Wisconsin voters repudiate recall

Politicians, pundits and just-plain people of every viewpoint have been busily dissecting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in Tuesday’s recall election and finding all maner of portent in the results.

Far be it from us to resist that temptation.

First, and most importantly, Wisconsin voters rejected the notion that recall elections should be used to punish political opponents or to overtun policy decisions.

As we have long argued, recall should only be used to seek to remove elected officials who have committed crimes or grievously neglected their duties.

That certainly wasn’t the case with Walker. His offense, at least as far as public employees unions and many Democrats were concerned, was to do too much. He followed through on his 2010 campaign pledge to make public employees pay more for their benefits while turning around Wisconsin’s huge budget deficit. He also curbed public employees’ bargaining rights.

Labor unions tried to reverse those policies and punish Walker and other leading Republicans through recall. But even many Democrats rejected that strategy.

“There are a lot of people who voted on principle against a recall because they don’t believe recalling someone for other than a crime or downright corruption is appropriate,” said Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Good for Rendell and all those Wisconsin voters who rejected recall for those reasons. Let’s hope Tuesday’s vote convinces labor unions and others to drop the tactic of trying to use recall elections as a bludgeon against political opponents.

Walker’s victory is also an indication that voters in the Badger state and elsewhere — and not just Republicans — are fed up with overly generous pay and benefit packages for public employees, especially when budgets are tight and taxpayers’ own pocketbooks are pinched.

Walker won the independent vote handily, 54 percent to 45 percent, according to various reports, and even won the support of many Democrats. Furthermore, in addition to the Wisconsin results, voters in both San Diego and San Jose, Calif., approved measures Tuesday to control public employees’ benefits.

Despite all this, however, it’s far from clear that the Wisconsin recall results are a harbinger of what may occur in the presidential election in November.

Although exit polls can be notoriously inaccurate and were to some extent in Wisconsin, they did indicate that many people who voted for Walker plan to support President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in November.

In the meantime, we’re pleased that dairy-staters repudiated recall as a political tool.


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