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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Economy Update: Labor Takes Center Stage After Recall Vote

by Newsteam Staff
June 6, 2012

A citizen takes to the polls to cast his vote in the recall election against Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in Milwaukee Wisconsin June 5, 2012 (Darren Hauck/ Courtesy Reuters). A man casts his vote in Wiconsin's gubernatorial recall vote on June 5, 2012 (Darren Hauck/ Courtesy Reuters).


Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) survived a recall vote Tuesday, nearly one year after he sparked a controversial, national debate (WSJ) by pushing a state budget through the legislature that significantly curtailed the benefits and collective bargaining rights of public sector employees.

In the past year, state-based fights over the unionization rights of public workers have spilled over into the presidential race, especially in swing states like Wisconsin and Ohio–both potentially decisive battleground states for President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Romney congratulated Walker on his win and his strict budget-cutting measures in a statement Tuesday night. “Governor Walker has demonstrated over the past year what sound fiscal policies can do to turn an economy around, and I believe that in November voters across the country will demonstrate that they want the same in Washington, D.C.,” Romney said.

Writing for The New Republic, political theorist William Galston paints yesterday’s vote as a preview of what to expect from the presidential campaign as it unfolds in the coming months. “The Wisconsin recall election is to the 2012 general election as the Spanish Civil War was to World War Two–not necessarily a harbinger of the final outcome but rather a preview of strategies and tactics,” he writes.

Other analysts cautioned that a June gubernatorial recall is not an accurate indicator for a fall presidential race. Slate’s Will Oremus argues that not all politics is national, and that the outcome in Wisconsin will have little resonance by November. “Drawing inferences about a national election on the basis of a state election is almost always tenuous, but it’s particularly so in the case of a gubernatorial recall, where the main issue is not the U.S. economy, health care, or national security, but the character and specific track record of the individual in office,” Oremus writes.

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on the Candidates and the Economy.

Suggested Other Reading:

In the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost looks at the increasing importance of unions for government workers, and their impact on Democratic party politics.

David Gergen and Michael Zuckerman argue at CNN that the public sector union fight at the center of the Wisconsin recall vote will resonate beyond this month.

— Gayle S. Putrich, Contributing Editor


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