It’s from The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis. The gist: A vote for Scott Walker is essentially a vote for Barack Obama. Or something.
In Wisconsin, there are plenty of voters who will be casting their ballots Tuesday on ideological grounds that will, indeed, translate straight to their choice in November—whether they believe the Republican or Democratic visions for economic recovery, taxation, and spending are preferable. But there are also going to be some swing voters who are going to be voting less on those big ideological questions than on the more general question of whether things are going okay. If these swing voters believe that things are gradually coming back in Wisconsin—no sure thing, given that the jobs expansion there has been less clear than in Ohio—they may decide to vote for Walker less out of ideological solidarity than because they figure it’s foolish to rock the boat with the rare act of a recall. And here’s the thing—to the extent that Wisconsin swing voters draw that conclusion about Walker, they may also be led to support Obama’s reelection, to stick with the guy in charge. Hard as it may be to believe, there is no question these Walker/Obama voters exist—after all, the same polls that have Walker ahead of Barrett in the polls tend to also have Obama ahead of Romney, albeit by a narrowing margin.
So beware the pundits who turn Tuesday’s vote into nothing but a grand partisan referendum and fail to take into account a less cable-ready way of assessing a Walker victory: as a statement of grudging pro-incumbent sentiment in a time of cautious optimism about a painfully gradual economic recovery.
There’s no problem with any of that, other than the fact that it’s entirely wrong.
Wisconsin has become the battleground as Americans assess the labor unions’ role in our economy from here on out. Government union workers have bought the Democratic Party in Wisconsin and elsewhere and used it to grant themselves unsustainable benefits that most private sector workers cannot afford, benefits that are bankrupting state and local governments. Wisconsin’s dire fiscal straits helped elect Walker in the first place in 2010. That victory was part of the wave of GOP victories as Americans rejected the Obama agenda and sought to brake the Democrats’ power. At that point, remember, the Democrats still held the presidency, both houses of Congress and a majority of state governorships and legislatures. Walker’s win was part of the pushback against what the Democrats did with that power.
Calling Walker an “incumbent” now misses the point: He hasn’t even fulfilled that 2010 term. He has been recalled for carrying through with reforms he promised when he was elected, reforms that are the antithesis of what Obama wants to do and has done. A Walker victory today spells doom for Obama’s pro-labor agenda, doom for Big Labor itself, puts Wisconsin in play for Romney, and opens the way to a landslide GOP win in November.
It will have nothing to do with “incumbency,” and everything to do with policy.