I’ve avoided commenting about the abortive Wisconsin recall election that’s dominated our news for a year. Not because Scott Walker is to my liking. He’s not. But, more than that, I’ve never liked recall elections. Nearly all I’ve seen were begun for the wrong reasons, most failed and the people who beat ‘em back were stronger in office than before.

Like me, you may be sick of hearing about the mess. But there’s a backstory about this $70 million – and possibly more – wasted. It’s worth discussing.

If one reads a selection of statutes regarding recall. – something I don’t recommend for entertainment value – you’ll find most are pretty specific about when and why recall can be used. Words like “moral turpitude,” “malfeasance in office,” “felony conviction” and the like appear in most. Things that are provable and serious deviations from acceptable society.

What you won’t find are references to not personally liking decisions or policies of an officeholder, displeasure with official actions that otherwise fall under his or her jurisdiction, anger because you may have been personally affected or offended, lousy personality or poor personal hygiene. Yet these latter categories of personal disdain are often at the bottom of such efforts when you get right down to it. Wisconsin certainly was.

I don’t like what Gov. Walker did to public employee unions. I don’t like some of the lies he’s been caught passing off as truth. I don’t like his cozy relationships with the Koch brothers and other billionaires who are willing to put money in him to do their political dirty work. I don’t like the difference between the face he shows the public and the very different face he’s been proven to have with the rich who’ve financed him.

BUT – at this point – I can’t find any legal reasons for recall that apply to the guy. That may change if he’s dragged into the current court case involving his previous staff’s apparently illegal activities while he was in another public office. That could be a whole different deal. But, as governor, the most I can see he’s done at this point is piss off a lot of people who probably didn’t vote for him anyway. People who wanted revenge.

And apparently, I’m not alone in my views. In fact, enough Wisconsites seem to have felt about the same as I do and voted more on the principle of recall than on the issue of what Walker did or didn’t do.

Here’s some exit polling you might have missed. After voting, just 27% said recalls are appropriate for any reason. Those people went 90% for challenger Tom Barrett and 9% for Walker. Then there was the 60% that said recalls are legitimate only for misconduct. More than 60% of them voted for Walker. And the third group of about 10% said recalls are never necessary and Walker got 94% of those.

And here’s the cherry on top. Almost 18% of those voting for Walker said they would vote for Pres. Obama in November!

There’s the backstory. While, in the eyes of public service union members – and the people who support them – Walker was a bad guy, a lot of people who may have agreed with them felt recall was not the answer. And it wasn’t. It almost never is if the legal reasons for it are not present.

There’s some merit to the claims billionaire backers of Walker outspending the challenger seven to one influenced the outcome. Somewhat. There’s some justification for believing Walker got into office with an unannounced (I hate “secret”) agenda to do just what he’s done. There’s even evidence Walker has a significant problem with truth-telling.

But Wisconsin voters – at least a good number of them – had made up their minds months ago that the recall was a bad idea. CNN showed some exit polling that about 4% of voters made up their minds how to vote within the last week; 8% during the last month; 80% in April – or before.

That tells me a couple things. First, all that obscene amount of money really did was fatten wallets of broadcasters, newspaper companies and some political pros. And probably forced some Wisconsites to experiment with life without TV for several months. It didn’t seem to greatly affect the outcome because a big majority of people already had their minds made up.

Second, a lot of voters went to the polls with the element of fairness in mind rather than what the Governor may have done to anger so many folks.

Now that Gov. Walker has won, I predict he’ll redouble whatever his slash-and-burn agenda is with renewed vigor. He’s going to feel vindicated and he’s got a recall election victory in his pocket he can wave under the noses of those who went after him and failed. They swatted at the bee and missed. That’s the downside of a recall built on – and fueled by – anger. If you’re going to take a shot, you’d best not miss. They missed. They lost the passion.

I often worry – well, more than often – about how uninformed the majority of citizens are in this country about elementary workings of their system of governance. With considerable evidence to support that angst. But, while the outcome in Wisconsin may not have been the result of a high level of understanding of the civics involved, it appears there was considerable thought given to whether the underlying reasons for the recall were valid.

Maybe, in this case, fairness was an acceptable substitute for knowledge.

Comments are closed.