On the Wisconsin Recall: A Post I Really Hate To Write

Let me start out by saying that this is a post I really hate to write. I am a liberal, pro-union Democrat who grew up in a blue-collar home. Most of my adult male relatives, during my childhood, were members of the United Steelworkers of America. So I am angry as hell at what has been done to unions and collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and several other states.

That’s why I really hate to write this post.

But I have been saying all along that I thought the effort of Wisconsin Democrats to recall Gov. Scott Walker, the architect of Wisconsin’s union-busting effort, was a huge mistake. And it’s beginning to look like I was probably right, because the Wisconsin Democrats are screaming for money. That’s usually a very bad sign about the prospects for any political race. Almost all polling has shown a very tight race between Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett (D-Milwaukee), but the polling also has consistently shown Walker slightly ahead and Democrats unable to quite get over the hump.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Wisconsin Democrats were “furious” that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Democratic Governors’ Association (DGA) were not spending tons of money to help combat the insane amount of out-of-state money Walker is bringing in. A new story today indicates that the DGA actually is coming in with $2 million, and that’s appropriate, given that this is a governor’s race, and there aren’t all that many governors’ races this year.

But expecting the DNC to come in is pretty unrealistic. The Wisconsin Democrats—God love them—have gotten in over their heads, and now they expect the national party to come in and bail them out. Perhaps it didn’t cross the mind of Wisconsin Democrats that maybe the DNC has, ahem, bigger fish to fry in a presidential election year?

Ed Schultz, on his MSNBC show last night, also called out for national money to get into the race. I forget which commentator said it yesterday—might have been Schultz; I apologize if I’m not remembering correctly—that the Wisconsin recall is the most important race this year. Sorry, but I have to disagree. I think it is an absolute no-brainer that reelecting President Obama is our most urgent priority in 2012. And that’s why, if the DNC decides not to play in the Wisconsin recall, that I will grudgingly support that decision. If we have to make a choice between defeating Walker and reelecting Obama, the correct choice should be obvious to everybody.

My problem with the recall attempt against Walker is not that I have any sympathy for Scottie. Not at all. Personally, I hate what he’s done in Wisconsin. But I think it was a very bad strategic move, largely due to the timing. Listen, a lot of money and effort is going into this recall that could have been spent to help elect Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to the U.S. Senate. She’s going to have a difficult race, as will Democrats seeking to reclaim a couple of U.S. House seats in Wisconsin we lost last time.

Taking out Walker was always going to be dicey, a 50-50 shot at best. Imagine what happens if our side spends all this time and effort and money—and loses. It’ll be like letting the air out of a balloon. How much energy—or money—will our side have left for November after a deflating loss in Wisconsin on June? And that jeopardizes Baldwin, our U.S. House candidates, and possibly even President Obama’s prospects in Wisconsin, a state he really can’t afford to lose if the presidential race ends up being close.

Worse yet, a Walker win on June 5th will be an incredible shot in the arm to national Republicans. If he does win, we can expect a surge of GOP enthusiasm—and donations. It will also send a clear message that politicians in other states who want to get tough on unions have nothing to fear. Scott Walker will have shown them the way.

It doesn’t appear that Wisconsin Democrats considered any of these possibilities when they decided to take a shot at Walker in the middle of the 2012 elections. Well, you know what they say: if you’re going to shoot at the king, you’d better not miss. Because a lot more is riding on this thing than anyone seems to understand, and I’m getting the very disquieting sense that Democrats in Badgerland have bitten off more than they can chew.

I sure hope I’m wrong.