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As much as we all sorely wished that the recall effort in Wisconsin would succeed, I don't know many people who were actually shocked when it failed on Tuesday. The odds against winning were formidable. The recallers gathered thousands more signatures that they would ever need and it looked like that fact alone might carry them along to success, but Big Money fought the recall, turning the image of valued public employees into thoughtless money-grabbers at a time when belts had to be tightened. They portrayed Scott Walker as a tough, savvy, pro-business leader who was willing to take on the union-heavy public institutions responsible for dragging the state down. That was the story, and the voters bought it.
In Wisconsin, the recall effort was an actual election, pitting Governor Walker against his 2010 gubernatorial opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who seemed like a nice guy with a compelling promise to bring fair, honest governance back to that state, but who, in the end, couldn't make the case broadly enough.
The word on the street the morning after the election was that voters thought recalls should be used against more egregious actions by a sitting governor. Killing the chances at collective bargaining for all public workers apparently didn't fit the bill. The word on the street was that nobody cares about unions anyway, and good riddance to them.
The word on the street was that Wisconsin is and always has been an unpredictable state and this was a colossal waste of money and effort, no matter how many signatures were gathered and no matter how worthy the message. (Not much mention of the tens of millions of dollars Walker's buddies threw into the race to keep his regime going.)
Michigan Rising, an organization working to gather signatures for Governor Rick Snyder's recall, announced yesterday that they are calling off the recall challenge. An effort to gather enough signatures fell embarrassingly short, and the loss in Wisconsin became reason enough to end it.
We know now that recalls probably aren't the best way to protest. The fact that only two governors in our country's entire history have ever been recalled, and that Scott Walker was only the third to ever have been challenged says something about the chances for success. The chances were pretty much nil from the start.
We liberal activists are getting used to failure, and getting used to failure is not a healthy thing. It's demoralizing and it's way too easy in the aftermath to just give up. It isn't that our hearts aren't in it, or that we don't take the fight seriously. It's that we've never run into such concerted, committed opposition before, and we don't have a clue about how to handle it. We're fighting a vast faction with a mighty war chest bent on taking over this country by making our own government work against us. The proof is out there, practically in neon lights, that Republican governors of many of our states have signed up for the takeover.
They follow an agenda set out for them by Right Wing organizations fully capable of fighting the battle for the states all the way to the end, and they're determined not to stop there. They've forced nearly every single Republican politician to sign a pledge never to raise taxes or their funding will dry up as quick as dung in the desert sun . It's the Grover Norquist plan and even though Grover Norquist has no real credentials, he is the front-running Republican rule-maker and nobody in his party ever seems to wonder who died and made him king.
The diabolically clever part of the "never raise taxes" plan is that it can be used to effectively kill any program the Republicans are against. Any social program, any essential safety net, can die an unnatural death by defunding, underfunding or outright abolishing, thanks to the new rules set in place by the likes of Norquist, ALEC, the Koch cabal, the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, and various Tea Party newbies in the House who have promised to shed real red blood if necessary in order to honor the edicts of the monied Right Wing.
As David Horsey wrote in today's LA Times,
Occupy Wall Street enthusiasts can camp out on the sidewalk and conduct their exquisitely egalitarian group discussions. Anarchists can gleefully smash windows at Bank of America and Starbucks. Union members can set up phone banks and carry picket signs. But as long as elections are there to be bought, a handful of billionaires will have a far louder voice in who runs the country than all the activists on the left combined.
As a country, we've dug ourselves into a hole so deep daylight is but a distant dream. The news from Wisconsin is not good but it can't be the end. We liberals and progressives can win this thing if we work together and build our own formidable counteracting factions. (See Bernie Sanders.) It's our only chance and we can only get it done if we set aside our differences and work together with one goal in mind: That saving our country is a cause worth fighting for.
There is a truly frightening enemy out there and it isn't us. Not any of us.