A Wisconsonite Asks Why

The following is a guest post from my sister, Erin Bilyeu. Erin is currently in Bellingham, Washington but she has family in Wisconsin and did her graduate work in Milwaukee. She was watching the recall election closely. When Walker survived the vote she was…not pleased.


My very first introduction to the wiles of Scott Walker was as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin  – Milwaukee.  ScottyDubs, as I like to call him, was then the County Executive for Milwaukee County and a staunch advocate of privatizing public assets (see the Milwaukee airport) and severely limiting public services (see the Milwaukee County Parks System, and County Transit System). Although it has been five years since I left Milwaukee to pursue a career in the public sector, I have followed his bizarre rise to national fame as one of the most  brazen anti-worker governors in the country.

I wanted to write something eloquent and witty about the results of June 5 recall but like Leslie Knope, I find myself angry. (I tried to find the season finale debate from Parks and Recreation but couldn’t find a clip).

Angry that 60% of the money Scott Walker used to run on came from out of state, and he outspent Barrett 10 to one.

Angry that Scott Walker blamed a manufactured budget crisis on the state’s public-sector workers.

Angry that Scott Walker does not believe that women should be paid equally for the same work. That one there is just douchey and also has horrible implications for the future of workplaces for all people, not just women.

Angry that Scott Walker turned down federal money for a high speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, because he wanted to build more roads, causing the state to lose all that money and a company that had planned to expand in WI to move its business to Illinois.

These are the very first things that come to mind. So why do people like him? Apparently they do, because he won two nights ago, causing a lot of divisiveness in the state. But the truth is, I honestly have no idea why.  He’s cost the state business and jobs (leading the nation, in fact, on lost jobs). To his credit, he has not spouted any religious douchebaggery, so that does not explain any votes. Public education takes a hit every time teachers are discredited and subjected to unlivable wages, so I’ve never understood that stance. So what we have is a climate in which there is a constant budget crisis, where people do not earn living wages, an education system that will continue to lose good teachers and students will suffer, and where new business opportunities are wasted. Also, apparently he is drinking from the same flask that Illinois governors do, as he may be soon facing indictment.

So, really can someone explain it me?  Without calling the people who voted for him stupid, without just going all HULKRAGESMASH like I do? I’ve never heard a single argument in his favor.  The budget crisis is bullshit, so don’t go there. There have been countless roundups in the election recall aftermath but none of them can explain to me why people vote this way. Please, someone, inform me, what is he saying that people respond to?

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A Wisconsonite Asks Why
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7 thoughts on “A Wisconsonite Asks Why

  1. 1

    The only excuse I have heard, and it is of course based out of ignorance… is the same line that people have been pushing for years against the unions.

    “So and so is lazy and horrible at their job, but they have been their so long he can not be fired and my friend/relative does not have a job because of it!”

  2. 2

    Lets be honest about this. The vast majority of people who vote do not know the issues very well outside of what is pushed to them on TV news and commercials. TV news is so busy trying to make sure both sides are heard (in lieu of actual investigative reporting anymore) that it is essentially useless in informing the masses. Commercials are out there to reinforce the masses already determined views.

    If it was based on logic, we wouldn’t have religions anymore either. People keep voting based on comfort with their values. The rethuglicans have done a fine job messaging with those values.

  3. 3

    I think people like him win for two reasons: the upper class have a powerful and consistent organizational as well as money advantage over the fragmented, disinformed and demoralized majority; and our public discourse is so dominated by the basic beliefs and assumptions of capitalism that we — almost literally — don’t have the words to express exactly how wrong people like Walker really are. It’s a bit like trying to explain atheism to dogmatic Christians or Muslims who have never experienced any thought that’s outside the basic thought-patterns they’ve been working in since childhood.

