Scott Walker's triumph in the Wisconsin recall once more underscores not only the problem of labor, but of the Democratic Party. He doubled his winning margin from 2010 from 3 percent to 6 percent, besting those like Ed Schultz who behaved as though they were infallible when it came to Badger State politics. By extension, it also underscored the increasing vulnerability of President Barack Obama.
Of course, some Democrats rationalized the results by spinning that it was just clearly a local issue and they glibly claimed that forcing a recall was a victory of sorts. This style of thinking illustrates how Democrats are out of touch with the opinions of the American voter. Simply pointing to Walker's heavy spending or how some Wisconsin voters were ostensibly fed up with conflict is wholly inadequate in explaining the outcome. If anything, Walker probably wasted money, all the voters knew what the stakes were, with little margin for blaming process for the Democrats defeat.
A pattern has emerged after each election. The New Jersey and Virginia governor's races in 2009 won by GOP candidates were written off, as was Wisconsin, as strictly local affairs. A mega landslide in 2010 was explained as the American voter simply not knowing the issues, being influenced by the supposedly sinister "tea party." The fact remains that outside of the Kentucky governor's race in 2011, little has gone right for Democrats. The only common thread is after a defeat, the spin remains virtually the same.
One admirable tendency of the GOP is "never complain, never explain." If they lose, they admit it and retool. After 2008, they went back to work and refashioned their message. Certainly they spent money to do it, but no more or less than George Soros and move on did for Obama. Winning is the object behind election campaigns and the last thing you do is blame the voter. Perhaps Democrats might have to face an unpleasant fact that there may have been buyer's remorse from the beginning of Obama's term. Certainly Jimmy Carter in 1976 went from flavor of the year to a candidate who barely eked out a narrow win against Gerald Ford. From the day he placed his hand on the Bible, he was on the defensive. His slogan, "a government as good as its people," was as vague as Obama's "change you can believe in."
Governing is a bit different, specifics are placed on the table and they are no longer emotional abstractions. Obama's health care initiative was unpopular with too big a sector of the electorate. Also, his administration resembled George W. Bush's last few months. High rhetoric and lavish promises sometimes give voters the impression that the delivery does not match their expectations. And if Obama complains it is the result of a recalcitrant Congress, he certainly must have known there was not agreed- upon consensus. What were Republicans supposed to do, roll over? The GOP was fed up with George W's domestics initiatives. It does not stand to reason they would like his Democratic successor's programs. If you please, Obama should have recognized that ideologically his program was challenged from the beginning.
Thus, the White House and the Democratic Party appear too clever by half when they try to explain away clear results. Not everything is a conspiracy of John Roberts or the Koch brothers. The gnawing fear must be that in this time the public might object to the Democratic remedies. Elections have consequences, and it is a failure not to squarely analyze them.
Obama and his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton both have a tendency to try to tell voters what they allegedly really think, a dangerous tactic if ever there was one. Simply, Obama, like Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 or Harry Truman in 1948, has to run from behind and been smartly christened. If the current course is not changed, he can add another defeat at the poll to his already substantial list.