Something immense has happened on Wisconsin's political landscape, but what it is at this point is mostly unknown.
Up in the air
The immediate reaction to the collection of over 1 million signatures on recall petitions is: WOW.
There have been no elections. But there will be one big one for governor and five for lesser offices.
The outcomes are not predictable. The challengers to the recallable incumbents aren’t even decided. But something significant is afoot.
If politics is still lists, and the role of money and TV messages it buys to the contrary notwithstanding it stll is, the Democrats have 30,000 qualified activists and the names and addresses--and to a considerable extent the ever-important e-mail addresses--of more than a million voters who are somewhere between sympathetic and enthusiastic about Democrats’ ideas, issues and representatives.
This is an enormous head start on the recall campaigns on the horizon.
Properly nurtured, these are foot soldiers in the battles for majorities for years to come in terms of recruiting candidates, raising money, mounting campaigns and governing.
There are lots of balls still in the air, but this one has landed with a resounding thud.
Among the balls that are still up in the air:
1. Will the Republicans concede that there are going to be recall elections and take a pass on challenging signatures or do they figure they need the time a delay would give them to let their “good works” sink in or to figure out where and how to get there own million?
2. Will an iconic Democrat enter the race now that they have seen the jump start the 30,000 petitioners have provided for them or will the field be the able and willing announced and about to announce (Kathleen Falk and Tim Cullen) and whoever else decides this is too good a shot to pass up? This will make a primary at least inevitable and probably desirable...if...
3....the Democrats take heed of the destructive ad hominen antics of the Republican presidential candidates and the possible damage to his chances that primary is doing to the survivor if any.
4. Will the labor leaders whose dismemberment set off this unlikely, unprecedented, unwieldy chain of events take a low enough profile so the recall campaign is not a referendum on who has been the most egregious abuser of power---the public unions when they had it or the majority Republicans now that they have it?
5. Will the voters suffer total exhaustion due to election fatigue and, if so, how could this affect the several outcomes of the slew of elections on the near term horizon? At this writing Wisconsin is looking at the prospect of 6 elections in the next 9 months.
6. Will, when this is all over, the combatants come to their senses and take a pass on the use of recalls to protest misguided (subjective) votes and procedures instead of high crimes and misdemeanors as reasons for impeachments and recalls, and revert to the more traditional representative government remedy for incumbents’ bad policies and votes--the next election?
January 24, 2012
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Bill Kraus lives in Madison, is the former press secretary for Governor Lee Dreyfus, and serves on the board of Common Cause of Wisconsin.