For awhile, things seemed to be going well yesterday. Turnout was reported to huge everywhere in Wisconsin, approached 100%. True, turnout was huge in conservative areas, but some of that uptick could have been from the liberal/progressive minority in those counties. Liberal counties such as Dane (Madison) and Milwaukee were reporting large turnout as well. The first exit polls had the race at dead even, 50% apiece. Very exciting.Then the roof fell in. The exit polls were adjusted to 52% -48% Walker. So much for dead even. Then, at 11p.m. EDT, a scant two hours after the polls closed, MSNBC projected Walker would win. Why would they do this so early? Close races are not projected until late. Also, the large early margins for Walker indicated that Barrett strongholds hado not come yet. So what was going on?
Well, the problem was that while the Democratic strongholds of Dane (Madison), Racine, and Milwaukee counties had, for the most part not come in yet and most of they results were from pro-Walker counties, the rogue governor was running ahead of his 2010 showing almost everywhere that was reporting everything. This, considering that Barrett had to do better than HE did in 2010, made it hard to see how he could win. He did not concede, however. A member of his campaign pointed out that voting was still going on Racine and Milwaukee and expressed confidence that when they came in Barrett would win.
Barrett was forced to concede, however, when results trickling in from those places did not reduce Walker’s margin enough. We now had a disaster. Turnout was high and Walker was winning soundly anyway. Three of the four Republican state senators who were also facing recall had won and the fourth was ahead. The media were already proclaiming that this victory would embolden Republicans. Mitt Romney was triumphantly congratulating the Union Buster. Total wipeout, right.
Not so fast. As the progressive strongholds came in, Walker’s margin shrunk to seven points. This is not so impressive at all. it is only one point off the adjusted exit poll.The one point could be accounted for by Barrett voters leaving voting lines father the polls closed. One would expect this because they tend to be poorer than Walkers voters and thus less able to spare timelines stand in line. Also, polls have shown the rogue governor’s supporter to be more enthusiastic about voting. Early projections for Walker probably caused even more voters to head home. This is possibly one reason the Barrett camping held of conceding: to keep people in the lines.
Enough people did stay in line that when Racine came in, one
Republican was recalled. The added votes gave John Lehman a late one percentage point victory over Van Wanggaard, who had been leading all night. Lehman claimed victory, but Wanggaard has thus far refused to concede. This gives Democrats control of the state senate, but they wil have to defend their new majority in the November elections before the body will meet again.
Further, a look at the exit polls dimms the significance of the failure to recall Walker. A graph published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel showed that Walker’s performance among all ethnic groups was practically identical to 2010. In other words the rematch yielded the same result except with turnout favoring the Union Buster even more.
The turnout , which was trumpeted on election day as being through the roof , was only 57%. Higher than 2010 but below 2008 and even below the projected turnout (60% -65%). So turnout was much higher than 2010 and pro-Walker turnout increased more than pro-Barrett turnout. This is what happens when the Good Guys are outspent 10 to one. This is what happens when the incumbent spends his time in office pandering to his base while the challenger’s base is not enthusiastic about him. This is what happens when the incumbent NEVER stops campaigning. All these things contribute to higher turnout. While it is true, as DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz pointed out, that Walker’s huge ad advantage trumped the recall advocates’ ground game, but she and other Democrats do not seem to understand the role of enthusiasm.People turn out when they are enthusiastic about their candidate. If they are ambivalent some will not vote even if they hate her/his opponent. This is what has happened to Tom Barrett twice in two years.
The most striking result in the exit polls is the 54 – 42 lead President Obama has over Mitt Romney. Obviously turnout is not the only story here. Incredibly, at least 7 of the 54%voted indicated they would vote for the president voted for Walker. How is this possible? The majority sentiment in Wisconsin is apparently pro-imcumbent. People there feel good about the economy and it rubs off on Walker ( While he started off unpopular, he became popular in the state about the same time Obama did. ) . This might explain why working-class men,especially those not in a union, voted for Walker, the other possibility being machismo. After all the Union Buster won 58% of the male vote but only 45% of the female vote.
One other result from exit polls stands out, and it is devastating. By a 52% to 47% margin, voters favored the measure taking bargaining rights from state workers. Our side lost the argument. This is because Walker and the allies focused on the fact that public sector workers have higher benefits than private sector workers (perhaps because they make less money than private sector workers at the same jobs) and argued that restoring the former’s bargaining rights would cause the deficit to explode. The Union Buster’s opponents could not effectively counter these lies because they were outspent 10 to 1.
This is the situation that progressives and advocates of social justice find themselves in. Public sector and private sector unions united against Walker but this was not enough because too few workers are unionized.Non-union workers and the middle class bought the Union Buster’s lies. Greens and Democrats must join forces to oppose the rights attack on public sector workers. We must make it clear that public sector workers are not privileged, are hard-working, and are not threats to balloon the deficit. We also must do away with Citizens United and the Electoral College. We must have campaign finance reform and the runoff so that we can vote for the Greens in the first round and Democrats in the second. We have must stop this move to oligarchy now!