Republicans maintain their majority in recall elections in the Senate, although the Democrats had started a broad social movement.
It is the summer of the Republicans, in Washington as well as in Wisconsin. In recall elections on Tuesday, the right admittedly lost two seats in the State Senate to the Democrats, but they did still maintain the majority. In spite of a massive mobilization, the opposition did not succeed in changing circumstances at the ballot box.
Gov. Scott Walker eliminated the right of civil servants to collective bargaining by law, slashed numerous social services and refused to raise taxes in order to “balance” the state’s budget. With that, the tea party-supported politician, elected last November, unleashed a spectacular social movement. It was bigger than anything Wisconsin experienced since the Vietnam War.
Hundreds of thousands took to the snowy streets. The capitol in Madison — the government seat of the state — was occupied day and night. And for weeks, the 14 oppositional Democratic senators fled to neighboring state Illinois to block the referendum on Walker’s law.
After the governor forced his law through with procedural tricks and after he got the necessary court approval, the protest movement relocated from the street to recall elections. In extensive campaigns, Walker opponents from unions, the Democratic Party and citizens groups collected tens of thousands of signatures for new elections in the voting districts of right wing senators. In a countermove and in revenge, the Republicans did the same in the voting districts of several Democratic senators.
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Recall elections in Wisconsin are possible if representatives have been in office longer than one year. The Democratic challengers promised their constituents that “if we win back the majority, we will roll back Walker’s anti-social policies.”*
Since early summer, the campaign brought together all oppositional forces in the state. At the same time, more money flowed into the state than was ever before spent for a campaign in a U.S. by election. The largest sum came from lobbies that supported Republican candidates.
“Victory!” rejoiced Walkers friends on Tuesday evening. On the other hand, dejection prevailed at the election events of the Democrats, which had begun euphorically. Most opinion polls had predicted that the recall elections would change the majority.
Both sides had stylized the recall elections as a test not only of Gov. Walker’s policies in Wisconsin but also of which social and tax policies are possible and necessary on a national level.
Walker considers himself a pioneer. After he attacked union rights in Wisconsin, numerous governors in other states followed suit. Now the voters in Wisconsin have endorsed Walker's policies. And hard debates lay in store for the Democrats about the right track for the upcoming presidential election.