Money talks: Wisconsin's recall election
Last night, Wisconsin voters took to the polls in record numbers to vote on the recall of Republican governor Scott Walker. Walker, with 53 percent of the vote, beat out Democratic challenger Tom Barrett, becoming the first governor in history to survive a recall vote.
The vote comes more than a year after Walker tried to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. In our August 2011 issue, we explored the history of Catholic support for unions and how the protests that arose in Wisconsin divided Catholics in the state.
Without any limit to the amount of money that could be donated between the time the recall was announced up until the time of the election, Walker ended up outspending Barrett about seven to one, with about $30 million at his disposal, compared to Barrett’s $4 million. (Or: Walker spent about $22 dollars per vote, while Barrett’s totals came to about $3.50 spent per vote.) With that money, Walker was able to buy up ad space and spend money on mailings and phone calls. Walker’s campaign denied responsibility for a series of robocalls telling people that if they signed the petition to recall Walker they did not need to cast a vote in the recall. However, even if the campaign wasn’t directly involved, ardent supporters with plenty of resources at their disposal sure were.
Some will say that democracy has shown itself and that the people of Wisconsin have spoken about who they want as their governor. But, are you still really letting the people decide if the scales are tipped so far in one candidate’s ability to spend on campaigning and advertising? A donation to a campaign signifies an agenda to see that candidate elected, which is true in any political party.
Walker said on Tuesday night, “Tonight we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions.”
However, that’s not the message that I got from Walker. The message I heard was that if you have money, you can win elections.