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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

June 5: High Stakes in WI for Labor, Dems

This item by J.P. Green was originally published on May 22, 2012.
If you were unaware of the stakes in the upcoming Wisconsin recall election on June 5th, John Nichol’s report in The Nation provides some perspective:

…Wisconsin is witnessing the most ambitious set of recall elections in American history: not just the executive branch but the most powerful legislative chamber could be flipped from Republican to Democratic control. If Walker and his allies are removed from office, the results will be seen across the country as a rejection of the false premise that cutting taxes for the rich while attacking unions and slashing services will somehow spur job growth. Walker promised that his policies would create 250,000 jobs. Instead of growth, the governor’s austerity agenda has brought about what the Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies as the worst pattern of job losses in the nation…

Democrats have a solid, well-experienced alternative to Scott Walker’s polarizing leadership:

…Walker’s Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, argues that the governor abandoned fiscal common sense and “created an ideological civil war…in the State of Wisconsin….Former Senator Russ Feingold hails Barrett, a former Congressman, as “a lifelong progressive [who]… stood with me in voting against the deregulation that led to the Wall Street crash, opposing the Patriot Act, and reforming our system of campaign finance.” Barrett also broke with Democratic and Republican presidents to oppose NAFTA and champion labor rights. But the Democrat is not just ideologically distinct from Walker. Whereas Walker’s a my-way-or-the-highway pol, Barrett is known for getting people to work together. Though his pragmatic approach to balancing budgets frustrated some local unions in Milwaukee and led to a split in the labor movement over whom to back in the primary, Barrett has now united unions and the party in the campaign to defeat Walker.

In terms of economic resources for Barrett’s campaign, progressives face a tough reality:

…Barrett spent around $1 million to win his primary; Walker has already burned through $21 million, and his billionaire backers have spent millions more on “independent” ads. The unprecedented spending on behalf of Walker and his allies has made these recall elections an example of what campaigning has come to look like in the Citizens United era: Democrats can’t hope to match the staggering level of corporate cash raised by the GOP, so they will have to accelerate grassroots organizing and get-out-the-vote drives. Wisconsin will test the prospect that people power might yet beat money power…

Dems and progressives have a big edge in ‘feet on the ground’ in the WI race, and both sides agree that this election will likely come down to turnout mobilization. But recent polls show Walker surging, so Walker’s money edge could prove decisive. Clearly, Tom Barret could use some help. If your Democratic governor is in good shape politically and/or financially, or if the governor’s race in your state is a done deal, or if there is no governor’s race at all in your state, consider a donation to Tom Barrett’s campaign at his ActBlue page right here.
The important thing for Dems to keep in mind about June 5th is that it’s not just about Wisconsin and public unions. If Walker wins, it will green-light intensified union-bashing by Republicans across the country and ultimately threaten living standards even for unorganized workers. But if Barrett wins, it will help rebuild the labor movement, check big money in politics and energize progressives for the November elections.

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