Scott Walker Wins Handily in Wisconsin, NYTimes Sees Loss of 'Political Civility' in the State

June 6th, 2012 1:12 PM

While confessing Democrats and unions were dealt a "painful blow" Tuesday night as Republican Gov. Scott Walker handily beat Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in the Wisconsin recall election, Wednesday's lead story by Monica Davey and Jeff Zeleny opened with the liberal argument that Walker was to blame for undermining the "civility" of the state's progressive politics by engaging in his successful reform of public sector unions. (The online headline, "Walker Survives Wisconsin Recall Effort," is a slightly churlish acknowledgement of Walker's convincing win of 53%-46%.)

Gov. Scott Walker, whose decision to cut collective bargaining rights for most public workers set off a firestorm in a state usually known for its political civility, easily held on to his job on Tuesday, becoming the first governor in the country to survive a recall election and dealing a painful blow to Democrats and labor unions.

Didn't the protesters from public service unions who mobbed the state courthouse in Madison with signs likening Walker to Hitler have something to do with undermining "political civility" in the state?

The paper made space for liberal whining about Walker's superior fund-raising:

Mr. Walker, who raised millions of dollars from conservative donors outside the state, had a strong financial advantage, in part because a quirk in state law allowed him months of unlimited fund-raising, from the time the recall challenge was mounted to when the election was officially called. As of late last month, about $45.6 million had been spent on behalf of Mr. Walker, compared with about $17.9 million for Mr. Barrett, according to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan group that tracks spending.

“What it shows is the peril of corporate dollars in an election and the dangers of Citizens United,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, a school workers’ union, referring to the 2010 Supreme Court decision that barred the federal government from restricting political expenditures from corporations, unions and other groups.

While much of the Times's coverage before and after the vote admitted the potential significance of the election, other Times writers downplayed the effects.

Monica Davey's Tuesday rundown concluded that "Some wonder if Tuesday’s election could be as close" as a State Supreme Court election in Wisconsin in April 2011 in which Justice David Prosser Jr. barely retained his seat, winning with 50.17% percent of the vote. It wasn't; Walker won by seven.

Michael Shear's blog post Tuesday:

...the effort to recall Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, is being treated as a kind of early warning system for the presidential campaign this November.

But there are important reasons to doubt whether Mr. Walker’s fate tells us much about President Obama’s chances of winning Wisconsin, much less whether it serves as a model for how the rest of the country might be feeling in five months.

Working off exit polls, Shear jumped ahead to the possibility of a recount with a post at 9:39 pm Tuesday night, "Close Race Could Mean Recount; Absentee Ballots Remain."

The extremely close race between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett has raised the prospect that a recount might be requested to determine the winner....A recount in the race would add to the historic nature of the battle in Wisconsin....The fight over the recount would be reminiscent of the 2000 recount effort in Florida.

Or maybe not. Just 19 minutes later, Shear posted that Walker had "survived" the recall vote.

And editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal, perhaps the Times's reigning purveyor of liberal conventional wisdom, took to his blog Tuesday afternoon to offer: "Whatever happens in today’s gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin, let’s not over-interpret the results. We all know what spurred the recall movement against Gov. Scott Walker: His successful effort to deny government employees collective bargaining rights, and to balance the state’s budget on the backs of working people."