Election Envy, or Why I Wish I Were in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Recall

Wisconsin dreaming, on such an Election Day.

Your blogger married a Wisconsin girl, but I try to limit my visits to the summer months. It's cold there most of the year, really cold. But on this Election Day, I'll be wishing I was there.

Wisconsin is having the sort of election that California doesn't have: a state election that matters.

Democrats and labor unions have qualified a recall against Gov. Scott Walker, who has supported a series of conservative policies, most notably stripping many public workers of collective bargaining rights.

The outcome of the recall vote matters a great deal. if Walker is recalled, many of his policies likely will be reversed. If he keeps his office (as the polls suggest he will), his policies will be entrenched and he may be able to pursue an even more conservative direction.

Your blogger is no fan of Walker. But it sure would be nice if California elections meant this much -- or meant anything at all.

On the current ballot, the voters are faced with two ballot initiatives of minor import -- a term limits measure that makes very small changes to term limits, and a cigarette tax that would be modestly good for public health and modestly bad for the budget -- and a host of legislative elections.

And it doesn't much matter who wins those elections.

For one thing, the party that will control each seat is already known in almost every single race. The only mystery is the identity of the winning candidates.

But even that doesn't matter much in California.

Because so many of the basic decisions of government have already been made -- by previous initiatives, constitutional amendments, the courts, and other entities. Lawmakers simply don't have the power or leverage in California's system to make changes as they do in Wisconsin.

If you don't believe it, consider this fact. Walker and his fellow Republicans in the legislature were able to make big changes in Wisconsin with far less of a majority than Democrats enjoy in California's legislature.

But California isn't Wisconsin. Which -- if only in matters of governance -- is too bad.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

Send us your thoughts via Twitter @PropZero or add your comment to our Facebook page.

Contact Us