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Press reaction to events in Wisconsin remains educational. The introduction of legislation curtailing union rights and activities for most public employees in Wisconsin was first billed as a victory in disguise: a triggering event that launched the flight of the legislators and a wave of demonstrations that would stop the Republican juggernaut in its tracks. It didn’t; the Democratic senators returned disconsolately to town and the bill became law.But, we soon learned, that defeat itself was a victory in disguise. Shocked and appalled by the law, public opinion was decisively recoiling away from the extremest agenda of the fanatical GOPers. The temporary Republican legislative victory had ignited an unstoppable Democratic wave that would sweep the party to a decisive win in the recall elections and go on to sweep the nation. The wicked, clueless GOP had overstepped; now the great Democratic fightback would begin. Considered dialectically, it was a win.
Well, no. The fightback fizzled and GOP kept its grip on the state senate. The New York Times was unfazed. Considered even more dialectically, argued the paper of record, the Wisconsin re-defeat is really an extraordinary victory: it shows the strength of the movement away from Walker and his cronies and makes Walker’s own defeat in a recall election dead certain. Like the Germans announcing the retreat from Warsaw, the Times described the second defeat in Wisconsin as a success: Democrats shortened their lines.
The lines are still getting shorter. The intensification of anti-Walker sentiment so visible to the keen dialectitians at the Times somehow escaped the pollsters; on the whole Wisconsin voters seem pretty pleased with the way the recall worked out, and the odds now seem to favour Governor Walker serving out his term.
When PPP [Public Policy Polling] last polled the question in May, Wisconsinites narrowly favoured booting Walker from office before his current term is up, with 50% for it and 47% against it. Now that margin has reversed (47-50). Republicans, already almost unanimously against a recall, are now even more so (8% in favour and 89% opposed three months ago, and 6-94 now). On top of that, those in the middle of the fray, independents, have moved from 50-47 for a recall, just like the overall electorate, to 46-50 against.
On top of that, voters are not particularly upset with last week’s recall election results. 43% are happy with the outcomes, and 39% are unhappy.
As PPP’s Tom Jensen told Talking Points Memo:
“I think there’s a certain segment of voters in Wisconsin — somewhere around 10% of the population — that is generally opposed to the concept of recalls regardless of how they feel about how things are going in the state. We’ve seen that in the State Senate recalls so far- the polls have universally moved in the closing days in favour of the incumbents, both Democratic and Republican. When folks get off the fence they’re tending to vote anti-recall.”
Three bouts of failure described by much of the mainstream press as three approaching triumphs for the blue model agenda: it begins to look like a pattern.
To the extent that they think about it — as opposed to simply letting their little lights artlessly shine — liberal journalists seem to think that acting like cheerleaders strengthens their team. It doesn’t. That more conservative candidates and causes face hostile media scrutiny that liberal lions don’t makes the conservatives tougher and more battle tested. It can ground their political calculations more securely in reality; if there are any gaping flaws in conservative arguments, programs or personnel, they can be reasonably sure that a vigilant mainstream media will point them out in great and loving detail.
This is not always a blessing, but surprisingly often, it is. More hostile media scrutiny would have convinced Senator John Kerry that his Vietnam record could not anchor his presidential campaign. It would have made then Vice President Gore much more aware of what a liability it is that so many voters heard him as condescending and elitist. It would have alerted President Obama to the critical flaws in the congressional porkfest loosely but inaccurately referred to as a ‘stimulus package’. It would have let the greens know that their carbon treaty concept was an obvious flop before they wasted precious time and money on a decade long unicorn hunt.
Over and over again in modern American politics, liberals have developed “frames” and strategies for key issues that they think will shift the debate their way. Over and over again the echo chamber of the liberal press resounds with praises of the new approach. And over and over again liberals “unexpectedly” get sucker punched by conservative counter attacks a more critical press would have forecast as both inevitable and deadly.
Sometimes one wonders: is the liberal press secretly taking the Koch brothers’ money?