JONATHAN CHAIT MARCH 3, 2011
The interesting question that's hung over the Cheddar Revolution is what the endgame is. Democrats is the State Senate can't stay away forever. Governor Scott Walker seems implacably hostile to compromise. (Listen to his conversation with pretend David Koch, and his invocations of Ronald Reagan and the Berlin Wall suggest a man whose entire political identity rests upon a refusal to compromise.) One possibility is that a handful of Republicans in the Senate will force his hand. One moderate is speaking out against Walker, but it's hard to imagine three state Senators submarining a governor who has attracted a mass national following among his party.
What other options remain? That would narrow it down to total surrender, or else flip the Senate by successfully recalling three Republicans. Democrats are now pursuing the option, reports Greg Sargent:
The Wisconsin Democratic Party has decided to throw its weight behind a nascent grassroots drive to recall a number of GOP state senators, a move that will considerably increase the pressure on them to break with Governor Scott Walker, the Dem party chair confirms to me.
"The proposals and the policies that Republicans are pushing right now are not what they campaigned on, and they're extreme," the party chair, Mike Tate, said in an interview. "Something needs to be done about it now. We're happy to stand with citizens who are filling papers to recall these senators."
Previously, Wisconsin Dems had not publicly supported talk about recalling GOP Senators, in hopes of privately reaching a negotiated solution to the crisis.
The recall is an easily abused process. But this is exactly the kind of thing it's made for--a party trying to advance a highly unpopular policy change that it did not campaign on.
Here are the eight Wisconsin Republicans eligible for immediate recall, with their district's 2004 and 2008 presidential vote breakdown:
- Robert Cowles (District 2): 2004 – Bush +15%; 2008 – Obama +6%
- Alberta Darling (District 8): 2004 – Bush +7%; 2008 – Obama +4%
- Sheila Harsdorf (District 10): 2004 – Bush +3%; 2008 – Obama +2%
- Luther Olsen (District 14): 2004 – Bush +13%; 2008 – Obama +5%
- Randy Hopper (District 18): 2004 – Bush +15%; 2008 – Obama +4%
- Glen Grothman (District 20): 2004 – Bush +39%; 2008 – McCain +27%
- Mary Lazich (District 28): 2004 – Bush +29%; 2008 – McCain +21%
- Dan Kapanke (District 32): 2004 – Kerry +7%; 2008 – Obama +23%
I see several possibilities here. Getting the recall election--you need 15,000 signatures in each district--is the hard part. It requires a mass mobilization and organization effort, as it should. The SEIU is pledging support--I bet other unions, and the mass of demonstrators in Madison, join in. It's more constructive than playing guitar and eating pizza.
Winning the election is much easier--it's all about turnout, and right now Democrats in Wisconsin are as energized as can be.
It's possible that the credible threat of recall will prompt a few GOP Senators to cut a deal. Failing that, the Cheddar Revolution will come down to the success or failure of the recall campaign.