There's a lot of day-after commentary on Tuesday's Wisconsin vote seeking to make the results all about the role of money in politics, or about the limits of Big Labor's political muscle. Such post-mortems sell short the voters themselves, whose wise verdict is worth reflecting on. We're not talking about whether the R's or the D's won, but about the merits of the exercise itself -- an extraordinary election seeking to cut short a governor's term. Exit polls revealed that sixty percent of voters believe that recall elections should only be held in cases involving "official misconduct."
Beyond all the passionate arguments over Governor Walker's policies, one of the deciding factors was a sense among independent Wisconsinites that there was something tawdry or ill-advised about resorting to a recall election. The other telling exit poll result, bolstering this point, shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney, 51-to-45%, among the same electorate that stood by Gov. Walker (and by a similar margin).
You don't have to be a fan of Governor Walker to be concerned about recent trends in American politics that are corrosive to democracy. We're living at a time of polarization so intense it leads opposition parties to deny the legitimacy of those who prevail in elections. Hence the birther craziness, the desire to impeach presidents over policy differences, the recall election fad across the country, the nationalization of state and local races because outside activists convince themselves the stakes have never been higher; all trends exacerbating the pernicious culture of the permanent campaign. All politics, all governing, is now subsumed by campaigning.
Wisconsin voters, at least, have given these trends a thumbs-down.
Photo credit: Reuters/ Darren Hauck