The Politicker: It’s Still early
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, June 22, 2012 00:06
Last week, Wisconsin voters had a chance to recall their current governor, Scott Walker. Millions of dollars were poured into this race with both Republicans and Democratic strategists seeing this as a mini-preview to the presidential election.
Republican donors and PACs outspent their Democratic counterparts by $15 million ($19 million vis-à-vis $4 million for a gubernatorial race). Scott Walker received a vote of confidence from the people of Wisconsin and won by a comfortable majority.
Except it’s not. Yes, many of the issues that arose will be hotly contested come this fall- the collective bargaining power of labor unions, whether public goods such as utilities should be privatized in states, and state austerity in the midst of decrease in government spending on a local level decreases. But, the role of how to grapple with state budgets and the nation’s budget at large is a problem that our generation will have to face sooner or later. We are not at Greek-like levels of debt yet.
This recall matters more to strategists and how campaigns are going to be conducted in many swing states whether it’s Florida, Ohio, Nevada, or Wisconsin.
These are the states where the electoral votes are up for grabs. After Citizen v. United, in which the Supreme Court struck down past campaign finance laws that restricted how much money corporations and PACs can contribute to campaigns.
Wisconsin won’t matter in the long run because it’s too early. The Supreme Court will deliver its ruling in the coming weeks regarding the constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare legislation. This will be the most important event in June to affect the election. This is the one defining and controversial piece of Obama’s domestic policy. He spent the first year in office attempting to get this legislation passed and it worked. Now the decision lies in the hands of the Supreme Court.
Other things matter as well. James Carville, the Clinton Campaign manager in the 1992 Presidential elections, said it best “It’s the economy, stupid”. At the end of the day, the one thing that most Americans are worried about is not foreign policy, but the policies that affect them the most.
Americans are worried about national debt, but also personal debts. As well as whether or not the jobs lost during the recession will return. Unemployment is at 8.2 percent, the highest it’s been since the Reagan era. Recent economic data shows that at the current rate of economic output monthly job growth will continue at 157,000 jobs per month. This is only sufficient enough to bring the unemployment down to 7.9 percent, which leaves this election too close to call.
Here’s where the outcomes of the Wisconsin recall actually has significance—among political strategy between Republicans and Democrats. If this is a preview of the election—and I don’t think it is, Democrats have a lesson to learn.
They must start adapting to new campaign finance rules. This presidential election is the first election where no one really knows what the effect of these rules will be. The question now remains and it is an important one—does corporate financial spending impede electoral democracies? Democrats and Republicans both learned two different lessons from this recall. Republicans have already learned that spending works, Walker won comfortably.
For Democrats, they need to readjust and revamp and get with the times. While they are not as organized, they are rather disheartened. This is a problem they will need to confront as the Republican based showed their machinations and what is to come for operations in many swing states.
In the long run, the Wisconsin recall will be a footnote in this presidential election. It will be a place where Democrats learned their lessons, where labor unions overplayed their hands, and where the beginnings of a new era in campaign finance finally shone. It was an interesting moment within current era of politics, polarizing, yet ominous. There is no trajectory that can be traced and no predictions that can really be made of the current election until the final stretch.
Any variable can change this election. Whether it’s a black swan event, the on and off again economy, or another issue that may arise. In 2008 the Lehman Brothers collapse was what changed the presidential election. This election, the Wisconsin race is just a footnote, the main chapter has yet to come.