With the Wisconsin recall election over, and Republican Scott Walker reelected, it is clear the reelection of Barack Obama next November is far from certain. For the labour movement, this is a serious setback, and for Democrats, it’s a warning signal that the Republicans have shown strength in a state that has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last 6 elections. And we are less than 6 months from the presidential election.
Republicans have every right to be jubilant. Governor Walker took on the public service unions, withstood a 1-million plus recall petition, and was able to keep the governorship in a state that gave Obama a 13% vote margin in 2008. This can only add to the already phenomenal fundraising efforts of the pro-Romney Super Pacs. The Wisconsin result has shown that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision regarding election finance from corporations is certain to change the parameters of this presidential election.
True, the Citizens’ United decision allows pro Democratic constituencies to regroup and form Super Pacs. But all the evidence points to the overriding strength and wealth of corporate America over the union movement.
Another factor in the GOP win has to do with Democrats being unable to present a coherent alternative to the GOP outside of the more traditional rhetoric of the past. As much as the Democrats and Obama were inspirational in 2008, they have resorted to tactics and a political discourse that is more reminiscent of past glories than of a promising future. It is fair to ask, despite Republican obstruction: What has happened to change and hope?
The economy, which remains the major issue for much of the electorate, seems to be sputtering at a very inopportune time for the Obama Administration. Despite some obvious achievements by the Obama team, the general mood of polarization and negative attacks has soured the electorate on politics this time around.
President Obama himself cannot escape some of the blame for the Wisconsin debacle. Some will point to his absence in the recall campaign for the defeat. The margin appears too wide for this hypothesis to be viable. Besides, an incumbent President running for reelection should not be distracted by a state conflict despite national implications. What Obama has to reflect upon is not his presence in Wisconsin, but his message to the country. He needs to do more than try to define the unimpressive Mitt Romney.
The American electorate continues to show respect and affection for a President who is facing the slowest post recession recovery since the 1930’s. They may not be satisfied with the state of the economy, but they are willing to cut Obama some slack. After all, the Bush years remain a bad memory.
Despite the disappointing results last night in Wisconsin, Obama still has plenty of time to recover. His Republican opponents continue to hammer a negative, un-inspirational message, alienating in the process some key constituents. Their attacks on a ‘fictional’ Obama lack ingenuity, and seem increasingly so over-the-top as to be risible.
Yet, Obama remains vulnerable as Wisconsin has shown. Money and the state of the economy give every reason for Obama to worry.