  4. 4

    The thing is, I’m not an expert on capitalism, and I face many of the same struggles republican thinkers face:

    -I personally am looking at the end of my job when my grant comes to an end,
    -my husband has been job searching for about 10 months with no luck,
    -I am bled dry by health costs
    -I know there is incompetence at all levels of every institution

    Why is that I can see the shortcomings of the Republican promises and others can’t? I agree that Dems seemed to be inordinately disorganized in their message (go watch Daily Show from June 5, the interview with the Atty for the WI Dems, it’ll make you cry). But if that’s it, that 50% of the population doesn’t understand the basic concept of the issues I cited in my post, and I don’t think those concepts are hard to understand, then people really are that stupid, that selfish, that inhumane.

    Maybe I’m just being obtuse, but I really want to believe there is a better reason than that.

  5. Joe
    6

    Ok, I’ll take a crack at it even though I haven’t paid that much attention to this particular race.

    I went and looked on politifact after looking at a few Walker adds on youtube. It turns out that he mostly told at least half truths, which for a politician isn’t bad. The democrats ended up looking like the bigger liars. For example the statement that is repeated here that “Women should not be paid equally for the same work” is plainly a false statement. This goes along with many of the other claims they made about him like his jobs record and his record on education and so forth. So perhaps many of the voters simply were not convinced by the lies and exaggerations of the democratic party. Walker told his share of lies but mostly stuck with the half truths.

    Next is the property tax lowering, I’d think that would be a big deal to a lot of voters as out of all the issues discussed that would have the largest direct impact on voters. I’d certainly be pleased to learn my property tax went down.

    Obviously there is the money spent issue, anybody who outspends his competitor is likely to win and Walker did so and really that should be enough answer right there, fair or not. Though the democrats got a lot of free news during the entire protest thing and just getting a recall is free news too. What is most telling to me is that in the spending chart you provided the democrat raised 3.9 million but only bothered to spend 2.9 million keeping the rest for himself. So I’m sure he’s perfectly happy to loose when he is getting a million dollars, I don’t think he was very committed to winning. Though I don’t like that 60% of his money came from out of state I can attest to the fact that much of the protest was provided from out of state as well, the union I worked for at the time was busing people into Wisconsin and I think that was pretty much public knowledge and probably a lot of Wisconsin voters were not happy to see all these out of town people causing all this noise. Perhaps if Walker’s finances were equally as public knowledge more voters would have been turned off about that.

    However claims that this is the result of some new campaign finance law or supreme court decision or that it was flat out illegal are all completely unfounded. The law was passed in 1987 that said during a recall election they can raise as much as they want. I don’t know why everybody thinks campaign financing just recently got screwed up, it’s been like this for decades people!

    Now, in general I love to see these two parties get kicked out of office as often as possible, I hate them both. However when a guy gets elected and then basically does what he said he was going to do (even if he did go a bit further) I don’t think that is grounds for attempting to kick him out of office and I think most people in Wisconsin agree, especially those who voted for him again. Though I would have been extremely amused to see the democrat win and then not bother to reverse anything Walker did. None of these guys reverse anything the previous guy did which is why I say they are the same party.

    So hopefully this helps answer your question though obviously it’s mostly speculation.

    1. 6.1

      Hey Joe, Thanks for the comment. This is a really good breakdown. I appreciate the factchecking. I honestly hadn’t heard anything about the property tax issue (while I still don’t think its something to vote for since property taxes pay for really good things like schools, which contribute to a healthy populace and educated workforce, which contributes to businesses, so on and so forth).

      I would disagree with the importance of those out-of-state protesters versus millions of out-of-state dollars, single voices versus corporate sponsors, although Wisconsonites really hate Illinoisans so I can see why more Illinoisans would piss ’em off. And I don’t think Barrett can keep that million dollars for his own personal account, though you raise a good point about why not spend that on a couple more commercials or talking to people outside of Milwuakee and Dane counties.

      Campaign finance reform won’t do anything until Citizens United is overturned.

      The fair pay act was about being able to sue for discrimination, which essentially means businesses can pay women less for equal work; so while it may be hyperbole it isn’t false.

      I want to respond to everything and say BUT THEY’RE WRONG!!! But really thank you for giving me an understanding of what people were thinking. Even If they are still voting against themselves.

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