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Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011

Full Speed Ahead

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By definition, last week's state Senate recall elections all were fought in Republican districts.

Not only were all six incumbents Republicans, but they were Republicans who managed to win election in 2008 at the same time President Barack Obama was winning a Democratic landslide in Wisconsin.

Some national observers overlooked that in proclaiming a victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker when two out of six Republican state senators lost their jobs for supporting Walker's radical right-wing agenda.

Sure, Democrats were sorely disappointed they failed to win just one more Republican seat to give Democrats control of the state Senate. That would have given them veto power to prevent further political destruction in Wisconsin by Walker and legislative Republicans.

But you can bet legislative Republicans are feeling the heat from losing one-third of the recalls.

The political arrogance of Republican leaders violating the law to lock the public out of the Capitol and pass the most extreme legislation may already be history.

State Senate Republicans know they escaped by the skin of their teeth. None wants to be the next Republican incumbent thrown out of office for supporting extreme right-wing legislation that offends moderate voters in both parties.

That's why we suddenly hear Republicans, amazingly even Walker, talking about working together with Democrats in a bipartisan way.

Yes, those are the same Democrats that Republicans ran roughshod over for seven months and targeted for political assassination in a corrupt redistricting plan designed to rig future elections.

And if Republicans recognize the real significance of last week's recalls, you can be sure Democrats do as well. That's why it's full speed ahead to next year's recall of Scott Walker.

If anger against Republicans results in two out of six incumbents losing their jobs in Republican districts, imagine a statewide recall election in which all Democrats, union members, schoolteachers, environmentalists and other victims of the Republican budget get to vote.

A dishonest redistricting plan doesn't do Republicans any good in a statewide election. Everybody will be voting. Significantly, about a third of those who voted for Walker last year were union members.

There are many other very positive signs for a Walker recall.

Craig Gilbert, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Washington political reporter who reads election results very well, points out past voting in the recall districts was about 3% more Republican than the state as a whole. Despite that, the Republican vote in the recalls was three percentage points lower than it was for Walker in those same districts.

Democrats see that as a six- or seven-point reduction in the Republican vote as a result of opposition to the actions of Walker and legislative Republicans.

Change in Milwaukee Suburbs

What happened in Milwaukee's North Shore suburbs can't be good news for Republicans either.

Yes, it's true state Sen. Alberta Darling, the Cruella de Vil of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, managed to withstand a strong challenge from Democratic state Rep. Sandy Pasch.

But Republican leaders saw an amazing flip of the once solidly Republican North Shore Milwaukee suburbs to the Democratic Party.

Democrat Pasch ran ahead of Darling in Milwaukee's northern suburbs of Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Glendale, Fox Point, Bayside and Brown Deer. All that saved Darling's job were the late votes reported by Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus.

Late reporting has become a pattern for Nickolaus. In April, she took two days to report Brookfield's votes in the razor-close Supreme Court race. Democrats strongly suspect Nickolaus waits to see how many votes Republicans need to win.

The rejection of Republican candidates by Milwaukee suburban voters is what prompted Republicans to unethically gerrymander Darling's district to eliminate Milwaukee County voters and replace them with more right-wing voters from Waukesha and Ozaukee counties.

Walker and state Republicans are running out of extreme right-wingers as they continue to pursue the tea party's radical agenda.

The tea party is the scruffy tail wagging the Republican dog now. We may be kidding ourselves, but many of us who grew up around Republicans do not believe most Republicans are as extreme and hateful as the ugly bunch that took power with Walker in 2010.

Most of the Republicans we know do not want to destroy public education. They certainly don't want to eliminate Medicare and Social Security like Congressman Paul Ryan and other New Age torchbearers do in their war against Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt's "socialism" that began back in the 1930s.

Decent Republicans want to create more jobs to restore the American economy, not gut public employment and block economic stimulus in hopes of intentionally sending the country back into another deep recession to make President Obama weaker in next year's election.

With the Walker recall coinciding with the presidential election, Wisconsin's future would be determined by the widest possible representation of the electorate instead of the narrow, mean-spirited minority that temporarily seized power last fall.