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Oh, the Irony: Walker Warns of ‘Big Govt. Labor Union Bosses’ Stealing Election

Roger Bybee

Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin's anti-labor pugilist, as seen in a campaign ad.

The instinct of the zealous new breed of Republicans is to stay on the offensive regardless of facts or a massive public outcry, projecting their own sleazy methods and motives onto anyone who dares to criticize them.

As noted in my last piece for Working In These Times, the outcome of a crucial Wisconsin State Supreme Court election was suddenly overturned when Republican County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus abruptly announced that she had found an error giving right-wing Justice David Prosser 7,500 more votes. The new result, if it stands, has immense implications: The bitterly divided court will return to its 4 – 3 conservative majority, and Gov. Scott Walker can rest easy if his anti-public employee union bill comes before the Supreme Court.

But Gov. Walker this week turned the spotlight away from the questions about how the election was conducted to lash out at the danger of labor-union bosses” stealing the election by demanding an investigation and a recount.

As Walker warned to NewsMax TV:

[A recount] will be pretty costly. But I think it’s pretty clear that the big government labor union bosses that have been fighting the reforms in Wisconsin now for the past month and a half, I don’t think they’re going to give up.

I think they’re going to throw out everything here, and hope somehow they can pull of what was pulled off with Senator Franken in Minnesota.

Once more, Gov. Walker is trying to pass off widespread concern among Wisconsinites as the narrow, selfish objectives of a handful of union bosses.” (And somehow depict the 2008 U.S. Senate election in Minnesota — which Al Franken won after a recount that delayed him from taking office for six months — as a defeat for democracy!)

During the six-week siege of the Capitol in Madison by huge throngs of demonstrators protesting Walker’s bill to strip virtually all public workers of any meainingful union rights, Walker repeatedly claimed that their numbers were shrinking and — most incredibly — that a majority of the protesters came from out of state.

These charges were rather contemptuously refuted by the Madison Police Department’s official spokesman.


But the suspicious Supreme Court election result cannot simply be brushed aside. The Wisconsin public cannot feel the least bit settled about such a critical election shaping their lives for the next decade (Supreme Court justices serve a 10-year term) while giant clouds hang over Nickolaus’ methods.

Huge questions still loom over Nickolaus’ secretive handling of this election, her work in several previous elections, an audit of her office’s election methods by Waukesha County administrators which called for more transparent procedures, criticism by County board members and her partisan record as a former Republican staffer under Prosser’s authority. 

Numerous media outlets pointed out the monopoly that Nickolaus maintained over key data:

Prior to the election,…Nickolaus was heavily criticized for her decision to keep the county results on an antiquated personal computer, rather than upgrade to a new data system being utilized statewide. Nickolaus cited security concerns for keeping the data herself — yet when she reported the data, it did not include the City of Brookfield, whose residents cast nearly 14,000 votes.

Understandably, there have been numerous calls for a recount. U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin and State Senator Chris Larson have called upon Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a thorough investigation of Nickolaus’ handling of the elections, echoing Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s call for federal intervention. (Disclosure: I formerly worked for Citizen Action.) Common Cause of Wisconsin has also issued a demand for an investigation. One Wisconsin Now, the liberal advocacy group, gathered 12,000 signatures on an e‑mail petition within 24 hours calling for a full investigation

Where there’s this much smoke, there has to be an investigation,” says Scot Ross, director of One Wisconsin Now. 

But it’s unclear how much attention the Wisconsin election will receive from the Obama administration. The president has shown little interest in the fights for workers’ rights in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Maine, despite the obvious need to fire up a grassroots progressive force to counter the Tea Party’s pseudo-“populist” new presence in politics.

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and University of Illinois visiting professor in Labor Education.Roger’s work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Z magazine, Dollars & Sense, The Progressive, Progressive Populist, Huffington Post, The American Prospect, Yes! and Foreign Policy in Focus.More of his work can be found at zcom​mu​ni​ca​tions​.org/​z​s​p​a​c​e​/​r​o​g​e​r​d​bybee.
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