A process that started in the wake of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) far-right overreach leads to today’s historic recall elections in the Badger State, and no one is sure what to expect.
Tuesday brings a series of recall elections unprecedented in the history of the state or nation.
Since 1908, there have been 20 recorded state legislative recall elections held in the United States, according to one recall expert. Wisconsin is in the process of holding nine such elections in the space of a month.
With control of the Wisconsin Senate in the balance, six Republican state senators will face a recall vote [today]. One Democratic senator has already weathered a recall attempt, and on Aug. 16, two more Democrats will be up for recall.
If Democrats have a net gain of three state Senate seats from the recall process, the party will retake the chamber majority, and the public will have delivered a stinging rebuke to Republican excesses. Whether that’s happened won’t be clear until after the polls close in six Wisconsin districts in about 10 hours.
Needless to say, interest in the outcome extends well beyond the state. Because so much of the dispute has centered around collective-bargaining rights — or more specifically, the GOP drive to gut these worker rights — union leaders and activists throughout the labor movement are heavily invested in today’s races, and they’ve been joined by a variety of progressive allies, including the Democrats’ Organizing for America. Likewise, a variety of far-right organizations, including Koch-financed outfits, have already spent millions to prevent Democratic victories.
So, what’s going to happen? The most recent polling shows Democrats favored in two of today’s races, Republicans also favored in two, and the other two are too close to call. But traditional polling models may or may not be reliable in a situation like this — we’ve never seen six state recall elections in an off-year August like this.
Regardless of the outcome, the fact that these recall elections are even occurring is pretty damn impressive. As Greg Sargent noted this morning, “Wisconsin Dems and labor have already succeeded in one sense: They reminded us that it’s possible to build a grass roots movement by effectively utilizing the sort of unabashed and bare-knuckled class-based populism that makes many of today’s national Dems queasy. Their effort — whether or not they take back the state senate — could provide a model for a more aggressive, populist approach for national Dems in 2012.”
The better Dems do today, the more likely their success will be used as a template.