What the hell just happened?
Wisconsin dips out of the political spotlight, at least until later this summer when a fresh batch of primaries get decided, setting the table for November when the Badger state becomes another "battleground."
That gives us time to ask the musical question, "What the hell just happened?"
Well, for one thing, we elected the same man governor. Twice. In a year and a half or so. Scott Walker is that guy, and he's now a national figure. The white-hot media glow that bathed Wisconsin right after the collective bargaining stuff hit the fan will stay on the guy who is being hailed those much smarter than me (like Politico's/MSNBC's Joe Scarborough) as someone the rest of the GOP should emulate.
The New York Times is a little less glowing in its assessment of our twice-elected Governor, saying he's the tip of the anti-labor spear, his mission fueled by big-moneyed outside interests hell-bent on making sure that what happened to labor in Wisconsin happens in other states, too.
What needs to change, for sure, are recall requirements. Office holders shouldn't be yanked out of their seats because of policy decisions. Mugshots, handcuffs and tales of sordid behaviors need to be part of the process. Plus, someone who's always re-running for office can't be doing the job they were elected to, and that is a waste of taxpayer money (as are endless election seasons). I'd like to think that "recall fatigue" is real and that this chuckleheadedness will subside on its own but we haven't exactly been exemplary in self-policing ourselves on this, have we? For all the beefing about the Walker recall, hundreds of thousands of us still had to put pen to paper to make it happen. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves.
You may like Scott Walker. You may despise him. No matter what, the guy knows how to win elections. Tom Barrett, not so much. Walker had a year to get ready for this and he was nothing if not prepared. Democrats used that time to allow themselves to be painted as union tools and did nothing to shed that cloak when they allowed labor to prematurely cast its lot with Kathleen Falk, going so far as to discourage Barrett from even thinking about a bid. He ignored that advice, which meant that time the Dems could've used to ramp up the attack on Walker instead was spent on Falk v. Barrett. The survivor had only a month and change to make the case against the Governor and Barrett's was....strange. It was collective bargaining that brought the state to this point, but Barrett made the campaign to talk about everything but. Walker had his answers ready: jobs numbers to thwart the argument about unemployment, an I'd-like-to-talk-but-the-DA-won't-let-me approach whenever Barrett brought up John Doe e-mails. Barrett did himself no favors by not having ready answers when asked what he'd do different from Walker, other than to repeat his mantra about ending Wisconsin's "civil war."
Outside money poured into the state, giving us a taste of what November will be like. Did the cash make a difference? Big union money didn't put Falk over the top against Barrett, so why is it an issue when Walker wins? Most everyone had their minds made up when collective bargaining first went into play in Madison more than a year ago. If the cash did anything, it motivated the bases. It didn't change many minds.
The state Senate sidebar is just that--a curiosity. Sure, Democrats are in control by one vote but the legislature may not meet again until next year, making the victory empty at best. November's elections could change everything, elections that will be governed by newly redrawn districts, the lines drawn by Republicans.
That, perhaps, is the biggest takeaway from the spring elections of 2012, that being the resonating impact of the fall balloting of 2010. Voters handed the state over to the GOP in a year ending in "0". That put the redistricting pen in Republican hands. The value of that can't be over-stated. Republicans had the numbers in Madison and used them, big time, to not only change collective bargaining but to add voter ID and conceal carry to the lay of the land, not to mention changes in wind power and other environmental policies. And, the redistricting plans they passed tilted Wisconsin to bolster their changes of keeping
And that, friends, is "what the hell happened": voting has consequences, and now you're feeling 'em. The people decided--twice now--to have Scott Walker call the shots. They surrounded him with a Republican legislature. Democrats blew back ineffectively. The best they can hope for now is that the GOP heeds Walker's calls for unity because their only hope would seem to be whatever olive branch the Republicans might offer.
What the hell happened? Nothing different, really, that what you've been seeing for the past year, and something you might be seeing a lot more of in the near future.