So it turns out that the Wisconsin Democrats didn’t win as much as they wanted and, more importantly, as much as they needed.. They fell short of taking back control of the Senate. Now, to be fair, a 17-16 majority is razor thin and in truth is probably better for government than a very large majority. For example, who can argue about the damage the the US Senate did to the nation as a result of their super-majority in 2009-2010? No one.
However, what is the impact? The read? What does this mean?
On first blush, I’m happy that Wisconsin sent back at least 4 of the 6. I would have been happier to see all 6, but that seems to have been an unrealistic expectation. 1 of those 6 seats is a strong Democratic stronghold. The only reason that seat swapped to the Republicans last time around was the massive conservative sweep. I suspect that the “time space continuum” has been restored there.
But a 17-16 majority doesn’t leave much room for error. If even 1 Republican switches sides, the Democrats can hold the day. However, that assumes all 16 Democrats remain united. Which, seems silly. Why would one party not be able to remain united while the other can?
The take? The meaning?
I think the election gives the Republicans a massive advantage in future negotiations. The people of Wisconsin didn’t repudiate the conservatives, the Tea Party, the governor r the Republicans. The Democrats brought a seat that was theirs back home and defeated a cheating husband who moved in with his mistress out of district; he deserved to lose.
The Republicans retain leadership roles in the body. They run the agenda and are able to assign committee chairmen. They are able to bring issues up for votes or not. Aside from the 17-16 vote edge, this advantage is powerful. If you think otherwise, simply look at how Harry Reid uses his same leverage on the national stage. He doesn’t even have to bring a bill up for a vote; hell, he hasn’t even voted on a budget in over 2 years. This shouldn’t be understated.
This is a census year. Republicans control all three wings of the legislative branch; they get to write district maps. And they’ll write them to their advantage. This will accomplish two things:
- Further in roads into Republican seats will be much much more difficult.
- At risk Democrats may actually lose their seats.
Last, the damage done to the Democrats should not be viewed lightly. This race focused a TON of national firepower in Wisconsin. Reports are that more than $20 million was spent by labor organizations and other donors to help the Democrat candidates. Time and energy was spent too. The ground game of the local Democrat parties as well as those of the professional unions were called on. And they lost. The goal was not accomplished and the momentum will reflect that.
As an indicator of this, consider the headlines and the dancing in the streets had the Democrats prevailed. The celebration would have been heard from coast to coast. We’re gonna hear a lot of spin in the next day or two. Spin that suggests 17-16 is much better than 19-13. You’re gonna hear that had this specific Senate voted on Walker’s bill, it would have failed. You are gonna hear that this is just the beginning and is an indication of what can happen when a properly motivated Liberal base engages.
This is nonsense.
Democrats needed to win. Unions needed to win. Liberals needed to win. They all needed to walk away with a “W”. And they didn’t.
I blogged on this subject too, with a slightly different take — that there are lessons for both parties. Given that the Republicans being recalled all won in 2008 when Obama was on the ticket and the country in a more Democratic mood, the fact the Democrats won two and almost got the third (I believe within 2 percentage points) means to me that GOP dodged a bullet. I think the lesson is that whoever occupies the center is going to do best in 2012. The Republicans have a very good shot given the economy, but can blow it if they over-reach. The tea party and red meat rhetoric in the primary season could help the Democrats define them as extreme. The Democrats MUST occupy the center to have a chance — even if the economy bounces back in 2012. If Republicans celebrate and ignore how easily this could have gone the other way, they may not realize that the public likes pragmatism and not ideology.