The Corner

Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Recall’ Is

With the recall effort of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker well under way, union activists now line the main street closest to my house, imploring people to pull over and sign a petition. There is actually a drive-thru lane, where you don’t even need to put your car in park in order to provide one of the 540,000 signatures needed to force a recall election. (Undoubtedly, if I stood on the side of a main city road and implored people to stop in a lane of moving traffic to gather signatures for Paul Ryan for President or something, the cops would tase me.)

As everyone now knows, Walker is being recalled for making the tough decisions he said he would while running in 2010 and earning 53 percent of the vote. Earlier this year, Walker required state employees to begin paying into their own pension accounts, and began requiring government employees to pay 12.6 percent of their health-insurance premium. Walker also greatly diminished the collective-bargaining power of public unions and made paying public-sector union dues optional.

And for using these tools to balance the budget, Walker is now in the process of being recalled by the Democrats he has so incensed. In fact, it brings to mind this quote about recalls I stumbled upon this week:

[Recalling the governor] will create a circumstance where nobody ever makes a hard decision again … I don’t want you to become a laughingstock, a carnival or the beginning of a circus in America where we just throw people out whenever they make a tough decision … [A recall] would spread instability and uncertainty among your people and across the country.

Then there’s this high-minded appeal to reason by another recall opponent:

This nation was founded on the proposition that we, the people are best able to chart our own destiny. We, the people are the ones who ought to have the right to make decisions about what happens to us and to our families and to our communities. And when we vote and when the majority votes to have a particular set of policies and ideas and individuals to be controlling the course of our future, then nobody ought to overturn the say of the people. The people ought to govern themselves and have a right to make the decisions … The people who want to see this recall take place are disrespecting the majority… who voted in the election last year, disrespecting the right of the majority to engage in self-governance.

Who were the bloodthirsty right-wingers that so vehemently opposed the recall process? Did Rush say it on his radio show? Did Ann Coulter scream it at Sean Hannity on TV?

Actually, those two quotes are from Bill Clinton and Al Gore, respectively. In 2003, the former president and vice president conducted a tour of African-American churches in Los Angeles to argue against the recall of Democratic governor Gray Davis. Of course, their lofty appeals to the foundations of democracy went unheeded and Davis was jettisoned in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In fact, one of the most effective anti-recall pleas was made by cretinous liberal “comedian” Bill Maher, who wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

New rule: No do-overs. Once you elect an official, unless he runs off with public funds or gets caught with kiddie porn, you’re stuck with him.

He’s the governor, not some dude you married in Las Vegas. […]

Maybe he’s a lousy governor, but he was the one elected by voters who bothered to show up at the polls. Their efforts shouldn’t be undone by disgruntled shoppers signing a petition on their way out of Target.

Anyone who thinks this recall is some great affirmation of democracy should review early American history. This is precisely the kind of direct involvement by the howling masses that the framers wanted to avoid.

Of course, nobody expects Clinton, Gore, or Maher to show up in Wisconsin to regale the public with lofty rhetoric about how philosophically wrong recall elections are. Politics isn’t the intellectual consistency business — it’s simply about getting your guy in office. Which is exactly what the Wisconsin recalls are about. And Bill Clinton feels our pain.

(Side note: I was reminded of these quotes by forcing myself to watch the execrable documentary Running with Arnold, about Schwarzenegger’s rise to the governorship. Apparently it was all a secret plot cooked up by Ken Lay and George W. Bush. All you need to know about the documentary, which is narrated by Alec Baldwin, is that it refers to “soft-spoken attorney Gloria Allred.” Sheesh.)

— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

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