Is Scott Walker incapacitated? Convicted? What does Fighting Bob (R.I.P.) say?

Accustomed to the totalitarian rewriting of history, Russians during Gorbachev’s rule often repeated the adage that “never before has our history been so uncertain.”

In the same way, John Nichols backwards makes the mind reel. He long ago hit upon the clever ruse of repurposing Thomas Jefferson, that quintessential small-government Founder, as the political ancestor of Rosa Luxembourg and Barney Frank and other international wobblies.

John has made a tidy living purporting to channel the thoughts of Robert M. La Follette from beyond the grave. Old “Fighting Bob” “would surely back this recall,” writes the associate editor of The Capital Times this April of 2012. (Read it here.)

“It is certainly true that former Gov. Robert M. ‘Fighting Bob’ La Follette and his allies objected to the influence of out-of-state, corporate, and millionaire money in our politics,” writes Nichols, for the Capital Newspapers Incorporated product.

If that is “certainly true” then what would the old boy — stone dead these 87 years — have to say about Tammy Baldwin, who has always raised the majority of her money from out of state? (Most of these fundraisers are in Washington, D.C.) John isn’t telling.

Nichols’ seance with the ghost of Fighting Bob reveals that the first attempt to remove a legislator was “a 1932 effort by La Follette progressives who sought to remove a state senator who opposed Gov. Phil La Follette’s fair taxation policies.”

John does not tell us that this first recall failed miserably. Republican State Sen. Otto Mueller won his recall election by a vote of 14,160 to 8,541. Apparently, his northern Wisconsin constituents didn’t think Phil La Follette’s taxation policies were all that fair and figured that they got the election right the first time.

The recall measure itself was enacted in 1926 — a year after Old Bob shuffled off this mortal coil. Even then, only 50.6% of the constitutional referendum voters approved. Irony of ironies, the referendum lost in Dane County but won thanks to the heavy socialist turnout in Milwaukee.

The most complete history of the recall in Wisconsin is Christian Schneider’s account at WPRI. (Read it here.)

Schneider concludes, “It appears that no longer will the recall be used judiciously, and increasingly, recalls will become the tool of special interests — whose influence Bob La Follette spent his entire career trying to reduce. Instead of keeping elected officials beholden to the people, recalls keep them beholden to a single moneyed interest group that can force their recall at any time. This is exactly the opposite of what the amendment intended to do.

Opposed recalls before it was for them

Of course, The Capital Times was opposed to recalls before it was for them.

On Jan. 9, 2003, Nichols, then the editorial page editor, came out against the recall of a state senator under felony criminal indictment, one Charles Chvala. The difference? Chvala was a Democrat. Headlined, “The trouble with recalls,” the CT said most recalls fail.

“That’s because Wisconsinites adopt a rational approach to the recall option.”

The newspaper then set out three criteria for a justifiable recall vote:

“Voters support recall drives when officials have been convicted of wrongdoing, become incapacitated, or have otherwise failed to serve their constituents.”

Indeed, the CT continued, “Voters oppose recall drives that seem to be motivated by partisanship or personalities. … Chvala has not been convicted of a crime, and he plans to fight the charges. Additionally, he continues to serve his constituents and to vote a line that well reflects the sentiments of the voters who elected him.”

Has Scott Walker been convicted of a crime? No, he has not even been charged with a crime. Doesn’t appear to be incapacitated. There appears to be no doubt that the governor continues to serve those who elected him, according to the Democrats' own polls.

Looking good, Louis. Looking good, Billy Ray   

New surveys for the liberal blog Daily Kos show three of the four GOP Senate candidates in the recall elections with double-digit leads.

The same polling firm has Scott Walker up 5, 7, and 10 points against Tom Barrett, The Kathleen Falk, and two other guys, respectively.

So The Capital Times of 2003 was right about one thing: “Voters oppose recall drives that seem to be motivated by partisanship or personalities.”

Had the John Nichols of 2003 been more prescient instead of so backwards-looking, he might have included a fourth criterion for electoral recall: reducing collective bargaining rights. Which is odd for a newspaper that grants its non-union private-sector employees no collective bargaining rights.

Come to think of it, neither of the two governors La Follette, father or son, gave their state employees collective bargaining rights, either. Not McGovern, not Blaine, none of the old Progs did. Perhaps it was just an oversight.

Whaddaya say, Bob? Speak louder. Can’t hear ya.


Falk is flailing

What does it tell you that the last six mayors of Madison, liberals all, are endorsing the mayor of Milwaukee, not their hometown county executive? Same with Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Middleton. More incredibly, The Kathleen, in her third statewide political campaign after 15 years as county executive, is posing as a political outsider. Hey, it worked for Ron Johnson! (Of course, it was TRUE with Ron Johnson.)

Zach Wisniewski of Blogging Blue notes, “Earlier today I received an email from the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk titled, ‘Grassroots or Insiders?’”

In an obvious attack on Barrett, Falk claims, “The insiders of Wisconsin politics are trying to mow us down and make sure that only their voices are heard on Election Day.” Her campaign, she avers, isn’t “the collection of insiders that have come to define other campaigns …”

Wisniewski, however, points out: “By my count, that’s six high-level staffers within Falk’s gubernatorial campaign who each have extensive political campaign/general political experience.”

Hey John! What would Old Bob say about these recallers?

Rebel Pundit presents the Left’s cogent political critique, ringside at Saturday’s Tea Party rally on the Capitol Square. Perhaps they were only channeling ol’ Fighting Bob.

(Language alert.)

Sign up for the free In Business Wisconsin Report – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click here.

Keep current with Blaska's other thoughts in the printed pages of In Business magazine. To subscribe to Dane County's premier monthly business magazine, click here.