(By Fay Paxton, cross-posted at The Pragmatic Pundit)
Oddly the lesson to be learned from the failed Wisconsin recall has little or nothing to do with the recall or Wisconsin. Recalls are hard. Many people, even people who might agree that an official is rotten to the core, simply don’t believe in recalls. They believe the idea silences the voice of a legitimate election and upends the democratic process. In fact, according to CBS News exit polls, sixty percent of Wisconsin voters said recall elections are only appropriate for official misconduct. While twenty-eight percent believe they are suitable for any reason and nine percent think they are never appropriate.
I completely disagree with the declarations by political pundits that Wisconsin is a preview of the November elections; at least where voters are concerned. A recall election is a totally different animal. When you consider the results of the CBS News exit poll, 69% percent of voters had misgivings about the recall election as a legitimate means of expressing political discontent. It seems if we had been armed with that data beforehand, the results would have been anticipated. On the other hand, it will be impossible to determine to what extent the huge amount of campaign cash influenced the outcome, since most voters claim they had made their decision before the flood of cash even reached the state.
Was this a victory for the united citizens of Wisconsin or for Citizens United? Whatever, it only reaffirms what I have always believed…outsiders should not be able to influence the outcomes of state elections. The Wisconsin recall should have been coordinated, supported and influenced by Wisconsinites only. But that’s another argument.
This is about the lessons we can take from Wisconsin. First and foremost, Wisconsin validates the importance of voting…not just sometimes, but everytime. Many voters only show up at a polling place during a national election, ignoring the elections closer to home that actually have a greater impact on their lives. Scott Walker cruised into office in 2010 as did Republicans across the nation because Democrats stayed at home. Democrats didn’t vote. One million fewer voters showed up at the polls in 2010 than in 2008, in Wisconsin alone.
People often say, “I can’t deal with politics”, or “I don’t like politics” or even, “I don’t understand politics”. Politics is not just about government, it is about governance. Politics determines who gets the bottom bunk in a shared bedroom and who gets the last pork chop at dinner. Like it or not, politics is interwoven into every phase of your life, your philosophical and religious beliefs. Politics is about power. The power you possess in your vote, activism and engagement. When you fail to vote, you give your power away.
Sadly, many will become discouraged by the recall results. Still others will be resigned to believe that ordinary citizens have no voice in the shadows of Citizens United, but it’s a common-sense calculation that united citizens can prevail. Don’t be deterred by all the Republican bluster about their “Wisconsin defeat”. If you think back, they were quiet as a mouse after being turned back in Ohio. The score is even, but citizens can win. Citizens simply need to unite for the wellbeing of their families, friends and neighbors, just as the wealthy and corporations have united against citizens, their families and friends.
Know the issues. It is your armor against relentless deceptive rhetoric. That doesn’t mean you must become a political guru, but know what is important to you, your family, your life. That’s what you should vote for…neither party, nor ideology, but that which best expresses and answers your needs. And finally, remember the words of motivational speaker Denis Waitley,
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”