Gary is an author, trial lawyer, Mequon-area resident and town of Cedarburg supervisor. He is a columnist for the News Graphic and writes for several Wisconsin area magazines and is a national columnist with The American Thinker and PJ Media. He lives with his wife, Lisa, and has three sons ages 18 to 28. Gary won Ozaukee County in his bid for the Wisconsin Assembly's 60th District in 2011, but came up just 58 votes short.
The November 4 News Graphic op-ed by Tim Schilke describing last May's aborted effort by public employee unions to recall State Senator Glenn Grothman as "an example of democracy" twists the facts and gets Wisconsin political history wrong. The piece purports to lift up conservative columnist Owen Robinson's denouncement of perpetual recall elections in Wisconsin as an example of Republican "political hypocrisy." But it quickly devolves into an angry rant about everything from conservative talk radio to U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
The recent recall election virus was introduced as an airborne phenomenon in Wisconsin not by Republicans, and not by disgruntled Wisconsin working families. Rather, it was introduced by national union groups, liberal political organizations, and a whole lot of public employee benefits junkies who don't call Wisconsin their home but were more than happy to turn it into their Waterloo. These organizations pumped nearly 20 million non-Wisconsin dollars into an effort to overturn the 2010 elections just months after the ballot ink had dried. The speciously-named organization "We Are Wisconsin" was especially shrill and played a key role in stirring the recall pot here. It prided itself on the "grassroots energy of ordinary Wisconsinites." There was only one problem – its members weren't from Wisconsin. It turns out the PAC was a clearinghouse for national union dollars and virtually all of its money came from places like New Jersey and from the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and the United Foods and Commercial Workers Union. Its leaders, like Kelly Steele, are veterans of Democratic campaigns in Washington and Oregon.
An unbiased look at the timeline of recall events as they actually occurred here reveals that within days after fourteen Democrat state senators walked off the job and even before Walker's Budget Repair Bill was signed into law, a committee to recall Republican Senator Luther Olsen had already formed. Shortly thereafter, signatures to recall Republican Senator Dan Kapanke were filed. Six days later, in April, signatures to recall Republican Senator Randy Hopper were filed. Six more days passed and a petition to recall Republican Senator Sheila Harsdorf was in the hands of the Government Accountability Board. More signatures to recall Republicans Alberta Darling and Robert Cowles soon followed. Interestingly, these recalls by Democrats were not about issues, they were about power. None of the aforementioned Republican senators had made Walker's reforms or reigning in out-of-control collective bargaining an issue in their campaigns. In response, and as a matter of political survival, Republicans challenged three of the Democrat Senators who had moved to Illinois.
We all know the result. National union muscle and virtually unlimited Democrat dollars from around the country couldn't stop Governor Walker from getting his common sense reforms through. Union supporters from coast to coast – smarting Wisconsin's seminal successes at restoring fiscal sanity and curtailing taxpayer-funded public employee salaries and benefits unheard of in private sector - failed in their effort to replace a conservative state supreme court justice with a liberal one to flip the ideological balance of the court before it had a chance to rule on whether Walker's reforms were constitutional. Their efforts to recall enough Republican state senators to flip control of the chamber back to the Democrats came up dry.
The "Mulligan Revolution" appeared to be dead, but as November 15 draws near it seems there is yet another recall petition drive in the formerly lavish benefits-stained hands of disgruntled union employees – an attempt to force Scott Walker to stand again for election before the end of his term in 2014. Personally, I am delighted to see the left spend so much in a futile effort reminiscent of a red-faced child lying on the ground kicking and screaming. It means fewer dollars to be spent elsewhere. Governor Scott Walker will not be recalled. But Owen Robinson is right. Battling big unions and unlimited resources from around the country does come at a price. Instead of restoring jobs and removing the tumbleweeds blowing across empty corporate parking lots across our state, Walker will have to raise money, campaign, and appear in even more television spots, just to stay in office. You can call it democracy, but how long will democracy work if duly-elected public officials are always up for election?
Most Wisconsinites are fatigued, confused, and overwhelmed by the whole recall experience. Democrats failed in their goal to take the majority in the Senate. Republicans failed to unseat Democratic senators that fled the state. Did you know that in many of the recall elections, the candidate did not even gain as many votes as signatures on the recall petition? Republican Rep. Robin Vos has proposed legislation which would force recall committees to provide “a statement of reason related to the official responsibilities of the person being recalled.” Currently, Wisconsin is one of only a small minority of states that allow legislative recalls, and the current process does not even require a reason for state officials. Liberals like Schilke claim that Vos' bill "limits democracy" and conservatives like Vos say that recall elections "undermine democracy." Caught in the middle, once again, is the Wisconsin taxpayer.
Defending this insanity by saying "they did it first" isn't helpful. Schilke points a finger at the Jim Doyle recall exploratory committee of early 2009 and blames it on the Tea Party – a popular Democrat target because of their tremendous successes. But the truth is that this exploratory committee was sponsored by a group called Wisconsinites Interests Now (WIN). Unlike the pretend We Are Wisconsin group, WIN was legitimately the voice of Wisconsin families tired of too much government spending. It was made up of nearly 5,000 people from all 72 Wisconsin counties. But it was not the Tea Party. Sorry, Tim. History books show us that the Tea Party wasn't organized until well after the effort to recall Doyle. You'll have to blame something else on the Tea Party.
As a further example of Republican "political hypocrisy", Schilke turns his sights away from the Tea Party and focuses them on conservative talk radio. He magically transforms Owen Robinson's criticism of perpetual recalls into an imaginary complaint about "perpetual politics" – which, of course, nobody is complaining about. American has always been perpetually political. There is nothing wrong with it. Unless, of course, you're a liberal and you can't understand why conservative talk radio is hugely successful while liberal media file for bankruptcy and fail despite taxpayer subsidies.
Conservatives are tired of political games. We are tired of deficit spending, out of control and unsustainable entitlements, and the massively-destructive legislation known as ObamaCare. We are tired of illegal immigration, apologies for America, a government bureaucracy spinning out of control, the nonsense of anthropogenic global warming, job-killing government regulations, failed redistributionist policies, attacks on capitalism, endless taxes, and the unconstitutional attack on any reference to God in the public sector. We are not tired of politics.