The “Recall Walker” movement got underway Tuesday, and apparently Gov. Scott Walker does not think he had anything to do with it. Walker said in a news conference Tuesday that “the bottom line is we did what we said we were going to do when we were campaigning.” The truth, however, is rather different.
The central issue has always been removing collective bargaining rights from state employees, something Walker never mentioned during his campaign. While the governor wants to stick to his talking points about limiting public employee layoffs and balancing the budget, the way he went about it remains the problem.
The last year has not been what the people of Wisconsin expected, nor what they voted for. We have grown accustomed to a level of communication between our political parties that set us apart. The divisive nature of Washington politics has no place here, and that is why Wisconsin has responded by using the recall option. Where Wisconsin has traditionally found middle ground between our two parties, only partisan rhetoric now has a place. I have heard from aides in the Capitol that Democrats are bored, as they come into work every day knowing that a real discussion of the issues is unlikely.
What Walker needs to understand is this recall is about more than balancing the budget. Every move he has made to push this state farther to the right has been made under the threat of economic peril, but the Wisconsin voter is not so easily fooled. Whether it was the attack on unions, the cutting of education or the cutting of Medicaid, the people of Wisconsin want Walker to know that they are not merely a negligible statistic in an accounting equation.
What I mean is that over the past year, Walker has repeatedly couched controversial decisions in the language that Wisconsin did not have any choice, that failing to take away collective bargaining would ruin the state. Those claims have been proven false, an over-the-top reaction to a manageable problem. The goal was never to save Wisconsin from destruction, but to advance a variety of partisan objectives, and after the success of the collective bargaining move, Walker has not looked back.
Just look at the nature of the “special jobs session” that left Wisconsin without new jobs but with several interesting new laws, such as a law allowing “abstinence-only” language in high school health classes. The 250,000 jobs Walker promised, on the other hand, are conspicuously absent. In fact, the unemployment rate has gone up during the Walker administration, from 7.4 percent when he took office to 7.8 percent now.
This recall is about you, Scott, whether you want to admit or not. Your actions led to the gathering of a hundred thousand people on the Capitol in February, and your actions led to the recall elections of state senators this summer. So we should not pretend that anyone else is responsible for the recall movement: You are the one who has consistently ignored anything the other side of the aisle has to say.
In fact, in several instances last February, you attempted to push through legislation without even giving the other side time to understand it. Certainly you wanted the budget repair bill passed before the citizens of Wisconsin had a chance to understand it. That is why the Fab 14 had to leave the state. They had no other alternative to slowing down a bill that unraveled 50 years of labor relations in this state. That is what this recall is about – the people of Wisconsin needed an official opportunity to speak to the events of last February.
Walker has not been subtle about how he has operated as governor of Wisconsin. He took advantage of a complete majority and pushed far-right agenda items through without a second glance toward his Democratic counterparts. That appears to be his definition of fulfilling campaign promises. Unfortunately for Walker, the people of Wisconsin do not necessarily agree.
This one is on you, Scott. The jobs have not appeared as promised. Instead, it has been one divisive decision after another, and for the friendly people of Wisconsin, it appears to be too much.
John Waters ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in journalism.