Tangled up in Blue
On August 1, 2011, I took a job in the Wisconsin Legislature, working for a state representative. By the end of October I was done. Now I’m back and free to editorialize; my new column is called Bad Democrat.
I am a Democrat. I believe that a healthy and educated populace is the foundation of a great nation. I believe in a single-payer health system, and that within our existing infrastructure it can be created effectively if there’s true political will to make it happen.
I believe that every child in America who shows academic promise should receive the best education available, regardless of income, and I have my own ideas about how to do that in a way that works for everyone without additional taxpayer burden.
I believe that children, the disabled and the elderly should have a reliable safety net, and that the wealthy don’t need Social Security payments, but should pay into the larger system. Wealth tax? Maybe, or think of it as a safety net against reversal of fortune, which happens. A lot. Maybe your payments will fund your disabled neighbor’s access to food and medical care. Would that be so bad?
I also believe that rampant consumerism played an enormous role in the country’s current state, and that there’s plenty of blame to go around for this. The problem itself is not partisan; the solution, tragically, has become so.
Finally, I believe that Wisconsin, the United States and the entire world teeters at this moment on the head of a pin. What happens now will shape the future direction of the civilized world, and America’s place in it.
Not torn on whether I believe he is a good governor; I don’t. And not torn on whether his policies, however misguided I think them to be, are set with the best interest of the general populace in mind; I believe he is tucked firmly inside the GOP lobby machine.
Rather, I am torn about whether this recall race is in the best interest of democracy, and about the precedent this recall could set.
I fear that crucial money and resources will go to this effort at the expense of the incredibly important Assembly and U.S. Senate races in the state. If Democrats re-take the Assembly, there will be a strong base of duly elected officials fighting for Democratic priorities, which will effectively take the Walker machine offline until the next election cycle. Tammy Baldwin is a strong Democrat, but she will need lots of money and soldiers to win; she is not a slam-dunk with statewide voters.
The recall will also draw out in force Republican voters who might not otherwise be motivated until November. In addition, Democratic party and interest money will have to spread across hundreds individual fronts nationwide in the coming year, not to mention the presidential election. Then there’s voter fatigue, and I assert that it is very real, especially since the state Senate recall elections.
Then there’s the question that no one seems to be asking: If we run record numbers of recall races against the currently elected legislature and governor, are we setting a precedent for permanent chaos? In state elections, Wisconsin is not truly Blue; the electorate is almost evenly split along party lines, with a particularly wild cadre of independents. No one side has a clear mandate from the people, at least not at the polls. Going forward, what’s to stop the Republicans from launching recall efforts of their own, countered by more counter-recalls? And if that happens, how long until the last vestiges of democratic process are swept away?
I believe that Walker’s vision for Wisconsin is self-interested and unsustainable, and that Republicans swept the 2010 elections on one Big Idea: that Wisconsin must reduce its spending to balance its budget. There’s no arguing with this, of course. Spending must be reduced dramatically, but not in one budget cycle, and not to the detriment of the many and simultaneous benefit of the few.
Left to run its course, is there not a very good chance that the newly disenfranchised, including some Republicans, will rise up and naturally elect a new governing body that will serve the needs of the majority of the people? And if we don’t believe this, then maybe it’s time to ditch the whole idea that democracy is real.
But me I’m still on the road
Heading for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in Blue