.

The campaign to recall Scott Walker is not one of those elections. Just about everyone made up their mind in February 2011. Those who are going to vote to keep Scott Walker genuinely appreciate what he has done in the past year. Those who are going to vote to replace him, are genuinely horrified by his performance in office. Voters are not going to be motivated by impressions, or atmosphere. Scott Walker’s tenure as governor is going to rise or fall on his record in office.

Money talks when voters are unfamiliar with the candidates. A man with little or no record can spin his own image, if he can pay to get it in front of every couch potato in the state. Scott Walker did that in 2010. Outside of Milwaukee, where he was overwhelmingly disliked, few voters knew much about him, and he didn’t tell them much. He told them what they wanted to hear, and 52 percent of the voters thought it sounded good. He was the fresh youngish face, offered in a year where everyone was feeling politically depressed. He wasn’t called upon to supply any details.

Money talks in Supreme Court elections, because most voters pay little or no attention to what judges are doing on a day to day basis. Creating a “feeling” about the judge, whether it has anything to do with their performance on the bench or not, can win or lose the battle.What Louis Butler did as a public defender had nothing to do with how he would rule as an appellate judge – but Gableman was able to create an atmosphere that “Louis Butler defends child molesters,” and slither into the Supreme Court. It didn’t take a law degree to recognize that the Gableman commercials were blatantly deceptive, but it would have taken some time to sit down and study unfamiliar facts, to see through the barrage of sound bytes. Most voters don’t take that time.

For the past year, everyone in Wisconsin who is even a possible voter has been riveted on what Walker has done, and what his opponents have done. There is no reason to be concerned about how much money the Koch brothers, or Karl Rove, or the United States Chamber of Commerce, are going to pour into the Wisconsin airwaves. Nobody is paying attention. Nobody is going to be moved. Nobody is uninformed. The drama, a real life, high stakes drama, has been playing out before our eyes for over a year now.

The money being spent by advocates of the recall is probably wasted also. Are people unaware that there is a recall campaign going on? Hardly. Are large numbers of voters genuinely conflicted about whether to recall our governor and lieutenant governor? Very few. People who have made up their mind are immune to massive television messages. Of course, if there were NO recall commercials at all, some voters might get the impression the recall campaign was over and “everyone but me seems to like Walker.” If its all over the TV, it must be true, right?

If one side does it, the other side feels they HAVE to do the same. Up to a point, that may be true. But it doesn’t matter how much money is available to either side. This one is going to be decided by the people. There are no sheep this time around. Everyone is awake, and thinking for themselves. No voters are looking for a slick campaign to issue them an opinion.

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