Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wisconsin Was Hoodwinked by Out-of-State Money

This is a really sad graph.

Walker with his unlimited campaign fundraising and outside groups spent more than $36 million of out-of-state money defending him in the recall election, while Barrett and unions spent about $10 million in total. Nearly all of Tom Barrett's money came from Wisconsin donors, but Barrett didn't win. Walker's cash advantage is clearly what gave him the win, and the Senate recalls are evidence. Before Barrett announced his candidacy, Walker and pro-Walker groups were running anti-Barrett attack ads. And before that, they were running pro-Walker ads with lies such as positive job creation before Walker ever cooked up his numbers. Walker was able to frame the debate before it even began, and there are so many lies covering up what's been done, it's nearly impossible for voters to keep up.

Voters are confused. Just listen to Wisconsin right-wing talk radio or talk to your friend who voted for Walker. They rarely have their facts straight and often contradict themselves when they're simply explaining their view to a sympathetic host. Even Barrett supporters believe some of these lies, because many are complicated and convoluted, making it difficult for anyone to discern fact from fiction.

We're all used to spin and the occasional lie, but the far-right has redefined lies as spin. There's simply no comparison between Democratic spin and Republican spin, and the media often doesn't clarify the facts, instead simply regurgitating each side's talking points. So, most of Wisconsin still thinks the Republican party is a fairly reputable group of people, and voters aren't expecting everything (or almost everything) from one party to be a lie.

First, the far-right got people to believe that a recall is only meant for when a politician commits a crime. The exit polls showed over 60% of voters believed no one should be recalled unless they commit a crime. However, recalls were created in order to hold politicians accountable to the public, no matter what that reason may be. There is no stipulation in the Wisconsin Constitution regarding the motivation behind a recall. The number of required signatures to get a recall and the subsequent recall election ensure there are no frivolous recalls and politicians aren't removed from office unless the majority believes he should.

That was the fundamental right that we never fully explained to the voters of Wisconsin. The constitutional right to recall a Wisconsin politician for whatever reason we deem necessary, if we get enough other concerned citizens to agree. A recall has nothing to do with criminal acts. If our governor commits a criminal act, it shouldn't take a recall to remove him from office. The exit polls also showed that many who voted for Walker plan to vote for Obama in November. If we had fully explained the recall to Wisconsin voters, many of those voters may not have voted for Walker in protest of the recall, and Tom Barrett would very likely have won.

Instead of fully explaining the significance of this recall and the right of a recall and hammering it home, we had to focus on the many lies that we thought were far more important. Lies like unverified jobs, balanced budget, decreased spending, stripping rights saves money, etc. were the focus of our efforts, not the recall itself. The right of a recall and the significance of this one seemed so clear (tens of thousands of protesters don't assemble around the Capitol everyday), that I didn't realize it was that misunderstood. Putting more effort into explaining a recall instead of repeated busting of the same myths may have provided more return on investment.

However, the money for immersing Wisconsinites in ads was given mostly to Scott Walker, and the Republican Senators up for recall over the past year received far less. Where there wasn't a significant imbalance of money or an over abundance of conservatives, the recalled Republican senator was removed from office. Three Republican senators were removed, and the Democrats gained a majority in the State Senate. The Senate recalls showed that money really matters in a tight race, and that's what saved Walker.

Walker gained about 1% more than he had in the 2010 election, but he spent more than double Barrett. How do you think the election would have turned out if Barrett had the same amount of money as Walker?

Over time, more of Wisconsin will learn of Walker's lies. We'll learn that Walker's jobs numbers contain errors. Walker had nothing to fear, the error will be called a bureaucratic mistake, and he can't be recalled again. Walker will also confirm that he is under investigation by the FBI as now widely reported. The budget deficit will rear its ugly head sooner than later, and more poor and middle class people will realize they are paying more in taxes. It's just very unfortunate that out-of-state money prevented more from learning these things before the recall election.

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