Incumbent Walker should be allowed to finish term.
LET’S SAY IT STRAIGHT: Scott Walker doesn’t deserve to lose his job.
Nothing he has done in just under a year and a half in office is so off-the-charts intolerable that he should become the first Wisconsin governor tossed out by voters in the June 5 recall election.
Yes, some of his policies — particularly all but ending collective bargaining for public employees — involved radical change and enraged substantial numbers of citizens. Critics say the governor’s policies are not just wrong, but amount to ideological warfare and court economic disaster. Supporters say Walker is changing Wisconsin’s investment climate and shedding its anti-business reputation, which will lead to a strong economic turnaround as time goes by.
Our take: After less than 18 months it’s too early to tell, and the outcome is unclear. But Walker has made a number of business-friendly changes that are promising. Let’s see how that works out the rest of his four-year term.
FRANKLY, THE UNION issue just won’t hunt with the general public. The vast majority of private sector workers have paid out of their own pockets a growing portion of rising health insurance costs for years. Likewise, most private retirement plans rely on individual savings to a large degree. The idea that private sector workers would feel some sort of outrage because Walker made public employees kick in for their insurance and retirement plans, never made sense.
In fact, if Walker had been more tactful and less confrontational on the issue of collective bargaining rights we doubt there would have been a recall. If the governor had instead reformed the mediation-arbitration system and, perhaps, removed certain volatile items from the negotiating table — health insurance, for example — his overall approval rating likely would have been much too high to tempt recallers.
Unfortunately, that’s not what he did. Now Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of being the most polarized state in America. Walker blames the unions for that, and the unions blame Walker.
They’re both right. Walker’s my-way-or-the-highway style, refusing to build consensus or talk to political opponents, invites turmoil. Unions and their supporters have been eager to oblige.
The result is a state mired in chaos and uncertainty, which clearly has damaged Wisconsin’s ability to rebound economically. Neither side can escape blame for this unsightly mess.
ON JUNE 6, the chaos must stop. If Walker loses the June 5 vote, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is Wisconsin’s new governor, the war should not start anew with Republicans plotting revenge.
And if Walker wins, the opposition needs to stand down. That doesn’t mean opponents should bow and scrape and give Walker whatever he wants. It means it’s time to work with him to get Wisconsin’s economy moving and jobs growing.
Likewise, if Walker wins, he needs to swallow hard, ingest a little humility and knock off the bully style of governing. No one elected him emperor of Wisconsin. Nearly half the state rejected him in 2010. Odds are, the 2012 recall vote will be a squeaker, too.
The job description requires the winner to be governor of all the people, not just those who support him or give him money. The partisan warrior pose may make Walker a national hero to the hard right, but it has hurt this state. Walker should make room at the table for other voices. Those who disagree with Walker are not bad people. Sometimes, even, they’re right and he’s wrong — listening with an open mind can help avoid missteps that carry high costs in both dollars and goodwill.
HERE IN WISCONSIN, we ought to treat each other like friends and neighbors. This state lost its way, went temporarily insane. Whoever emerges as governor after the recall vote must fix that before real forward progress is likely to resume.
We believe Scott Walker has made many tough but good choices (along with a few cringe-worthy mistakes). We think he deserves the opportunity to carry on, pressing forward with both eyes fixed on jobs and the economy. We urge him to conduct himself in a much more inclusive way.
Judge him on the outcome, in 2014.
A FINAL WORD: The Walker-Barrett race is not the only one on June 5. Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is challenged by Democrat Mahlon Mitchell, president of the state firefighters union. We presume Walker supporters will vote for Kleefisch while Barrett supporters pick Mitchell. Since the Beloit Daily News previously has argued this is an unneeded, do-nothing, make-work job that wastes taxpayer dollars, the paper makes no endorsement for lieutenant governor. Additionally, a handful of Senate seats will be decided, with control of the body at stake. The current Senate breakdown is 16 Republicans and 16 Democrats, with one vacant seat. While we will make no specific endorsements, we believe Wisconsin would be best served if control of the Senate shifts to Democrats. Single-party control of all levers of power leads to overreach. Look south to complete Democrat control in Illinois to see that principle in practice. Likewise, the past 17 months of total Republican control in Madison contributed to the excesses, leading to polarization. The people are best served by divided government, in which neither party can impose its will and officials must search for some semblance of common ground to accomplish anything. Wisconsin has had enough government-by-steamroller.