It’s easy, these days, to adopt a simple paradigm of two warring tribes in the U.S. electorate, Dems and Repubs, red and blue, who agree on almost everything within the tribal unit and disagree on almost everything across the tribal divide. Yesterday’s Wisconsin recall vote provides an opportunity to complicate our thinking.
So Scott Walker beats Tom Barrett by 54-46, and the same electorate on the same day (according to exit polls) favors Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 51-44.
A very significant chunk of those who said they support Obama said they voted against the recall. Hard to reconcile that with the simple paradigm in the first paragraph above.
Some of it must be a backlash against the recall itself. A substantial number of Dem leaners – or at least Obama supporters – didn’t approve of the effort to use the recall process to overturn the result of the 2010 election of Walker less than two years into his four-year term.
Exit polls also suggested that not all Obama supporters are as pro-labor as the stereotypical Democrat is supposed to be. There are Dems and Dem-leaners who have bought into the Repub view of unions – and maybe especially public employee union that get paid with tax dollars, as overpaid, underworked and or unwilling to do their share to help governments balance their budget. (Yes, I know that the unions were prepared to make most of the substantive concession that Walker demanded. I don’t know if the Dem-leaners are all thinking that through. It’s just necessary to acknowledge that the bond between unions and the Democratic party has become a two-edged sword.)
Back to the simple paradigm. One of the fundamental disagreements between red and blue is the disagreement between those who think low taxes and government austerity are the best way to address the nation’s (or a particular state’s) economic struggles and those who favor a Keynesian stimulus approach (or a “balanced” approach, as the current Dem lexicon has it). On many days, for those who pay close attention, this seems to be one of the fundamental divides between the parties and the two tribes.
But if voters were thinking about their choices that way, it’s hard to believe that Walker could win big in an electorate in which Obama has such a commanding lead. Like I said, an invitation to complicate your thinking.
Update: The exit poll numbers above were updated after this post was originally posted. The numbers above are corrected to reflect the latest numbers.