David Weigel has a great piece on the Walker phenomenon over at Slate. As Weigel points out, Walker has built an extraordinary political following in the state, pulling together all the disparate elements in today’s Republican universe from tea party activists to megadonors. The result is a formidable political force that dominates the airwaves and inspires the grassroots.
It’s not clear who will win in June; as Weigel notes, Walker currently leads in the polls, but the race is still unpredictable. However, those who rely on the New York Times for their Wisconsin news won’t have any idea about some of the factors shaping this race; Weigel’s piece provides a healthy reality check for them.
A few things Times readers ought to know but likely don’t:
- An unprecedented turnout in the essentially uncontested GOP primary shows Walker with extremely high and energized support; Walker got more votes than the two leading Democratic contenders
- Public weariness with the incessant political wars in Wisconsin is working against Democrats more than the GOP at this point, with many voters blaming the unions for endlessly prolonging the struggle
- Walker’s labor reforms are generally seen as successful.
In the Times cocoon, a grass roots mobilization of feisty, democracy-loving Wisconsinites is rising in rebellion against the hated Walker business and big donor lobby. In the actual Wisconsin, there are two grass roots movements opposing each other. The anti-union populists may end up with more energy, more unity and more votes than the pro-union organizers. The labor mobilization against the Walker reforms has been lovingly and carefully covered by the Times and its brethren since Day One: nothing like that level of analysis has been deployed on Walker’s grass roots support.
Weigel sums up the stakes in this race pretty well:
It [labor] beats Walker or it’s hobbled, probably for good, in power and in reputation.
We’ll be watching this one through June 5 and we’ll do our best to understand and analyze the key forces at work on both sides of one of the most important state elections in many years. I don’t know how well we succeed, but unlike some publications at Via Meadia we think it’s important that our readers get information that allows them to form an accurate impression about what is going on — even if some of what is going on makes for disquieting reading.