I’m still trying to wrap my head around the past 18 months of politics that has been sloshing around Wisconsin. I haven’t lived here long enough for the place to truly feel like home. It’s more like I’ve been doing extended field work.
So I graphed.
Anyways. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staffers Craig Gilbert (of the excellent Wisconsin Voter blog) and Emily Yount posted some nice graphs on comparing the exit polls from 2010-2012. But their multi-panel graph layout didn’t really illustrate the overall patterns of similarity between the 2010 electorate and the 2012 recall electorate. So I offer this up. Maybe I should have made a slopegraph?
Click on the graph to enjoy a larger version.
UPDATE Okay, okay. A rough slopegraph. I hope you’re happy now. Sheesh.
Follow The Money
The maps are nearly identical, at least at the resolution of individual counties. If anything, some of the red counties became slightly redder. The outcome in each case was essentially the same: the same people who voted for each candidate in 2010 are those who voted for them in 2012, with very little movement from one side to the other. In other words, no one’s mind was changed, essentially. This should be a stark warning for those contemplating gubernatorial recalls in other states, in the future.
On the other hand, the lopsided spending in this election, combined with the above map, may be the most telling thing about the election. Walker outspent Barrett by a margin of something like 7 to 1, and the clear majority of Walker’s money came from sources outside WI. That means, after 19 months in office, Walker had to spend a TON of money to produce the same electoral result, effectively, as in 2010. One wonders, if the spending situation were different, might the electoral map have shifted enough to change the outcome?
Lastly, despite his conciliatory tone last night, no one around Wisconsin expects Walker to offer anything more of an olive branch to the other side than the invitation he extended in his speech to legislators to come over to his house for beer and brats. Wisconsin union membership plummeted in the months after the bill was signed into law stripping them of collective bargaining rights. That’s no accident — if you can’t go on strike, why bother with union representation? — and is exactly the outcome the GOP appears to have sought. Prior to CU, there were really only two significant political spending blocks: business and trade unions. Of those two blocks, only unions could be shut down by the legislative process. Combine massive outside spending with razor-thin splits in state houses, and unions could be legislated away for good, removing the last major spending obstacle for the GOP. In the post-CU world, spending is everything, and it fundamentally moves election results. If CU was the first frontal assault on democracy, then the kill-the-unions tack the GOP has taken at the state level is the sucker punch from which it might not recover.
This race in Wisconsin is the most important race in the country before the presidential election. June 5th. Republicans think they’ve got it in the bag. And if they do, they’re on their way to a permanent structural advantage over the Democratic party for which there is no repair. There’s no way to undo it. And that will affect every race in every partisan election on every ballot. It is less than two weeks until the vote in Wisconsin. At this point, the Democrats should be fighting for this like the existence of their party depends on it. Because it does.