Sunday, May 15, 2011

Instant recall

By Bill Kraus

Power is an uncertain, unreliable, often volatile, mistress.

Newt had it in the '90s. It began to erode when he let Jim Sensenbrenner’s judicial committee abuse the impeachment process. The fact that Clinton was slowly sinking and the Democrats were doing nothing to impede his trip to the bottom was quickly reversed by the push from the power-overplaying Republicans.

Newt finished off his run by deciding to shut down the government. He’s back, of course, but hardly at full strength, and everybody now knows he didn’t know how to handle power when he had it.

Even the late, great FDR wounded the progress of the New Deal agenda by thinking he was bigger than the Supreme Court. The odd, historically important fallout from this diversion was that the next item on the New Deal agenda, health care reform, never made it to enactment. Delayed by the power play against the Supreme Court. Bumped aside by WWII.

Power comes with a caveat. Don’t overreach. There will be a recoil. Nobody likes a bully.

That was an early lesson to (mostly) the teachers’ union when the budget repair bill hit this winter.

The union power mongers were quickly transformed into victims by the overdose of hubris that propelled that repair bill and that is still playing out in Wisconsin.

The reasons for the reaction to the budget repair bill are long since forgotten.

Whatever they were, they have now morphed into a “Recall Walker” movement which may or may not come off for him, but is very much in play now for what I consider to be surrogates for the governor, his program, and, mostly, for the way power was used or misused in the early going of the new administration.

Six seriously threatened Republican state senators may pay for their support of the repair bill and of the parade of pent up party grievances like voter ID, concealed carry, and all the social issues that are following that bill’s high speed path to enactment. Their jobs as state senators are in recall limbo.

The evidence that these recall threats are serious is clear from the two spring elections that are now in the bank. The Supreme Court election was not about David Prosser or Joanne Kloppenburg. It was about the perception that Justice Prosser liked what had happened in the other wings of the Capitol and Ms. Kloppenburg did not. Justice Prosser won, but by an inch instead of the anticipated mile.

The election for new Department of Administration Secretary Mike Heubsch’s vacated Assembly seat was further, stronger evidence of the abuse-of-power recoil. The Republicans threw lots of money and their best campaign brainpower, including that of the politically savvy former Speaker Scott Jensen, behind their candidate. He lost.

In the wake of these elections it boggles the mind to learn that the legislative leaders, instead of giving the savaged six some cover or, better yet, something less inflammatory to campaign on, are thinking of rushing through all the controversial bills on their wish list which will serve to remind the voters what they were angry about last winter and re-energize their opposition to what was done and what is being proposed if, indeed, it needed reenergizing.

The leaders’ obliviousness or indifference to the new realities comes down to asking senators Hopper, Kapanke, Darling, Harsdorf, Olsen and Cowles to fall on their swords and reinforcing the already strong impression that the state Legislature is fundamentally a lap dog for “Recall Walker.”

Hasn’t anyone noticed that those independents who gave the Wisconsin GOP a mini tsunami push in 2010 seem to be long gone?

The 2011 elections past and upcoming have and may continue to confirm that supposition. If this happens, the state Senate will go Democratic and Governor Walker will get a taste of what President Obama is dining on in Washington.

Follow Bill Kraus on:
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Bill Kraus is the Co-Chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board

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