July 15, 2012
Recalling lessons from history
By Bill Kraus
The current edition of the State of Wisconsin Blue Book features an excellent essay by John Buenker describing the accomplishments of the 1911 state Legislature and then-Governor Francis McGovern. What they did was enact almost the entire Robert La Follette agenda. They did this despite the fact that the Legislature, which was composed of Socialists, Social Democrats, Democrats, Progressive Republicans, and stalwart Republicans appeared to be almost as dysfunctional as today’s.
The populist La Follette not surprisingly had recommended initiative, referendum, and no-fault recall additions to the state Constitution. All passed. All were subsequently rejected when submitted to popular votes in 1914.
Ten years later no-fault recall was resubmitted, passed, and approved. The motivation at the time was purely political. The progressive Republicans feared that the stalwart Republicans would reverse what had been done in 1911 once Fighting Bob was gone.
The recall deterrent either worked or was unnecessary.
It had been more or less dormant until the recall epidemic of 2011 and 2012 took over politics in Wisconsin.
The results of this outburst are debatable and debated. The most unexpected result of the gubernatorial recall is that the voters, not unlike the voters of 1914, expressed serious misgivings about the idea of recall itself.
But it is still there.
I thought that the reaction to the disruption and the distaste would prompt immediate action to restrain at least and maybe even eliminate the recall option, and we would revert to the more judicial impeachment process to deal with public brigandry. I thought the iron was hot.
The governor in his final debate before the recall election, in an answer to a different question, went out of his way to denounce no-fault recall and suggest that making changes would be a priority if he survived, which he did.
Joint Finance Committee co-chair Representative Robin Vos had already introduced a joint resolution that would have made recall a process used to punish malfeasance in office.
The silence from both sources in the wake of the June election has been deafening.
Two consecutive sessions of the Legislature and a popular vote are necessary to modify or remove the recall provision of the Constitution. The first step could be taken in a special session this summer or in the fall during a lame duck session. No one in a position to take this step is showing any interest in doing so. Quite the contrary.
I am no fan of the excessive populism which I think no-fault recall is. The disruption of the governing process and the divisiveness of an already seriously segmented representative government are exacerbated by the specter of a repeat of the frenzied recall year.
I want the 1914 electorate back, the electorate that came down firmly and decisively in favor of representative government despite its shortcomings.
Those voters and the voters of 2012 said, in effect if not in fact, that government by recall is worse.
Does anyone with a hand on the levers of power agree?
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I don't have my hands on any "levers of power" but I can say this: I am a fan of "excessive populism", and by the way what the hell is "excessive populism?"
Which particular definition of "populism" do you have an problem with:
"the political philosophy of the People's party.
any of various, often antiestablishment or anti-intellectual political movements or philosophies that offer unorthodox solutions or policies and appeal to the common person rather than according with traditional party or partisan ideologies.
grass-roots democracy; working-class activism; egalitarianism.
representation or extolling of the common person, the working class, the underdog, etc."
Outside the word "anti-intellectual" I am all for excessive populism.
What are you saying, Bill?
-John E. Davey | Kendall, WI | July 15, 2012
Heat does funny things to a person's ability to think clearly - Bill you must find a way to get to places that offer you relief from the high temps and humidity.
Once you do and can sit quietly to think of what you have written you will surely write an apology for not thinking clearly as to what a democracy actually is.
I believe there are some lines in our constitution and other important writings that discuss items such as "a government by the people, for the people....."
Also, do you really think it is easy to get thousands of volunteers to stand tall and take verbal and physical abuse - in all kinds of weather for a short 60 days - to gain enough signatures of people who will willingly sign their name and address and phone numbers to force a recall election?
Furthermore, we still all have the right to vote in the recall election.
What really should disturb you is the fact that it is not a "fair fight" for citizens!
The incumbent has the ability to (as we saw vividly) fly all around the country pandering millions of dollars with no limits to flood the airways with ads and special interest groups and individuals pour in more money by the millions in order to purchase the electorate!
Bill, many of your writings are well done - this is not one of them!
-Steve Anderson | Eau Claire, WI | July 16, 2012