While awaiting results from Wisconsin, think about some comparisons raised by the gang at MSNBC’s “First Read” this morning.
Gubernatorial recalls are rare in U.S. political history, and starting a recall drive in the immediate aftermath of an election (as Walker’s opponents did) is even rarer, maybe unprecedented. Of course it doesn’t break any formal rules, but it’s also one more example, in the age of polarization, of the parties doing things that, while technical allowable, used to be barred by the norms of U.S. politics. Like once someone you oppose is elected, you continue to oppose him (in the good old loyal opposition sense) but you wait until the next election to try to get rid of him.
By the guys at First Read think this elections-don’t-settle-anything attitude is not so much new in the Walker case as a continuation of recent trends:
“… It’s worth noting that today’s recall in Wisconsin is just the latest chapter in this current Age of Polarization, where the ballot box doesn’t end political debates. It started, in our eyes, with Bill Clinton’s impeachment; carried over into the Bush-vs.-Gore recount, the 2003 California recall, and the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election; and it continued with the collective efforts by Republican state AGs to get the Supreme Court to ultimately rule over the health-care law.
And in Wisconsin, Walker didn’t want just to balance his state’s budget by reforming pensions; he wanted to crush organized labor and the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, after winning the PR battle last year, labor and state Democrats decide to punish Walker, not just by tying his hands legislatively but with this recall. It’s political combat — and the fight doesn’t end. And it won’t end regardless of tonight’s result.”
I’m not in the habit of citing Richard Nixon as an example of good sportsmanship, but it’s quite possible that the Dems stole the 1960 election with a combination of fraudulent and tricky actions in Illinois, Texas and a very strange manipulation of electoral vote in Alabama. Nixon was under considerable pressure to contest the election, but declined. Whether this was an act of magnanimity by a man who (as Nixon himself later wrote, didn’t want to leave the fate of the executive under a cloud for a possibly months-long period of investigation/recount, or whether Nixon made a pragmatic decision that votes rigged in Texas and Chicago were very unlikely to ever unrigged, is a matter of continuing debate among the very few who care. But in today’s climate, where the idea of allowing a Democrat to take the Oval Office if it could possibly be prevented would be considered cowardice, treason or worse, one wonders what the 2012 version of Nixon might have done.