Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, David Axelrod, Medicare, meet the press, Mitt Romney, News media, Obamacare, Paul Ryan, Politics, Reporters, Scott Walker, Todd Akin on August 21, 2012 |
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One other point about the salutary role of the press in exposing Representative Todd Akin’s ignorant views about rape and women: the press can only fill that role if reporters actually act like reporters.
Unfortunately, the situation that produced Akin’s Waterloo — where one public figure sits down with one reporter to answer questions — happens all too rarely these days. How often do political figures even appear on shows like Meet The Press? Rather than a Senator, foreign leader, or some other actual public servant, the guest often is a campaign manager or other unelected individual who is there to voice the talking points of a particular candidate, campaign, or party. Moreover, much of such shows is devoted to “roundtable discussions” where celebrity journalists who never have done much real reporting express their opinions about the “issues of the day.” No doubt the producers of those Sunday morning shows think the arguments that ensue make for “better television” than the Meet The Press format of the ’60s, where a panel of three serious, gray-suited reporters respectfully fired questions at that week’s guest.
To illustrate the point, consider the first Meet The Press that aired after Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. The two “newsmaker” guests were Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Obama campaign guru David Axelrod, followed by a panel of journalists arguing about the impact of “Obamacare” and Ryan’s proposed budget on Medicare. Does anyone really expect much in the way of “news” (or enlightenment, for that matter) from such a lineup? Given the focus on Medicare, rather than featuring an ever-present hired gun like Axelrod or a tiresome panel of TV personalities, how about bringing in the chief actuary of the Medicare program, or one of the Medicare trustees, and have knowledgeable reporters who cover Medicare ask them some meaningful questions about the programs, its condition, and the expected impact of the competing proposals?
The important role of the press in our democracy means that the news media must actually be willing to play that role: as the skeptical, neutral questioner interested in ferreting out the truth, rather than the point-of-view advocate for one position or another. We can celebrate the role of the press in showing something important and disturbing about Congressman Akin, but we can also regret that the press — due to disinterest, or laziness, or a concern for ratings — doesn’t play that role as often as it should, or could.
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Posted in America, Ohio, Politics, tagged America, Collective Bargaining, Labor Unions, Ohio, Politics, President Obama, Public Employee Unions, Republican governors, Scott Walker, Wisconsin on June 6, 2012 |
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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker became the first American governor to survive a recall election last night. In a rematch of a 2010 contest, he gathered more than 53 percent of the vote and beat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett — by a margin slightly better than that Walker achieved in 2010.
As is often the case with such events, people want to draw sweeping inferences from this one event. We’ll see many articles about what this means for the future of the public employee unions that brought about Walker’s recall election after he pushed through reforms of public employee collective bargaining rights, for Republican governors in other states, and for President Obama’s reelection prospects. It’s a natural human tendency, I think, to want to see a broad pattern in isolated events — but often those perceived patterns don’t really exist.
Public employee unions aren’t going away. They lost in their bid to unseat Walker in Wisconsin, but they defeated another public employee collective bargaining law in Ohio. Where’s the pattern in that? Members of public employee unions, like other members of private-sector unions, believe in collective bargaining rights. One reason they objected so strongly to Walker’s reforms is that they believe the reforms improperly interfere with fairly gained, bargained-for rights and benefits, won after hard-fought negotiations in which union members may have given in on other issues. In their eyes, the fact that taxpayers and people in the private sector might view those rights and benefits as overly rich is irrelevant, because they are stalwart believers in the collective bargaining process that achieved those rights. Public employee unions in other states aren’t going to roll over just because the unions did not prevail in Wisconsin. If they did, it would undercut the entire idea of public employee labor unions.
I also doubt that Walker’s win is going to charge Republican governors in other states with enthusiasm for taking on public employee unions and pushing sweeping reforms — at least, no more so than is absolutely necessary to achieve balanced budgets and govern responsibly. Walker prevailed, but his actions precipitated a bruising political battle, sidetracked his term with a recall campaign and election, and ultimately resulted in more than $60 million in campaign spending, much of it by organizations outside of Wisconsin. It’s therefore no surprise that Walker was playing the pipes of peace after yesterday’s result. Although politicians love to talk about “fighting” for voters, one way or another, most of them are inveterate compromisers who aren’t looking to pick a knife fight, especially when they know they can’t count on advocacy groups supporting their efforts to the same extent that occurred in Wisconsin.
As for President Obama, he largely stayed out of the Wisconsin recall election fray and will be able to depict it as a one-shot, one-state result that doesn’t have broad national significance. How do you glean national trends from an election rematch that produced pretty much the same result as the initial 2010 election between Walker and Barrett? If there is a lesson there, it is that voters stuck with Walker, despite all of the controversy and protests, in a contest that involved extraordinary spending by both sides. But how many of those Walker voters cast their ballots because they object, in principle, to recall elections under such circumstances? How many were motivated by special concerns not found in the national electorate? I’m just not convinced that the Wisconsin results in June are going to predict much with respect to national results in November.
