Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pitiful. Just Pitiful.

Ten percent. That’s what was predicted for turnout at yesterday’s primary election, and that’s about what it was. 13% as of 8 this morning. When I voted at about 10:45 AM Tuesday, I was the 72nd voter in a township that has 3,900 registered voters.

What percentage of Egyptian voters do you think will turn out, when that country has its next election? Unfair comparison? I think not. Just food for thought.

Governor Walker was elected by a slim margin, 52% to 46% for Tom Barrett. Around two-thirds of the registered voters in Wisconsin turned out for the election. Walker most certainly does NOT have the huge mandate he talks about. But you know the story very well. People will call a talk show to complain about something, but won’t bother to vote.

Is Walker ramming the Budget Repair Bill through the legislature? Sure. Five decades of public policy, which originated right here in Wisconsin and spread to the rest of the nation, are about to be changed with very little – VERY little – public discussion or debate. But then again, he’s “ramming it through” the same way the Democrats in the U.S. Congress “rammed through” the health insurance changes. They had the votes to do it, and they did it. Just like Walker apparently will. And it’s not like he made it a secret about what he planned to do regarding collective bargaining, during the campaign.

I can’t imagine the remorse so many state workers must have now, if they didn’t bother to vote in the November election. Full disclosure: my wife, as a UW-Health employee, is a state employee, although she’s not a union member. It looks like she’ll take a pretty big hit in her take-home pay if Walker’s Budget Repair Bill passes as it stands now. UW-Health is a crazy-quilt combination of public and private elements, and it’s hard to know how the Budget Repair Bill will actually affect it.

Former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill coined the phrase “all politics is local”, and the way the Budget Repair Bill is playing out, it will affect every city, county, and municipality in the state, at an intensely local level. People who really understand politics will tell you that all the negative advertising that goes on during campaigns is designed to suppress the vote.

Moral of the story: there are no “unimportant” elections. Remember that in April.


  1. Primaries are one thing. They are merely tools parties use to choose candidates. If the party adherents are so blasé about who carries their standard and leads them into political battle that they drop out of the selection process, then they wll have to be content when the more energized are served first and better.

    General elections are another matter. Here's where public policy is at stake.

    A low turnout makes it easier for the better funded and better organized to manipulate the the outcome, or as we may have seen in recent years, to steal the election outright. This goes far toward explaining why the political establishment has shown utterly no interest in encouraging across-the-board voter turnout.

    The apathetic aid and abet the cabalists and so are co-conspirators in this sort of political crime. There should be a penalty for that sort of antisocial laziness.

    Actually some countries do have such penalties. My favorite approach to the problem is practiced in Australia, where voting has been compulsory for a century.

    If an adult Australian fails to vote in a general election, the sluggard is fined $20. Turnouts are traditionally high. Here the Australian Election Commission explains how the policy works:

  2. Well, Obama's and Walker's margins are virtually identical.

    But Walker CAN (more or less) state that he has a mandate based on the results in the Senate and Legislative races.

    As did Obama--for the first two years.