Democracy will Win

Regardless of one's preferences in terms of endgame in Wisconsin, democracy will win out.

I have seen several stories over the last several days about how Democrats and their allies in Wisconsin are out-hustling and out-organizing Republicans and their allies in regards to pending recall attempts in the state.

See, for example, HuffPo: Conservatives: We Are Being Outworked And Out-Organized In Wisconsin Recall Campaigns

Both national and Wisconsin-based Republican operatives tell the Huffington Post the party is being dramatically outworked and out-organized by Democrats in the recall campaigns being launched against state Senators.

The operatives, who raised their concerns out of hope it would jar the GOP into assertiveness, argue complacency has taken over after Governor Scott Walker successfully shepherded his anti-collective bargaining bill into law. While the Wisconsin Democratic Party, with major assists from progressive groups and unions, has harnessed resentment towards the governor into a full-throttled effort to recall eight GOP Senators, neither the enthusiasm nor organizational acumen exists on the Republican side of the aisle.

Byron York, in a column earlier this week (Unions vs. the little guy in Wisconsin recall fight ) cast the Republicans in the role of a slow-moving underdog:

If you’re a Republican, it’s a scenario straight out of “Alice in Wonderland.” Fourteen Wisconsin state senators, all Democrats, flee the state for three weeks, bringing government to a halt in an effort to stop Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill. After three weeks, the fugitive Democrats return in failure. And then, when a rich and highly organized effort to punish lawmakers is launched, it’s directed not at the Democrats who ran away but at the Republicans who stayed home and did their job.

That is precisely what is now happening in Wisconsin. Local and national labor organizations, enraged by the successful Republican effort to limit the collective bargaining powers of public employees unions, are pouring money and manpower into petitions to recall GOP state senators. At the same time, Republican drives to recall runaway Democrats, while rich in volunteer spirit, are working with far less money and organized support.

I find that metaphor to be amusing (and, indeed, problematic) given that, to date the Republicans are, to borrow a Sheenism, winning! So, to paint the Reps as the downtrodden underdogs is to pitch a battle with reality to date.

If, as appears to be the case, that Democrats are more organized this is likely because their side of this particular political ledger are more motivated and hold more intense views on this issue than does the Republican side.

That’s the way it works in processes that requires mobilization of the public whether it be in terms of protests, petition drives, or elections. There is a reason, for example, that we talk about turn-out (and specifically which side will be most effective at turn-out) every electoral cycle.

Politics is like physics:  for every action, there is a reaction (although unlike in physics, that reaction may not be equal and opposite, but is sometimes more powerful and perhaps heads off on a tangent).  As I wrote a week ago:

As all of that plays out we will get a better picture of what Walker has wrought:  either a boost to the GOP or a boost to the Democrats.

We are about to find out who gets the boost.  Given the rules of the game in Wisconsin, which includes a recall provision, Walker and his allies should have taken into consideration the potentiality of a recall campaign.  Further, they should have included in their calculations the fact that a) the state has a strong pro-union, progressive political tradition and b) 2010 was driven by political currents (e.g., the recession, the Tea Party, etc.) that likely were not permanent changes in the political fabric of Wisconsin.  In other words, Walker and friends may have over-interpreted their mandate.  And, indeed, to return to the basic point of the post:  turn-out matters.  To wit:  2010 was a mix of depressed Democrats and energized Tea Partiers, a recipe that helped Walker and the GOP–but is also a recipe that may not be baked into post-2010 politics.

Now, we really do not know how the recall process will play out.  It is historically difficult to successfully recall politicians,* so in that regards, the GOP may not be such the underdogs after all, but by the same token this situation appears to be an intriguing one in terms of its scope, which may make past examples less useful as a guide.  For those of us who find elections and democratic institutions to be fascinating, this will be an intriguing process.

At a minimum, recalls require the collection of signatures (which requires a great deal of volunteer work and general organization) and then success at the ballot box.  This is what we call in the trade:  democracy.

Likewise, it is worth underscoring that recall process is being motivated by the results of the legislative process which, in turn, occurred because of success at the ballot box by the Republicans in term of control of the state legislature (both chambers) and the governor’s office.  This is, also, what we call in the trade:  democracy.

As such, if one can step away from one’s policy preferences for a moment, one can see that, in fact, the system it working and the democratic process will settle this issue one way or another.

——————

*Mike Alvarez has a round-up of scholarly research on recalls here (h/t: the Monkey Cage).

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    ‎”These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland. … They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost. They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” – Ronald Reagan

  2. JKB says:

    Good thing then that 75% of the US workforce have collective bargaining rights.

