So the Democrats in Wisconsin came up short in their efforts to flip the State Senate in recall elections. On the binary tally of win-lose, it is a loss. But I am not sure that is the complete story.
It is still an historic effort and that also has to be scored as a win. Remember how we got to these elections in the first place. When the Republicans gained control of the both Houses of the Legislature and the Governors office, they set out on a path of policy that incensed many Wisconsinites.
Their hard right policies and the way they went about enacting them mobilized tens of thousands of Union members, workers and average voters. They went out into the bitterly cold Wisconsin winter to make their extreme displeasure known, and when they were ignored they took advantage of the process to try to recall the six Republican State Senators that were eligible under the law for recall.
They faced an uphill fight all the way. Getting the signatures in the right amount of time, faux Democratic candidates running with the explicit purpose of slowing the process down and allowing out of state money to work longer.
We should not discount that money. Millions and millions of dollars from the Koch Brothers (the nominal owners of Gov. Scott Walker, or maybe they just lease him?) and Crossroads GPS have poured like the Red River in flood into the state.
Then there is the fact that all six of these Republicans were elected in 2008, a year that was a wave election for Democrats. These are what you would call “safe-seats” for Republicans.
All of these made this a truly epic struggle, and yet the people of Wisconsin went out and came within a hair’s breadth of achieving the ultimate goal of flipping control of the State Senate. That they failed by one seat is a pretty strong indicator of how close this really was.
Dad always said (yeah, he was a huge one for sayings) “Nothing ever beat a good try but failure.” Sometimes you do all you can and you still come up short of the goal. But a lot of that determination of failure is dependent on what your goal is.
If you have multiple goals there can be a range of success and failure. Last night in Wisconsin we did see an overall electoral defeat, as long as we focus on the idea of flipping the Senate, but was that really the only goal?
There are two new Democratic State Senators. These are Senators from deep red districts, they won districts designed to be uncompetitive for Democrats. That is pretty impressive in and of itself.
Then there is the larger overall issue of accountability to the voters. On that front I’d score this a qualified win. No one wants to face an election out of cycle. There are a myriad of reasons for this from funding to having to reconstitute a campaign organization to just having to focus on getting elected instead of passing legislation. By forcing all six of these Republicans to defend their seats the people of Wisconsin made it clear they are watching and will make their disapproval known in the strongest possible terms, namely by threatening their jobs.
It is the way that politics should work. You can not always control the outcome but you can control the effort and that effort in Wisconsin was outstanding. While the final outcome was not all that people had hoped, it is a model for what needs to be done if the people are going regain their say in the way they are governed.
While the Democrats did come up short, they have reduced the margin in the State Senate to one vote. If it had been that margin earlier in the year, Governor Walkers union-busting bill would have failed. There was a Republican who voted with the Democrats and that one vote would have made all the difference.
Now instead of being able to power things through the Senate, the Republicans will have worry about every hard right policy they want to enact. If all the Democrats have to do is flip one vote, that is a very different calculus then if they have to flip three.
So, some wins, an overall loss and maybe some hope for the future. As people powered politics goes, I think it is all a good thing.
The floor is yours