Wisconsin Recall: Perhaps All Of This Could Have Been Avoided

Just when you thought it wasn't possible to have any further thoughts on the Wisconsin recall election, here are some more, courtesy of the Washington Post's Rachel Weiner, who notes that all of the past week's michegas -- and doesn't it seem like it happened so much longer ago? -- was, perhaps, avoidable. In the end, however, it seems like national labor organizations just didn't have the heart or the wherewithal to extinguish the flames that were fanned on the local, grassroots level. And some are saying that this is precisely what they would have liked to have done:

Some national labor officials say they tried to dissuade Wisconsin unions and activists from going ahead with the recall campaign and simply could not.

“There’s this notion out there that unions are hierarchical,” said one labor official. "Labor has its own culture, and its extremely democratic." If the national labor union had tried to stop the recall, added the source, "it would have been a bloodbath."

Added a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: "With apologies to the arm-chair quarterbacks in DC, we didn’t have the opportunity to run the passion of over 100,000 grassroots protesters through a DC focus group. Wisconsin was and remains a grassroots movement. Anyone who second guesses what happened doesn’t understand that crucial fact."

Of course, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was one of the less half-hearted national organizations in the effort. As Andy Kroll reported back in March, AFSCME spent large amounts of money bankrolling the Wisconsin For Falk PAC, in support of Democratic primary candidate Kathleen Falk, which -- when you consider all of the critics of the outside money that bankrolled Scott Walker -- muddied the water considerably.

Weiner points out that the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka offered this to reporters on a post-recall conference call last week: "We didn’t decide on this recall. It was the workers in Wisconsin and the voters in Wisconsin who did." A bit of handwashing? Weiner notes that Trumka made a similar statement "over a year ago." And last month, Trumka suggested that a moral victory in the recall would be enough: "He would be a debilitated governor for the next two years in office, and he would be finished the next time he runs."

Ultimately, if the recall election dissuades further anti-labor actions from state governments, then the grassroots activists who pushed for the recall can happily shrug off the actual electoral loss. But an argument can be made that following the advice to stop short of the recall attempt might have been the better course of action. Had Walker been ousted, it was pretty clear that recall mania would not have subsided -- as Abe Sauer noted, by the end of February, the domains "RecallFalk.com" and "RecallTomBarrett.com" had been registered. And foregoing the recall attempt might have done more to leave Walker's reign in a cloud of uncertainty and dissatisfaction.

Instead, Walker's been gifted with a beneficial -- and quantifiable -- electoral result, which could very well embolden other labor opponents. And if anyone wants to follow in Walker's footsteps, they know that they'll be gambling with the Koch Brothers' money. Which means it isn't a gamble at all.

Ultimately, the Wisconsinites who pressed for the recall may simply shrug off the concerns of the national organizations that advised caution. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong." Of course, Emerson also said, "When you strike at a king, you must kill him."

Was the Wisconsin recall inevitable? [The Fix]

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