    And it should be remember that never has a federal employee had collective bargaining rights for pay and benefits but there seems to be no problems getting people to do the work.

  3. Jay Tea says:

    Geez, if only the current situation hadn’t been set by an actual election, with people going to the polls (say, last November) and casting their ballots, offering a truly tangible measurement of the public’s will and their preference for governance, maybe this whole thing could have been avoided.

    Oh, that’s right. There was. And the Republicans won.

    So, naturally, that must not be allowed to stand.

    I’d give good money if Walker came out and said “In the end, I won. And elections have consequences.”

    J.

  4. @Jay:

    Oddly enough, I noted that in the post:

    it is worth underscoring that recall process is being motivated by the results of the legislative process which, in turn, occurred because of success at the ballot box by the Republicans in term of control of the state legislature (both chambers) and the governor’s office. This is, also, what we call in the trade: democracy.

    The elections have, to date, had consequences. The recall process, which is just as legitimate as the 2010 elections, may yet (in turn) have consequences.

    That would be my basic point.

  5. wr says:

    Steven, don’t you understand? The only elections that have consequences are the ones that Republicans win. The rest don’t count.

  6. Jay Tea says:

    wr, which is why the Republican minorities in Congress fled the country to stop the passage of ObamaCare. And why the Tea Party, during their gathering in DC, invaded and shut down the Capitol.

    Oh, wait, my bad…

    J.

  7. wr says:

    Actually, the Tea Party did surround congress, spitting and screaming racial epithets at black members.

    Aside from that, I have no idea what your point is supposed to be. But I can guess — because you don’t like the particular set of tactics used by these Democrats, when the Republicans are overwhelmingly recalled, you will claim that those elections lack legitimacy.

  8. TG Chicago says:

    Geez, if only the current situation hadn’t been set by an actual election, with people going to the polls (say, last November) and casting their ballots, offering a truly tangible measurement of the public’s will and their preference for governance, maybe this whole thing could have been avoided.

    Oh, that’s right. There was. And the Republicans won.

    That would be a good point if Walker had campaigned on ending collective bargaining, like Obama did with healthcare reform. But he didn’t.

  9. DC Loser says:

    TG Chicago – There you go again, bringing facts into an argument.

  10. Wayne says:

    Organized labor is able to get out of the starting gate quicker in gathering petition signature. Big surprise. Any bets on the outcome of these recalls?

    The next election will be the telling factor. Of course if the Republicans lose but still have enough where they can run out of state and block legislation and do so then it shows that the democratic process does work? Right?

  11. mattb says:

    I find that metaphor to be amusing (and, indeed, problematic) given that, to date the Republicans are, to borrow a Sheenism, winning! So, to paint the Reps as the downtrodden underdogs is to pitch a battle with reality to date.

    But on the pundit/talkers side, it’s an ongoing strategy for the last decade or two.

    If you go back and look/listen to Conservative radio and media from mid 2001 (pre 9/11) to just before the election of 2006, the overarching theme was despite controlling both Houses of Congress and the Presidency, that they were always out of power, always the oppressed/under-powered/under-fire political party, always the victim of “vast liberal conspiracies.”

    Cynically, this seems a perfect method for maintaining a constant state of crisis in order to drum up continued support. Clearly that support ran out in the fall of 2006.

    Whether or not the elected GOP can stay “pure” enough to maintain the loose coalition that brought them back to power is still and open question. But I expect that we’ll see the “victim” card played increasingly played between now and fall 2012.

    (note: none of this should be taken to suggest that Dem’s don’t do the same thing.)

  12. spiff says:

    One of the best OTB pieces I’ve read, and good comment too. It is a political process. So far, we still have a democracy and the voters can still respond to what has been done. As long as we preserve the democratic process, we will not have to suffer long any particular oligarchy.

    Scott Walker and his ilk were right to target unions while in power, but they made the mistake of attacking workers, which may have helped out the Democrats, and the unions.

  13. Axel Edgren says:

    “That would be a good point if Walker had campaigned on ending collective bargaining, like Obama did with healthcare reform. But he didn’t.”

    WELL… AL GORE IS FAT!

    Wait, wrong issue.

  14. G.A. Philiips says:

    Actually, the Tea Party did surround congress, spitting and screaming racial epithets at black members.

    YOU LIE!!!!!

  15. wr says:

    Only in right wing fantasyland, GA.

  16. […] me @OTB:  Democracy will Win. addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poliblogger.com%2F%3Fp%3D19621'; addthis_title = […]

  17. G.A. Phillips says:

    Only in right wing fantasyland, GA.

    lol, dude that stuff you said is a lie.

