Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A Political Scientist! A Political Scientist! My Kingdom For A Political Scientist!

Given we are basically a dime-a-dozen breed you would think folks would make use of us (or our work) a bit more often. Whoever Wins, WI Supreme Court Election Shows Big Labor Less Formidible [sic] Than Expected

Last night, the movement to save America and the states from corruption and insolvency may have suffered a setback in Wisconsin. Prosser has a razor-thin lead, but almost all the outstanding votes are in Kloppenburg counties, and for whatever reason, Democrats seem to usually benefit from recounts.... On paper, the reformers were severely disadvantaged. Both candidates agreed to run on only $300,000 in public financing, meaning they could not directly operate on the scale this election required. The unions’ well-established political organizations, compounded by likely-stronger recall petition teams that they were able to re-purpose, looked to be an enormous advantage... Big labor should have been far more excited and mobilized than the reformers. Non-public-safety public employee unions’ ability to function in Wisconsin is at stake if the Budget Repair Bill sticks. Special interests with tangible benefits at stake are generally far more motivated to act than taxpayers as a whole, whose losses are less direct and less apparent. In national elections, when every political machine is firing on all cylinders, there are many competing sources of excitement, but in special elections, concentrated interests usually have an advantage. In retrospect, Wisconsin, with its recall provisions and upcoming key judicial election, was an especially tough venue for a battle between the interests of the many and the interests of the few. Despite all these disadvantages, and regardless of who ultimately prevails in this election, the reformers fought big labor to a virtual draw.
This is all well and good, however, it ignores a basic component of reality. Prosser was an incumbent. Even in such unfashionable areas of modern politics as state supreme court elections incumbents have built in advantages. Indeed, state supreme court justices enjoy more of a boost from incumbency than governors (85% rate of reelection for supremes, 81% for governors.) Add that to the fact pro-Prosser forces substantially outspent pro-Kloppenburg forces on media buys (who only managed to spend 62% of what the pro-Prosser groups did), and I think it would be foolish of anyone to think this shows weakness on the part of the Democrats. Indeed, that is a big part of my problem with Walker and Company. They are acting as if the win they enjoyed in November means the Wisconsin electorate has fundamentally transformed itself. There is no indication this is the case. None. Actually, Walker is acting exactly like Obama did after the 2008 election. It was a stupid thing to do when a Democrat did it, and its still a stupid thing when a Republican does it.


Matthew Knee said...

A quick response:

1. The post was about the capacity for unions for launch successful retaliatory strikes against those who challenge them, so whatever incumbency advantage exists is an asset that all of their targets for retaliation will posses.

2. Incumbency advantage is mostly a proxy for other things - most of which do not apply in this race. Incumbents have a fundraising advantage, but both took public funds, so there is none. Incumbents may have existing political machines behind them, but the race was largely taken over by third parties, so that is not so much of a factor. Incumbents often do not face serious challenges, inflating their reelection rate, but Prosser did this time out. Incumbency advantage in many elected positions is rooted in constituent service, but that does not exist in judicial races. Incumbents often have a district or state that is ideologically more in line with them than likely challengers, but Wisconsin is pretty purple. Prosser did perhaps have some built-up goodwill and name recognition, but the race became in large part a referendum on Walker and the legislature, so even that is to be pushed aside.

-Matt Knee

Matthew Knee said...

3. Additionally, I did not say that tangling with the unions would be costless or that Wisconsin has shifted fundamentally to the right. I don't believe either of those things. I was very clear that there will be costs, just that those costs are less than many expected.

I said that big labor underperformed expectations, that balancing the budget will cost political capital regardless, and that success in this area promotes success in others. Thus, the marginal cost of challenging the might of public employees unions rather than someone else might not be so severe in the long run.

Rich Horton said...

Hey Matt,

Thanks for dropping by.

"I did not say that tangling with the unions would be costless or that Wisconsin has shifted fundamentally to the right."

I realize that. But it also seems clear that Walker is thinking that way, at least about the electorate.

As for expectations...I'm not sure there is a good way to measure those. There was no polling done on this race, and certainly no tracking polls so it is really difficult to know what the real sense of it should have been.

Given the lack of polling it also becomes hard to figure out just how much of a proxy battle this became. Certainly I agree it was one - Madison had voter turnouts in the 70% range (though they also had a mayoral race) - but given no hard data anyone's take (including mine) would have to be considered an onageristic estimate at best. To expect the vote to mirror the worst of Walker's poll numbers I feel would be a poor measure.

TO my mind Walker's only real chance for long term success is to be a reformer and not an iconoclast. There simply is a touch of jacobinism in Walker I'm not warming to, and I'm not the only conservative feeling that way in this state.

Atlanta Roofing said...

I am also a constituent of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. I look forward to her re-election as my Representative and as head of the Democratic National Committee. She has the skill set, the tenaciousness, and the brilliant mind necessary to restore the Democratic Party to its proper place in American society...that is, the Party of the working person, the parent, the schoolteacher, the Postal worker, the trash collector...everyday, ordinary Americans. YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!!