You Can’t Blame Apathy

Voter turnout in Wisconsin was extremely high yesterday. Some precincts saw turnout as high as 80 percent while others saw turnout above 110 percent. The surge in same-day registrations lead to some precincts actually running out of voter registration materials. And based on my own anecdotes, I would call that unprecedented turnout, because in my former home of Kentucky voter turnout of 30 percent would be a fever pitch, turnout of 17 percent would be the norm, and turnout below 10 percent wouldn't be unheard of.

You can't blame apathy for yesterday's loss, but you can blame ineffective messaging and, as Bob puts it, being "out hustled."

39 percent of self-identified union members voted for Governor Scott Walker yesterday. The man who infamously told his billionaire donors he was going to "divide and conquer" the citizenry weeks before taking a months-long piss on public unions. And you know what? It worked. By singling out public unions instead of all unions, he successfully pitted one group of workers against the other.

You may assume that all unionized voters are a monolith and that they would naturally band together when one or the other is under assault, and I suspect Democratic messaging in part relies on that being the case, but that's not the world we live in. And I can tell you based on my own experience with members of my extended family, who are members of private employee unions in Wisconsin who supported Scott Walker, that they aren't.

From their ill-informed perspective, public employees are spoiled. And if that sounds familiar, that's because it's the same message repeated, Ad nauseam, since the 1980s. It's not something they heard on Fox News. They don't watch Fox News. It's something that is now deeply entrenched in the public mind, and we aren't going to change that by assuming they know better. We have to convince voters that we have their best interests at heart. Because no matter how terrible the GOP becomes or how much damage they do to society, their bottomless piles of cash and an irresponsible 4th estate shrouds their culpability.

It wasn't all bad news in Wisconsin last night. Former Racine Senator John Lehman successfully defeated Republican incumbent Van Wanggaard, who took Lehmans job during the Tea Party flood of 2010. This victory will restore a Democratic majority to the Wisconsin state senate. And while that's not the governorship, it is the next best thing. A Democratic majority in the state senate will prevent Scott Walker and his loyal henchmen from ramrodding nefarious legislation without concession.

The other good news is that Scott Walker seems destined to receive the Blagojevich treatment in the not-too-distant future, and this time next year we may very well be discussing Governor Kleefisch, who is currently serving as Lieutenant Governor.

The really bad news is not that Democrats were unsuccessful in recalling Governor Walker, it's that Wisconsin still has the worst record of job creation in the nation right now. The really bad news is that the state cut nearly a billion dollars from education, over a billion from Medicaid, and passed new corporate tax-cuts that have done nothing to either solve the state's budget holes or create jobs. That's the real tragedy in Wisconsin, and we can't let one defeat cause us to lose sight of what it is we're fighting.