Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for August 19th, 2011

Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Wants to Limit Recall Elections Rather than Push Job Creation

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And here I thought I’d said all I possibly could about the need for Wisconsin recalls, when wouldn’t you know it?  There’s something new to be said due to Wisconsin Assemblyman Robin Vos, R-Rochester, as he wants to limit recall elections.  Vos calls this initiative “recall the recall elections.”

But why is he more worried about this than job creation, you ask?

You see, Vos is a far-right Republican who started saying in public only after two Republican state Senators were recalled from office and replaced by Democrats that the Wisconsin state constitution needs to be amended.  His new bill, which probably will pass the Republican-controlled Assembly and possibly pass the Republican-controlled Senate, would limit recalls to petitioners who “give a specific reason” like malfeasance in office or an actual criminal conviction — and that’s just wrong, especially considering Vos didn’t start making an issue of this until after Republicans Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke were successfully recalled and replaced on August 9, 2011.

As state Assemblyman Cory Mason (D-Racine) said in the Racine Journal-Times article on 8/10/2011 (note that date, please, as it’s one day after Hopper and Kapanke were recalled and replaced):

“This is the most self-serving piece of legislation we’ve seen so far this session,” said Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.

I agree completely.

Then, Mason went on to say that:

the right to recall state elected officials is a constitutional guarantee and Vos is proposing to limit that.

“I understand the motivation behind it,” Mason said. “But it seems more about keeping a Republican majority than protecting Wisconsin citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Vos pointed out in the above-quoted article from the Racine Journal-Times that an amendment to the state Constitution requires two separate, successful votes in the state Legislature, then the voters of Wisconsin will get the opportunity to vote the amendment up or down.  But a recent poll from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Survey Center pointed out that 78% of Wisconsinites surveyed — an overwhelming majority — believed that recalls are a good thing, while 50% — half the electorate surveyed — believe that the then-current recalls of Wisconsin state Senators made them feel better about Wisconsin politics.  Which would surely make getting the public to throw out recalls as a way to remove a legislator much less likely, now, wouldn’t it?

State Assembly minority leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) had this to say about Vos’s proposed amendment:

“On Tuesday we saw two Republicans who ran on a message of creating jobs, yet spent a session pursuing an anti-middle class agenda, being removed from office by the voters who felt betrayed by their actions. The results of the election should serve notice to all politicians that they cannot ignore the will of the people.
“Floating this constitutional amendment the day after successful recall elections that held legislators accountable appears to indicate that Republicans are frightened that future actions to hold them accountable will also be successful.
“We must encourage and build on the amazing outpouring of public involvement in democracy that we have seen this year. The people of Wisconsin deserve to know that we are listening to them and responding to their concerns.”

Then Barca reinforced the whole “job-creation” issue with this comment, also from the article quoted above:

“The first bipartisan bill should address the vital issues of job creation, job training and improving public education in Wisconsin.”

And Barca is far from alone.  Overwhelmingly, the American people as a whole (not just in Wisconsin) want politicians on both sides of the aisle to concentrate on jobs as this recent poll from the New York Times and CBS News shows.  As this poll pointed out, people are extremely frustrated with the United States Congress and a record 82% of people disapprove of them because most of the folks who are “on the ground” in America know that creating jobs is the only way to cut the budget deficit in the long run.  It’s also the only way to have a healthy, prosperous society, as the recent poll said: by a ratio of two to one, more Americans believe that job creation, not deficit reduction, is what American politicians should be talking about.

So as you see, it’s not just in Wisconsin that joblessness is an issue.  Even brothers of members of Congress are not immune, as recent comments by Representative Maxine Waters (D-California) and the actions of Republican Rep. Allen West (R-Florida) have shown.  West sent his brother to a job fair in Atlanta, and he’s admitted doing so in an e-mail response from his office to Ed Schultz’s “The Ed Show” on MSNBC.  This should be a link to the segment on Ed’s show last night that discusses the whole issue; note that West is the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which supported a job fair in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday.

But job fairs and unemployed people are not found only in Atlanta, which leads me back to to Governor Walker and Wisconsin, as the July unemployment numbers in Wisconsin went up to a seasonally-adjusted 7.8%.  Some of this may be due to the fact that many people finally received unemployment after federal Extended Benefits were accepted earlier this month by the Wisconsin Republicans in the state Legislature after being out of benefits since April 16, 2011.  (The Democrats had wanted to approve the benefits as soon as they were aware they were available, probably back in June of this year, but as the Republicans control both halves of the Legislature, the Ds had no power to bring a bill to the floor.)

Why is this noteworthy?  Well, only a month ago, Walker was all over the news crediting the “Wisconsin Miracle” as in June there had been a net increase in job creation, even though Media Matters debunked this — so the fact that the July numbers were bad just underscored how dubious the previous claims were.

I don’t know what the answers are.  But I do know that focusing on limiting recalls in Wisconsin is not the way to create any jobs.  Because the only way to “limit recalls” in the future is simply this: legislators from both parties need to be responsive to their constituents, including focusing on job creation rather than stupid and petty crap, rather than insist they’re right until they’re blue in the face no matter how many people tell them they’re wrong.

If Walker was a truly gifted politician, he’d realize this and start dialing his rhetoric — and his actions — way, way back in order to avoid his potential recall.  While the Wisconsin Rs should distance themselves from Vos’s bill as most of us in Wisconsin know that the Rs also pursued recalls of Democratic Senators — they just didn’t manage to get any of them out.  This means that any vote on “recalling the recall elections” will look extremely hypocritical at best, which will make every single member of the Assembly who votes for this vulnerable to being voted out in November 2012.

But my guess is that most of the Wisconsin Rs, including Walker and Vos, will continue to insist they have a “mandate” and that they’re right, until they’re all voted out by a disgusted Wisconsin electorate.