Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recalling the Bums: Not a Good Idea

I'm reasonably sure I don't need to establish my credentials for being firmly and completely against Scott Walker's abolition of collective bargaining for public school employees, which is already starting to show negative effects in Shorewood. But I certainly don't think we should be talking about recalling either Walker himself or the state senators who supported his bill, never mind the ones who fled the state to prevent it from initially passing.

My reasoning is simple: I believe that the recall process should only be used in cases of gross incompetence by the recallees, or if they are convicted of criminal charges and sentenced.* And despite all the partisanship in Wisconsin at the moment, I don't think that what Walker and his posse did deserves a recall effort. Is Walker grossly out of touch with the people of Wisconsin? I think so. Did he just pass a bill that will seriously hurt Wisconsin, as a state? I think he did. But I don't think he can be considered incompetent to hold the office of Governor, nor are the senators in question unable to carry out their respective duties.

The current spirit in Wisconsin is one of punishing the other side. Republicans want to fine, disempower or evict the Democrats for fleeing the state and holding up the legislative process; Dems want the Repubs' heads for passing budget repair and hurting the state in the process. But there's a time and a place for showing the other side that you disapprove of their actions while in office, right? It's at the ballot box. We can and will throw the bums out if they aren't serving the state well, but shouldn't we give them a chance to lead first? It seems to me that punishing politicians who displease us before they've had a chance to serve out their term is counterproductive at best and openly partisan at worst.

And punishing the other side doesn't just extend to the politicians. Whether through vandalism, boycotts, Facebook disapproval or... more boycotts, Wisconsin citizens are attempting to punish businesses-or in the case of Sendik's, individual citizens-who voted for or contributed financially to The Other Side. Of course, people are perfectly within their rights to do so, and maybe even have moral justification for doing so. But you'd have to explain to me how such actions are anything more than a reactionary impulse, born out of resentment over Walker's union-busting. I don't think that kind of action serves either the Democrats' political agenda or the good of Wisconsin as a state, nor is it intended to do either. It's about sticking it to the other guy because he just stuck it to us. And that's just wrong.

Boycotts and recalls won't help the state and they won't help what the Journal Sentinel called a "chasm of mistrust" that seems to have split Wisconsin. If we do nothing but punish the other side because they passed a bill we dislike (or from the other perspective, held up democracy), how are we supposed to put Wisconsin back together? In three years and change, voters will have a chance to tell Walker to go pound sand. Or if you believe that Walker will do too much damage in that time, he'll be eligible for a recall vote after one year in office. But I believe that all the recall efforts will do is to drag out this issue for another year, and make it harder for the state government to actually function as a government. I think what we're seeing now is lines of partisanship being drawn that won't be undone by a recall election, and that's bad for the state as well.

-Andy Tisdel

*Yes, of course 'gross incompetence' is a broad charge. I define it as when the Governor (for example) is no longer able to function as Governor, whether through a medical condition or a conflict of interest, or his or her committing criminal acts. And of course, if he morphed into Qadaffi or criminally abused the powers of his office, we would be within our rights to impeach or recall him. I just don't think it should be done simply because we disagree with him. Having the power to recall is a good thing, but I don't see using it for this reason.

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