Tuesday, June 5, 2012

XXI Century Civil War Started in Wisconsin

Scott Walker survived historic outrage in this state to become the first governor in the nation’s history to survive a recall election. Bursting turnout by unionized workers angry over the loss of collective bargaining rights under Walker and by urban residents who felt abandoned by Walker’s funding priorities, was in the end smothered by support for Walker from suburbs, small towns, and rural areas.

Walker virtually swept the state outside of Milwaukee and the Madison area. In his victory speech in Waukesha, where he was beating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 72 percent to 27 percent, with nearly all the votes in, Walker said it was time to put differences aside and “figure out the ways that we can move Wisconsin forward.”

Barrett declared defeat as Walker was winning 54 percent to 45 percent with 85 percent of the state’s vote in. He urged supporters to “remain energized, remain engaged” as the state will be a battleground in the November presidential election. They will have to: without a doubt, Walker’s victory demonstrated a level of support — aided by tens of millions of dollars from outside the state — that actually grew instead of dissipating in the face of the recall.

No. 08-205 (U.S. Jan. 21, 2010)

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions have the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment. It found no compelling government interest for prohibiting corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make election-related independent expenditures. Thus, it struck down a federal law banning this practice and also overruled two of its prior decisions. 

Additionally, in an 8-1 decision, the Court ruled that the disclaimer and disclosure requirements associated with electioneering communications are constitutional.

What this have to do with the recall? What the union bashing have to do with all this?

MADISON, Wis. (By Steve Gunn) – Legally speaking, there is nothing wrong with a Wisconsin organization sending pamphlets to residents in the Madison area, exposing their neighbor's voting records. The idea is obviously to convince citizens in this predominantly Democratic area to pressure their less motivated neighbors to cast a ballot for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (and against Gov. Scott Walker) in today's gubernatorial recall election.

     The pamphlets include the names, addresses, and recent voting records of people who live in any given vicinity.

     They were published by the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, an organization with close ties to the Wisconsin Democratic Party and Big Labor, according to a story published by Heritage.
     According to records, GWPF has received large donations from several powerful labor unions, including $1 million from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union, which has been leading the effort to recall Walker.
     But in America, the right to sit out an election is just as precious as the right to vote. People should be allowed to remain on the sidelines without facing pressure or intimidation from their neighbors.
     Those who disagree obviously care more about winning than doing the right thing.

     There are many good reasons for certain individuals to choose to stay away from the polls. The most obvious reason is ignorance. If they haven't bothered to familiarize themselves with the issues at hand, should they really be encouraged to cast a ballot? Their vote would count as much as the vote of someone who did their homework. How fair is that?
     There's nothing wrong when a person says, "I haven't followed the situation closely enough to cast an intelligent vote," or maybe "I am familiar with the issue, but I don't care enough about it to vote."
     Perhaps their decision not to vote is a political statement in and of itself.
     But Democrats will be Democrats, and "group think" has always been critical to their efforts. They know very well that if they can pressure less informed people in typically Democratic areas to vote, they will probably vote for Democrats by default.
     This is not a partisan condemnation. If a Republican group tried something like this, it would be just as guilty of practicing gutter politics as the Wisconsin Democrats.
     The sad fact is that someone in Madison will go to the polls today just because Jane down the street has been bugging them about voting to recall Walker, and they still haven't repaid Jane that $25 loan. Perhaps an "I voted" sticker on their shirt will be enough to shut Jane up for awhile.
     Is this what democracy is supposed to look like?
     Voting records are public records. Everyone has a right to know whether you voted in a particular election or not.

Still, there is something tacky and troubling about pressuring people to vote regardless of their level of interest or knowledge. It's one thing to educate someone about an electoral issue, then encourage them to vote. It's quite another to publicly pressure them to vote, just because they belong to a demographic that is likely to support your party.
     University of Wisconsin law Professor Ann Althouse called the pamphlet "the most disgusting thing I have ever received in the mail," according to Heritage. "This is an effort to shame and pressure people about voting, and it is truly despicable."
     Resident Elizabeth Mullen told the Janesville Gazette, "I realize it's public record, but I found too much of my personal information being out there."
     Unfortunately there's little chance that this tactic will cease. That's because it's proven to be highly effective.
     According to a 2008 university study, "Substantially higher turnout was observed among those who received mailings promising to publicize their turnout to their household or neighbors."

     Translation - public humiliation is very effective.
     "Exposing a person's voting record to his or her neighbors turns out to be an order of magnitude more effective than conventional pieces of partisan or nonpartisan direct mail," the study said. "In fact, the turnout effect associated with this mailing is as strong as the effect of direct contact by door-to-door canvassers and by far the most cost-effective voter mobilization tactic studied to date."
     In other words, whatever it takes to win ...
     If Barrett wins a very close election today, we will be forced to wonder if the difference in the totals can be traced to a small percentage of Madison voters who really had no idea whom they voted for or why.

     Once again we ask, is this what democracy is supposed to look like? 

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