“Don’t retreat! Recall!” declared Wisconsin’s Democrats after failing to take back the State senate through a special election this August. Now, backed by their allies in public sector unions, they are trying to heed their own slogan, repurposing their efforts in a bid to recall their principal hate figure, Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Early media hype has cast the state’s recall campaign as a showdown not only over Walker’s efforts to reign in collective bargaining by most public sector unions but also as a referendum on the efforts of Republican governors across the country to balance state budgets by challenging union power. But the reality may be decidedly less dramatic.
Contrary to the left-wing opposition’s spin, the recall campaign is not really representative of a broad uprising against Walker, let alone Republicans nationwide. Spearheading the recall effort is a left-wing political action group called United Wisconsin. Although United Wisconsin styles itself as a “grassroots organization” of “concerned citizens” and a “growing base of volunteers,” it would be more accurate to describe it, as the Wisconsin-based conservative watchdog group Media Trackers has, as “just another front for the Democratic Party and left-wing interests in Wisconsin.”
Despite claiming grassroots credentials, United Wisconsin has enjoyed the backing of all the Wisconsin branches of the leading government unions, including the SEIU, the AFT, and the AFL-CIO. United Wisconsin’s staff meanwhile is made up of veteran Democrat operatives and left-wing activists. Meagan Mahaffey, the group’s executive director, has a background in the state’s Democratic politics. And the group’s public relations director, Angie Aker, is also the managing director of MoveOn.org. United Wisconsin may not be entirely an “astroturf” campaign, but its clear that it has been organized by powerful left-wing advocacy groups.
That may well hurt the recall campaign, since it’s not clear that Wisconsinites generally share the left’s disdain for Walker or the desire to see him recalled. While Walker’s disapproval ratings have risen slightly in recent months, there is no clear indication that state residents want him out of office. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic poling firm, found an even split on the recall, with half in favor and half against. Whatever their feelings about Walker, on the issue of the recall Wisconsin is by no means united.
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