The Wisconsin recall election is an interesting mid-year event that may be the start of a trend — or it may not.
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Next Tuesday, June 5, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to vote in the “recall” election of Republican Governor Scott Walker. Political junkies, in Wisconsin and nationally, will be watching the results carefully.
The recall election is the result of a petition drive that began after Walker pushed through reforms to address Wisconsin’s fiscal problems — reforms that public employee unions didn’t like, but that appear to be working and allowing the state and local governments to get their budgets under control.
The recall election is a rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial election between Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Huge amounts of money — much of it from out of state — is being spent on the election. Interestingly, Barrett’s chief objection to Walker doesn’t seem to be the merits of the reforms that produced the recall election. Instead, he has raised other, minor issues and seems most troubled because he thinks Walker has been “divisive.” If a politician has been successful in dealing with seemingly intractable problems, however, he’s likely to have upset some people. Why should that disqualify him from finishing his term and standing for reelection at that point?
The Wisconsin election just shows why recall elections are a bad idea and should be reserved for rare circumstances — like criminal activity by the incumbent. Recalls should not be had just because a segment of the population disagrees with the incumbent’s approach to issues. Elections should have consequences, and when they do the losing side shouldn’t be able to force costly redos that just distract from the public business.
The polls are indicating that Walker will survive, and national Democrats are downplaying the notion that the Wisconsin election reflects the national mood come November. I don’t think they need to worry about that. Wisconsin has been mired in a bitter brew of its own making over the past few years, and I’m sure that many voters just want to bring an end to the constant fighting and let Walker finish his term. I’d be cautious about drawing too many national inferences from the Wisconsin results.
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Posted in America, Ohio, Politics, tagged America, Ohio, Politics, Public Employee Collective Bargaining, Public Employee Unions, Scott Walker, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Recall Elections on August 9, 2011 |
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Remember Wisconsin? It’s been knocked off the front pages by more pressing stories, but earlier this year Wisconsin dominated the national news when Governor Scott Walker sought to reform public employee collective bargaining laws, Democratic Senators fled the state, and protesters occupied the Wisconsin Statehouse for days.
Today Wisconsin is back in the news, writing another chapter in the saga of the public employee collective bargaining law. Six Republican Senators face unusual mid-summer recall votes today. If Democrats can win three of those seats, the Wisconsin Senate will flip to Democratic control. Proponents and opponents of the collective bargaining law have poured millions of dollars — at least $28 million, according to estimates — into advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. Polling data indicates that all six of the races are close, with turnout likely to tell the tale. And who can predict how many voters will show up at the polls on a hot summer day?
In Ohio, there is special interest in Wisconsin because the Buckeye State followed Wisconsin’s lead in enacting a public employee collective bargaining law. In Ohio, the fight will resume in November, when the electorate will vote on a public referendum on that law. Wisconsin’s votes today could be an indicator of how the political tides are flowing. I also wonder whether the recent national news about government spending, debt, and credit ratings will have any effect on voters. Wisconsin Republicans have defended the collective bargaining law, in part, on the ground that it has meant savings for cash-strapped state and local government entities. If recent events have made voters more concerned about government spending, that may work to the Republicans’ advantage.
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Politics, Public Employee Collective Bargaining, Public Employee Unions, Scott Walker, State Budgets, Teachers' Unions, Wisconsin on March 10, 2011 |
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Wisconsin — home to the Green Bay Packers and their cheesehead fans, different varieties of beer, and countless solid Midwestern burghers of Germanic lineage — has a long and storied tradition of political ferment and dissent. With the bizarre happenings in Madison over the past month or so, Wisconsin is living up to its rich political and cultural reputation.
Three weeks ago, Wisconsin Senate Democrats fled the state, hoping that last-ditch tactic would prevent a quorum and therefore a vote on a bill to change collective bargaining rules for government employees. They believed their procedural “Hail Mary” — coupled with constant protests by teacher and public employee unions and union supporters in the Wisconsin state capitol — would exert pressure on Governor Scott Walker and Republicans who supported the bill. The Republicans held firm, however, and the parties were at an impasse.
Now the Republicans have made the Democrats pay for their high-risk tactic. Yesterday, while the Democrat Senators remained out-of-state, Republicans stripped the collective bargaining bill of the budgeting provisions that presented the quorum problems and then passed it through the Wisconsin Senate. Because they chose to absent themselves from the state, no Democrats were present for the final vote or to raise objections to the procedure. The bill now goes to the state assembly. In the meantime, protesters flooded, once again, into the Wisconsin state capitol.
In the linked article, the leader of Wisconsin Senate Democrats accuses Republicans of showing “disrespect for the people of Wisconsin” and conspiring to “take government away from the people.” We’ll have to see whether that spin has any resonance with Wisconsin voters — but it is hard to see how Republicans who stayed on the job in the face of public protest, waited for weeks for petulant Democrats to return to the governmental process, and then enacted legislation in a public forum in the Democrats’ absence, showed more “disrespect for the people of Wisconsin” than the Democrats who tried to take their ball and go home.
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