Whom to primarily vote for Tuesday

Tuesday is the gubernatorial recall primary election, another chapter in the farce that is Recallarama 2012.

First things first: Those who support the Republican Party need to vote for Gov. Scott Walker in the GOP primary. Arthur Kohl-Riggs is a joke candidate. Which doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have the right to run, if he craves media attention that much. Wisconsin has a long history of candidates who turned out to be Wisconsin’s answer to perennial presidential candidate Harold Stassen.

Based on media attention, the top two of the four Democrats are Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Each has a perfect record in statewide elections — 0 for 2.

Despite his ability to win statewide office, in stark contrast to Democrats not named Herb Kohl or (until 2010) Russ Feingold, Secretary of State Douglas La Follette is not one of the favorites. For him to get media or voter attention requires voters to know what the secretary of state does. He’s succeeded in avoiding scandal and in getting reelected, and that is the sum of his qualifications to be governor.

The case against Barrett is made by Sly of WTDY in Madison, as Media Trackers reports:

Madison radio host John ‘Sly’ Sylvester called Milwaukee mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett a “failed mayor of Milwaukee” on his [April 19] morning radio show Sly in the Morning on 1670 WTDY. Sylvester, an avid advocate for labor and an endorser of Kathleen Falk, went on a long rant attacking Tom Barrett on Thursday morning. Speaking to labor backers and progressives, Sylvester opened a radio segment saying:

I want to make something real clear here this morning. Tom Barrett is the Mitt Romney of Wisconsin. He’s been laying in the weeds watching things unfold in Madison while he’s failed as mayor of Milwaukee. Whether it be the bond rating, whether it be the infant mortality rate. I don’t blame him too much for the unemployment rate because frankly that is controlled more by outside forces. But the truth is, Tom Barrett’s not a very good mayor. It’s not all his fault, but he’s not a leader. And other than hiring a popular police chief, Tom Barrett has failed.

He’s bored with the job. And so he waited for everyone to the heavy lifting, and at the last moment, three days before Milwaukee voters went to the polls, he announced he was running for governor. When he saw the John Doe investigation was gaining steam, he jumped in. He hemmed and hawed about whether he was going to get in. He played all sorts of games. He wasn’t even sure at one point whether he was gonna sign the recall. And while you were freezing, while your feet were stuck to the pavement, while you slept on the marble floor, Tom Barrett was in the warm confines of the Country Springs Inn talking about how you should pay for your healthcare and your pension.

Sylvester went on to criticize the endorsements Barrett has earned in recent weeks including Senator Herb Kohl, former Rep. Dave Obey, and Madison State Senator and member of the ‘Wisconsin 14′ Jon Erpenbach. Sly criticized Barrett and his endorsers for “stealing the movement away” because they’re “a bunch of people who had nothing to do with [the protest movement].”

Sylvester also lambasted Barrett for his lack of toughness saying “Tom Barrett needs to quit being such a whiny little girl.” And after playing a news clip that featured Barrett and Erpenbach complaining about attacks by Kathleen Falk and AFSCME, Sylvester questioned whether Barrett was tough enough to go up against Scott Walker:

Ya know, I’m sorry, putting out an email talking about the working people versus the politicians, if you view that as an unfair tactic, you are not qualified Tom Barrett to go up against Scott Walker. ‘Cause if you think the patty-cake sort of wrestling you’re in right now is too rough? What Scott Walker has aimed in your direction will be 20 times as strong. And you’re hiding behind Jon Erpenbach? What a coward!

If Sly weren’t being a shill for Dumocrats and their apparatchiks, he would admit that Barrett should be blamed for Milwaukee’s unemployment rate, because the state job losses of the past year have nearly all been from Milwaukee. (If Barrett were a Republican, Sly unquestionably would not feel so reasonable.) For Barrett to claim he’ll focus on job creation is another case of hope over experience, because Milwaukee has the highest metro unemployment rate in the entire state, 50 percent higher than the state jobless rate.

Barrett also has tried to have it both ways on the public employee collective bargaining reforms Walker enacted, since he did use them to force City of Milwaukee employees to pay a fraction closer to what taxpayers pay for their employee benefits. (Those who are actually employed, that is.) Barrett’s other demonstration of his spinelessness is his disinterest in getting mayoral control of Milwaukee Public Schools, which I suspect he could have simply by phoning Walker. That would require risking his job, and holding those who get their paychecks from the taxpayers publicly accountable, and using his bully pulpit, and he has done little of any of that in eight years as Milwaukee’s mayor.

I’ve already made the case against Falk twice on this blog. I could have replaced “absolute” with “arrogant” in the first blog headline after her most recent campaign, in which she claims “we” support the things Falk supports — knuckling under to public employee unions and the most radical environmentalist elements. Her claim of Dane County job creation in a county that features most of state government, a world-class university and the second largest county and city in the state is like opening a faucet and proclaiming that you’ve discovered water.

Besides their 0-for-their-career records in statewide races, Barrett and Falk have one other thing in column, identifled by Wis. U.P. North:

For those voting for Kathleen Falk or Tom Barrett, your property taxes will go up.

For those voting for Kathleen Falk or Tom Barrett, your school district will raise your property taxes to pay for more and all teacher benefits.

For those voting for Kathleen Falk or Tom Barrett, if your a business owner, your business taxes will be raised.

