The present and future governor of the state of Wisconsin met in debate on May 25 in advance of the epochal recall election of June 5th, 2012 at which time the voting citizens of Wisconsin will determine if they are the same person, Scott Walker. A year and a half of trench warfare politics with comments and actions at times bordering on buffoonery and hysteria have led to a culminating vote that will frame not only for Wisconsin but for the nation an electorate’s capacity to discern adult and necessary policy and electorally stand behind it. The debate was a microcosm of the entire calamitous process of the past year. After all the yelling, Governor Walker remained serene and on point and his opponent Barrett, who gagged on the word governor, calling Mr. Walker “Scott” or “you”, waddled around the issues like – a man with no issues. If you are the political junky type, you can watch the nothing left to debate debate in its entirety on C-Span. After 18 months of incessant protest, innumerable recalls, million signature petition drives, and claims of Armageddon, the protest voter’s candidate found himself even unable to stand up for reversal of Act 10, the bill that constrained collective bargaining for some public unions and allowed Governor Walker and the state legislature to finally achieve budget sanity and balance, and the supposed line in the sand issue that led to all this recall nonsense in the first place.
The mayor of Milwaukee, Thomas Barrett, has engaged in two previous runs for governor and lost, with a recent clubbing by Scott Walker in the 2010 election fresh in his memory. A politician who takes pride in having no discernible opinions that would irritate anybody or accomplish anything, Barrett has compared himself to Goldilocks, “neither too hot or too cold- just right” as if personality was the defining issue to solving the massive current problems of state and national budget crises. Mr. Goldilocks while apparently personally aghast at Governor Walker’s legislative process to achieve budgetary balance had no problem in using the tools Act 10 provided him for balancing his own city budget, to the chagrin of the same public unions who must now stand wobbly behind him. It seems Goldilocks was a hypocrite.
The problem for the democrat party of Wisconsin is after all the hullabaloo the polls are showing Wisconsinites are beginning to absorb the successes achieved by Governor Walker and elements that comprise his true political talent. The first legitimately balanced budget in years without one time gimmicks or tax raises. A pending budgetary surplus next year. The initial evidence of real private sector job growth and reduction of the unemployment rate. The restoration of rational purchasing and budgeting to local governments and local school boards. The achievement of educational savings without significant layoffs or reduction in class size. Mr. Barrett was left arguing that such success was making Governor Walker a national figure and a political “rock star”, and that was not what the state would get if they voted for Barrett. Translation – I don’t want to be a success, just a guy …vote for me.” I must say, that doesn’t exactly send a tingle up my leg.
The polls would suggest that Governor Walker has a small but consistent lead of between 5 and 8 percentage points over Barrett in the final week leading to the election. In the state of Wisconsin where voting is done repetitively, and by busload, and with voter ID being suspended by a liberal Dane County judge conveniently for this recall vote, the Walker lead may be ethereal. The process of democracy is at times very messy, but the Wisconsin recall drama over the last year and a half has framed the issue in increasingly sharp focus progressively for the nation. People – do you want a “guy” – or do you want a future? Let’s hope we are done with those “guys”, and both democrats and republicans will finally be free to vote for people who are willing to be part of the solution.