  18. G.A. Phillips says:

    Scott Walker and his ilk were right to target unions while in power, but they made the mistake of attacking workers, which may have helped out the Democrats, and the unions.

    The only thing that was attacked was my Sate Capitol! And still you people can’t tell a mob of Neo Marxists when you see one….Sigh….

  19. G.A. Phillips says:
  20. G.A. Phillips says:
  21. wr says:

    In GAland, people who refuse to be turned into serfs are Marxists. One wonders what, if anything, he does for a living, and how he would feel if his boss decided to arbitrarily slash his pay while giving that money away to his rich buddies.

  22. anjin-san says:

    JKB. so you are saying that by reagan’s standard our country is 75 percent free and that is good enough for you. a stirring, patriotic sentiment indeed !

  23. Jay Tea says:

    wr, ifyou don’t want to be called a liar, perhaps you shouldn’t lie so much.

    There were a zillion cameras that covered every second of the CBC’s walk across the Capitol plaza.

    1) The Congressman who claimed to have been spat upon later retracted it, admitting that he had been accidentally struck by inadvertent spittle. No insult intended.

    2) Andrew Breitbart offered $100,000 for video of anyone shouting “the n-word” at the CBC. He still has his money.

    Truth, wr. It’s a good thing. Try it some time.

    J.

  24. JT, sorry, you only have facts. wr has TRUTH!!!!!11!!!1!!!

  25. sam says:

    What JKB means is that statutorily, 75% of the workforce have collective bargaining rights. Of course, 100% of the workforce have the right to purchase a Rolls Royce, too.

  26. wr says:

    Here’s a hint, GA: If Breitbart says it, it’s a lie.

  27. Jay Tea says:

    wr, Breitbart didn’t say it didn’t happen. He said he’d give $100K to anyone who could prove it did. And even though the Congressional Black Caucus had several video cameras covering their whole walk (including, I believe, Jesse Jackson Jr.), no one EVER came up with a video clip that caught “the n-word.”

    Tell me, are you this much of a hyperpartisan ass by nature, or have you had special training?

    J.

  28. I would note that, as is often pointed out, that one cannot prove a negative.

    As such, it is impossible to prove that said epithet was never hurled, regardless of how much cash Breitbart may be willing to put on the table.

    While I have never made any claims one way or another on this issue, I point out the above because this “argument” is rather silly.

    Quite frankly all one can go on is the likely trustworthiness of the persons making the claim.

    Beyond that, it seems hardly ridiculous that in a large crowd of protesters that someone might have called John Lewis the n-word.

    Of course, that would say nothing, writ large, about the Tea Party (any more than a rude protester in Madison would prove anything about union members).

  29. Jay Tea says:

    Steven, I respect your “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” position, but I would reply by noting that the burden of proof is on the party making the allegation — and, in this case, the existence of a LOT of documentation of the incident in question and the hefty financial reward offered for proof of the word in question being shouted (it should be noted that Rep. Lewis is in his 70’s, and not to stereotype, but for a man of his age to have heard it, it must have been pretty loud), there’s a pretty good argument to be made that it didn’t happen.

    Or, at least, solid grounds to refuse to accept that it occurred purely on hearsay.

    J.

  30. Dr. Taylor, wr didn’t say that somebody said it. He claims that the Tea Party (note, proper noun) did it. Given the rather inflammatory nature of calling someone/something specific a racist, that would seem to merit more proof than, say, saying that you can’t prove it didn’t happen. Calling anyone a racist (especially wihtout proof) is meant to stifle discussion rather than promote it. Pardon the Tea Party members or supporters if they feel a little oversensitive to being called racist, violent, homophobes for little more than breathing and daring to suggest that the US Constitution might mean something a little different to them.

  31. Oh, and wr leaves his flaming bag of, um, racist accusations in a lot of threads.

  32. @Charles:

    Fair enough.

    However, it is still worth nothing that there were specific allegations made at the time by persons present.

    And, just for the record, you will notice that I did not actually defend anything claimed by anyone in this thread.

  33. rodney dill says:

    @charles and @JayTea,
    wr, has been caught lying here before. Claiming a commenter had said things in other OTB posts that they hadn’t said. Conveniently he couldn’t be bothered to find the posts, but I found them.

  34. Jay Tea says:

    Steven:

    However, it is still worth nothing that there were specific allegations made at the time by persons present.

    Allegations not only unsupported by evidence, but utterly unsupported by all the available evidence. Not totally disproven, but damned near.

