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Please Vote on Nov. 2

Oct. 27, 2010
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We’re asking you to vote on Nov. 2.

The last election for president brought a lot of hope for change in the way Washington—and politics in general—works. But democracy is a very messy process, especially in the American system of government, and it has been that way for the past 220 years. Unlike in a parliamentary system where the prime minister can deliver the votes, in the U.S. system the president or the governor can only try to work with their respective legislatures to get policies passed. After the Obama win, the hopes for change in Washington were quickly dashed when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear that no Republican senator would support President Obama’s agenda. With only 58 Democratic senators (now 57) and two independents, the president needed every Democrat and both independents to achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster by the Republicans. That made every senator the 60th vote—and every opportunist senator could extract a price for his or her vote.

Now, it’s easy to get cynical and jaded and sit this one out because you didn’t see all the change you wanted in the first two years. If you look back at history, however, the presidents who are credited with some of the most important legislative changes of the 20th century, including the two Roosevelts and Lyndon Johnson, faced a very difficult, slow, messy process.

You may think that all of the candidates are alike and that nothing ever changes. But ask your grandmother or an elderly black person what their lives were like when they were young compared to a young woman or young African-American today.

You may think that the millions of dollars being poured into races around the state by anonymous, out-of-state special interest groups will decide who wins. Yes, this corrupt money can influence campaigns with negative and often untrue ads that can damage an honest, decent candidate, but all of that money and all of those ads are to influence the people with the real power: “we, the voters.” We, the voters, still hold all the power, although it certainly doesn’t feel that way much of the time.

The Pollsters and Pundits

Now we add the layer of the pollsters and the pundits. The polls are tightening in Wisconsin and right now the major races—governor, U.S. senator and attorney general—are too close to call for a number of reasons. First, the credible polls now show that the races are statistically even, with one- or two-point differences that are well within the margin of statistical error. Second, polling has become more difficult in the last 10 years because many people have dropped their land lines and only use a cell phone, which does not allow for easy accessibility for the pollster. So to the degree that pollsters use the land lines, and virtually all of them do, their samples are not scientifically random and therefore their results are not statistically accurate. Finally, pollsters are seeking to poll likely voters, but most people when questioned will say that they are going to vote, despite the fact that most studies show that a large portion of those self-proclaimed likely voters only vote every four years in the presidential election.

Even with some serious shortcomings, the polls are still predicting races too close to call. The pundits who just a few months ago claimed that many of these races were essentially over—with Republicans sweeping the tables—are now backpedaling and admitting that most of these races are tossups.

We must remember: The polls before Nov. 2 are just estimates and guesses; the only poll that counts is on Nov. 2, when you vote. This is going to be one of the closest elections in recent history, so we can’t overstate the importance of every vote. Elections have been lost by one vote—more elections than most people think. Google it if you are curious.

A President’s Coattails

Much has been made of the traditional partisan shift in legislative races during a president’s first midterm election. The bigger the president’s win, and the more marginal or swing district seats that are swept along by the top of the ticket’s coattails, the more seats that are lost two years later. And since President Obama won handily in Wisconsin, winning 59 of our 72 counties, there will be some losses for Democrats in the state Assembly as Republicans win back some of the seats Obama helped to win. However, if the legislators elected with Obama’s help in 2008 worked hard over the past two years—and many knew they had to—the losses will be fewer than some pundits predict.

The Money

There is definitely an increase in the amount of money influencing the election this year, for a couple of reasons. President Obama upset many of the special-interest groups with his reforms, including the for-profit insurance industry, the Wall Street establishment and the Big Oil crowd, and they are fighting back to elect people indebted to them. Second, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision earlier this year now allows corporations to funnel unlimited amounts of their company’s money anonymously into campaign ads around the country. Most of this out-of-state special-interest money has a very specific agenda—and it isn’t in the best interest of our fellow Wisconsinites. And finally, this is an unusually important election because the next state Legislature will draw the district boundaries for not only the state Assembly and state Senate for the next 10 years, but also for Congress—so, once again, national money is coming into Wisconsin.

But does that mean that these special-interest corporations will win on Nov. 2?

Not if you get to the polling place.

Remember: Your vote is worth just as much as a multimillionaire CEO’s vote. You can cancel out all of those misleading and irritating attack ads by exercising your right to vote.

The Gubernatorial Race

We’ve also heard that Republican candidate for governor Scott Walker feels that he’s going to coast to a big victory on Nov. 2 and sweep a host of conservative Republicans into the state Legislature.

But we think that Walker shouldn’t be so confident about his chances of winning, since many undecided voters won’t support him if they really examine his record and campaign promises.

Like his time as a state legislator and Milwaukee County executive, Walker as a candidate for governor has relied on a series of gimmicks to get free media attention. His promise to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term will never happen, since it would push the unemployment rate in Wisconsin to near zero. As unemployment approaches zero, this would cause dramatic wage increases, and companies would move to other states. Furthermore, he never laid out a specific plan for creating these jobs. And while Walker claims to be a populist who wants to keep property taxes down for the average homeowner, his policies overwhelmingly favor the rich and the powerful. Walker wants to slash taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents. He even wants to eliminate income taxes for corporations.

Now, why should corporations get a free ride when it means the rest of us will have to pick up the tab?

Why should important public services like BadgerCare, education and law enforcement be cut to the bone so that Walker can put more money in the hands of his corporate backers?

Perhaps Walker is more interested in slashing services so that government can’t function at all—yes, this is what these anti-tax, anti-government groups discuss at their conferences. He’s already tried to do that in Milwaukee County, which is now on the brink of bankruptcy, according to a study from the Greater Milwaukee Committee, which is chaired by the head of Walker’s campaign. Walker has downsized or privatized government functions to the point that vital bus routes have been cut, patients at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex are “in peril” and on and on, as the Journal Sentinel, which gave Walker the most contradictory endorsement of the season, pointed out. The Journal Sentinel endorsement mentions all of the terrible policy decisions and mismanagement of the Walker administration. The list of Walker’s failures continues with the county’s infrastructure being in such bad shape that a teenager was tragically killed when a massive slice of concrete fell off of the O’Donnell parking structure. Although there are questions about whether the structure had been constructed properly, there is no doubt that Walker eliminated the funds to pay for inspections of county-owned buildings in 2008.

Fortunately, Democratic candidate Tom Barrett has a more responsible vision for Wisconsin—again highlighted by the Journal Sentinel in their endorsement of Walker. Instead of giving corporations a blank check and penalizing workers with higher taxes, Barrett supports targeted tax cuts to companies that actually create jobs. Instead of promising to do the impossible, Barrett offers a well-thought-out plan to cut state spending while preserving funds for job training, education, health care and public safety. Instead of opposing embryonic stem cell research, Barrett supports responsible research with world-class scientists in charge, not politicians. And instead of forcing victims of rape and incest to carry their pregnancies to term, Barrett wants women to be in charge of their health care and reproductive decisions.

So while you may think that there aren’t stark differences between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett, you might want to think again. And then after you’ve made your decision, go out and vote on Nov. 2. People died so we could have this right to vote. This election is too important to watch from the sidelines.


Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

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