Wisconsin teachers’ union leader John Matthews says, “We have very comprehensive and creative plans” for the grass-roots recall of Tea Party Governor Scott Walker, which will launch this Tuesday, November 15, and feature by a huge rally at the State Capitol next Saturday, November 19.
The recall campaign must collect 540,000 valid Wisconsin signature by no later than January 13, 2012. After Wisconsin’s accountability board validates the signatures, an election is call six weeks later.
An election is called six weeks after the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board verifies the signatures. If there were a contested primary, the general election would take place four weeks after the primary election. In a complicated twist, voters must elect a new governor to replace Walker at the same time. Popular former US Senator Russ Feingold steadfastly refuses to be the candidate. As of this week, no one has announced for the office.
Some observers are confused about the recall’s status, but those doubts should be cleared up if the launch is massive. Two hundred thousand Wisconsinites already have made a pledge to sign the petition immediately. Training sessions and volunteer squads are lined up for all Wisconsin’s counties. Paul Booth, chief of staff of AFSCME, says he has never seen a campaign where so many workers “have taken ownership of the thing.” Early polling is bound to change once the recall begins, but shows the state polarized 47-47 over the recall.
Walker not only sought to cripple public sector unions (after they already had accepted budget cuts), but disenfranchise students by eliminating same-day registration and environmentalists by privatizing public trust management of Wisconsin’s rivers, lakes and wetlands.
After months of street demonstrations upwards of 100,000 on weekends failed to change Walker’s agenda, the unprecedented activism was channeled into less-visible efforts to recall at least three Republican state senators, thus changing the state senate’s majority to 17-16 for the Democrats. Two of those Republicans were recalled last summer, but a third survived, as did Democratic senators who were challenged by Republicans. Some concluded that that effort failed, but the defeat of two Republicans on their partisan turf was a stimulus for the anti-Walker campaign to push ahead.
The New York Times reported on Novemer 12 that a “backlash” is beginning to brew against the small faction of young activists who continue trying to occupy the Capitol rotunda for marching songs and chants at noon everyday. “The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has completely turned its back on the protesters. They have done everything they can to move people’s focus away from protesting to voting,” the Times quoted C.J.Terrell, 23, who lost his employment at a pizza parlor in February and who faces disorderly conduct charges for pouring beer on the head of a Republican legislator in September.
Such concerns are likely to wash away as the recall campaign begins. A vast majority of Wisconsin progressives are unified around the Recall Walker effort. “This is a campaign that will be run by the side who has the best message, the most energy, and the resources necessary for the fight,” says AFSCME’s Booth.
The fight will take place amidst the drama of a presidential election year and the widening differences between the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street, with a revitalized labor movement and rank-and-file Democrats and Independents in the thick of it. Whether Walker is recalled or not, it is clear that the Tea Party Republicans are on the defensive since the popular uprising in Wisconsin and the massive support for collective bargaining in an Ohio referendum last week.