The great state of Wisconsin was the scene of a significant political battle last week over the proposed recall of Governor Scott Walker. I know it was a great political battle because BOTH The Daily Show and The Colbert Report covered it on the same night. Outraged citizens on one side argued that Governor Walker’s policies caused too much harm to the good people of Wisconsin. Outraged citizens on the other side argued that the recall was nothing more than a very expensive and inappropriate “do-over” demanded by unions.
Regardless of where you stand on the substance of the issue, in my opinion the debate has served only to benefit our democracy. Why? Because like the infamous ‘hanging chad’ debate of 2000 (and the subsequent national discussion about the electoral college), it has inspired citizens to talk about our democratic process. I have actually heard people in the streets – and streets outside of Washington, D.C. no less – get in to heated arguments about whether “we don’t like this guy” is an adequate reason to initiate a recall.
While I really don’t have any feeling of outrage on either side of the debate, I am strongly of the opinion that recall elections based on “we don’t like this guy” are perfectly reasonable -- as long as they come with the support of the appropriate number of citizens (as reflected through petition signatures). The rights to both express dissatisfaction as well as to demand a vote on that dissatisfaction are basic tenants of democracy.
In addition to the discussion over the role of recalls in a democracy, some people see this particular battle as a presentiment of what will happen during the upcoming Presidential and Congressional election war. Personally, I think of all this as less connected to the overall political situation of the country and more about the politics of Wisconsin. Neither side should feel encouraged or discouraged about Walker’s victory. But regardless of how we feel about the outcome, we all should feel just a little heartened about the renewed interest in democracy.