For those voting for Kathleen Falk or Tom Barrett, the public unions will be in charge again, your taxes will go up. …

Do the people of Wisconsin understand what they are saying? If the state of Wisconsin‘s (under Walker) budget is now balanced, why do taxes have to go up? What do they need more money for? What are they going to spend more money on? Is this election to give the power back to the unions or keep the power in the hands of Wisconsin tax payers?

We wonder how many media outlets that covered the Moody’s downgrades in Milwaukee’s bond rating and omitted Tom Barrett’ name will report Barrett and Falk will raise taxes to the people of Wisconsin. Don’t hold your breath. Will the media be honest with its readers?

So who does that leave? State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D–Alma), who the Wausau Daily Herald endorsed:

Vinehout, a dairy farmer and former college professor from Alma, is the only candidate in this compressed gubernatorial campaign to dig in with both hands on the thorny challenges that the state’s next governor will face.

While her Democratic opponents have been vague about the budget choices they’d make, Vinehout created an alternative state budget to illustrate to voters the specific balancing choices she would favor. While other candidates have focused on the political battle against Gov. Scott Walker, Vinehout has had the audacity to focus on a governing agenda — one that includes smart investments in education and infrastructure and a plan to improve the state’s health care system.

Vinehout’s approach is detail-oriented and wonkish, sometimes to a fault. But we value the attention she’s given to the details of state policy and believe they would make her a promising candidate for Democrats. …

Coming from outside of Milwaukee or Madison probably helps, too. Of all the candidates, there is no question that she showed the most interest in and understanding of the issues that move the more rural parts of the state, and the segment north of Highway 10. …

In our hyperpartisan times, policy wonkery is out. We understand that but we don’t accept it. Vinehout offers a vision of governing based on the details of public policy rather than slogans or ideology.

Vinehout is a dairy farmer. Falk looks at farmers as polluters. I doubt Barrett has any idea what happens on farms. As someone who grew up in rural Wisconsin, Vinehout might not be as reflexively anti-hunting and anti-Second Amendment as the rest of her party, but we don’t know that.

As you know from my last blog, I am highly skeptical of those who claim we need to come together and avoid division. Vinehout does deserve some points, though, for decrying, at a candidate forum put on by a labor union in Milwaukee, the divisions between business and labor. (Labor union management has caused those divisions, but never mind.) I am also skeptical that her “vision of governing” doesn’t include ideology. But the fact she’s not from Madison or Milwaukee makes her the best choice of a bad Democratic lot.


Divided like never before … not

One of the standard rhetorical weapons used by opponents of a particular politician is to accuse him or her of being divisive.

The corollary for those who think politics has existed only during their lifetime is to argue that today’s politics are more partisan and more divided than ever before. Either group might claim that the most important principle of our country is “E Pluribus Unum.”

I’ve never bought into the first argument. Politics is a zero-sum game — on any particular issue that doesn’t result in a  unanimous vote, one side wins, which means the opposite side loses. That is how representative democracy works. If you don’t like the result, you need to convince others next time. Whether President Obama is divisive or not means nothing to me; the fact he’s wrong on nearly every issue is what matters.

As for the second argument, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Christian Schneider interrupts with reality:

When Tom Barrett announced his candidacy in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, he wasted no time in labeling incumbent Gov. Scott Walker “divisive” and offering to end the state’s “civil war.” Kathleen Falk, an earlier entrant into the race, complained that Walker “has just torn this state apart.”

It is true that the battle over public-sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin has been tough-fought. It has simultaneously wrought bitterness, excitement, acrimony and entertainment upon a state renowned for its tranquil Midwestern politeness. But to now discover that the state is “divided” is like watching a half-hour of “The Artist” before realizing it’s a silent movie. …

In fact, Wisconsin has always housed deep divisions; only these fractures traditionally haven’t been accompanied by bullhorns and picket signs. For decades, the state has been divided between people who don’t pay for their own pensions and those who pay taxes to subsidize those individuals. Wisconsin’s citizens have been divided between those who pay union dues in order to elect officials who then negotiate better pension and health benefits and those who can’t afford to do so.

We now know the state has been divided between those who think it is appropriate to picket at elected officials’ homes and those who think it crosses the line. Before the collective bargaining imbroglio, some citizens may have thought it improper to publicly shower elected officials with vulgarisms; clearly, there are many who were just waiting for the opportunity. …

Now, the state is still divided, but more vocally so – by a minority of public workers, who have an intense interest in the current system, vs. those with diffuse interests. For those who support Walker, the fruits of his government employee benefit restricting will be realized in the future; for those who oppose Walker, the effect on their everyday lives is direct and immediate.

All of these divisions have been with Wisconsin for years; yet we couldn’t see them until they were banging a drum, dressed in a gorilla costume and blowing a vuvuzela.

Barrett’s apparent claim that unity is more important than anything else is not only disingenuous, but wrong on its face. Complaints of divisiveness are, to put it bluntly, the lament of the loser. I am aware of no Democrat who complained when Gov. James Doyle signed off on raising taxes by $2.1 billion in the disaster area that was the 2009–11 budget.

Presty the DJ for May 7

This being Monday, the number one single today in 1966 is appropriate:

Today is the anniversary of the last Beatles U.S. single release, “Long and Winding Road” (the theme music of the Schenk Middle School eighth-grade Dessert Dance about this time in 1979):

The number one album today in 1977 was the Eagles’ “Hotel California”:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for May 7”