John Nichols: Walker used to like recalls

2011-12-04T05:00:00Z 2012-05-22T17:34:58Z John Nichols: Walker used to like recallsJOHN NICHOLS | Cap Times associate editor | jnichols@madison.com madison.com

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign is spending a lot of the money it has collected from out-of-state billionaires to fund a television ad campaign that preaches against recall elections.

The governor’s “Recall: No” campaign, which has been augmented by a push from Americans for Prosperity, a project of the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, argues that the push for a recall election is simply “sour grapes.” Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch won the 2010 election, the line goes, so Wisconsinites should swallow hard and shut up for four years.

This fantasy, that elections produce a “king for four years” or an “elected despot” (to borrow phrases from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison), has been promoted by the governor in interviews with right-wing talk radio and regular appearances on Fox News and CNBC programs.

“A minority of voters will get to force a new election in Wisconsin … costing millions of dollars to the taxpayers this spring,” Walker griped in the latest of the appearances on programs that he makes as part of a fundraising push.

Career politicians will, of course, say anything to protect themselves from accountability.

But Walker’s anti-recall talk strikes a particularly hypocritical note.

Back when he was a state legislator, Walker was an enthusiastic proponent of recall elections. In fact, he was one of only a handful of state legislators who aligned with — and ultimately took money from — a group that was seeking to recall U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl.

Walker got even more enthusiastic about recalls in 2002, when he became the favored candidate of the group seeking to remove Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament. After Ament resigned, Walker was elected to replace him.

When he ran for governor in 2010, Walker talked up the 2002 recall drive as an exercise in democracy.

Speaking of the Milwaukee County fight, Walker said: “You know the folks that were angry about this started a recall and they were told they needed to collect 73,000 signatures in 60 days. Well, not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands of ordinary people did an extraordinary thing. They stood up and took their government back. In less than 30 days they collected more than 150,000 signatures. It was at that moment I realized the real emotion on display in my county wasn’t just about anger. You see, if it had been about anger, it would have been about people checking out and moving out or giving up. But instead what happened was really amazing. You saw people standing up shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor and saying we want our government back. And in doing so the real emotion on display was about hope.”

Well, not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands of ordinary people are again doing an extraordinary thing. They have gathered more than 300,000 signatures seeking the recall of Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch. People are standing up shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor and saying we want our government back.

And, yes, the real emotion on display across Wisconsin as the recall drive goes from strength to strength is hope.

John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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