    And Breitbart provided a tremendous incentive to draw out any such evidence, if it existed. $100,000 in cash.

    When no one even tried to claim that prize, and the other Congressman walked back the “I was spat upon” charge to an unintentional, accidental spittle-flicking, I pretty much wrote off the “someone called John Lewis the n-word” charge as BS.

    J.

  35. wr says:

    Charles Austin –Yeah, doing all that and sending around photoshops of Obama as a witch doctor. Nope, no racism in the tea party! Sorry if it hurts their feelings, but if they don’t want to be called racists, then they should stop acting like racists. And now if you’ll pardon me, I’m not going to continue debating whether a bunch of racist mouth-breathers are really racist mouth-breathers. You’ve chosen your side…

  36. wr says:

    Rodney Dill — You can say I was “lying” about jwest’s admiration for slave owners if it makes you happy. He’s repeatedly come out in favor of them. Take it as you will.

  37. @Jay:

    I really don’t want to litigate the issue and I have no strong feelings on it. However, if Lewis said that it was said to him, then that would have some weight, I should think.

    The Breitbart thing, however, strikes me as a ridiculous basis for making a point, Just because a person offers money for evidence and no evidence is forthcoming does not, in any way, shape, form or fashion, prove anything.

  38. Jay Tea says:

    Steven, I agree with you about not wanting to litigate the matter — especially since I’m a layman, and you’d most likely slaughter me. But I bring up the Breitbart offer because it reinforces that all we have is Lewis’ word — and there were ton of cameras there that could have caught evidence of it happening. Even a shot of Lewis reacting to the word would help.

    But none of the people with cameras offered up their footage, and Breitbart’s offer spotlighted how apparently none of the dozens of cameras that followed the incident caught anything to support Lewis’ word. Toss in the walking back of the “spat on me” charge, and we’re way past the minimal standard of “reasonable doubt.”

    OK, now I’ve done it. I’ve challenged a lawyer to a debate, used legal terminology, AND declared myself a layman. I guess Mama Tea DID raise at least one fool…

    J.

  39. rodney dill says:

    @wr, Convenient that you only mention a part that you weren’t lying about. The lying didn’t involve whether jwest admired slave owners or not, or whether he’s a racist or not. The lying part was when you stated he’d said things that he hadn’t. …and yes it makes me happy to call you on your lying. Your credibility is pretty much shot here now. You can say you’re not a liar if that makes you happy, but the facts speak otherwise.

  40. wr says:

    I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, Rodney. Have fun sticking up for jwest, and try not to get too embarassed when he joins superdestroyer on the white supremacy forever tour.

  41. rodney dill says:

    So its just gonna be more lies from you. Most people that realize that they’ve dug themselves into a hole will stop digging, guess you’re not one of those types. I never did stick up for jwest, defend his positions, or even state that I agreed with them. I only pointed out your saying that jwest said things that he hadn’t.

  42. G.A. Phillips says:

    In NAGAland, people who refuse to be turned into serfs are Marxists.

    lol…..

    One wonders what, if anything, he does for a living, and how he would feel if his boss decided to arbitrarily slash his pay while giving that money away to his rich buddies.

    see why I bring up neo marxism,,lol I like you bro, I truly do but. come on man, what you said was a bunch of crap.

    Oh and right now I am looking for a job and living off Obama’s stash and getting help from my mother and friends…. I broke my femur last year and when I could return to work they had replaced me. sorry…

    but I have, um.
    I have had a paper rote,skipped school to run a bait store, delivered everything from meat and beer, to office supplies and porn. Helped run a porno warehouse, remodeled pron stores, slung porn and bongs and ****s, roofed, done electrical work on homes, ran machines, cleaned buildings as a janitor, sold knives. built displays for retail stores, worked in a medical warehouse, fabricated overhead cranes for ten years, and I am currently am laid off from being a carryout at a garden store.

    among crap loads of temp jobs I can’t remember.

    lol, and I got people calling me for the 40 k I owe them from the leg,so I am accepting donations from all of my rich liberal big hearted friends:) til I get a job and can start paying them off….

    I do see that you cannot be educated about racism or most any other worldviews….and it makes me sad.

    DUDE, If you find a racist have at em, saying what you said is not that.

  43. anjin-san says:

    > OK, now I’ve done it. I’ve challenged a lawyer to a debate, used legal terminology, AND declared myself a layman. I guess Mama Tea DID raise at least one fool…

    I am reasonably sure Steven is a PoliSci professor, not a lawyer.