The Conservative Case For Recalling Governor Scott Walker
Frazier and Davis were recalled during times of great economic stress in their states, and both were accused of mismanagement. Given that our system of checks and balances gives the legislature significant power in shaping economic policy, the ineffectiveness of said policy can never be the fault of the governor alone. Thus the recalls of Frazier and Davis were blatantly political and probably represent an abuse of the recall statute.
Indeed, take a look at the petition circulated as justification for recalling Davis:
[Governor Davis' actions were a] "gross mismanagement of California Finances by overspending taxpayers' money, threatening public safety by cutting funds to local governments, failing to account for the exorbitant cost of the energy, and failing in general to deal with the state's major problems until they get to the crisis stage."
Virtually every clause of that petition (especially "failing in general to deal with the state's major problems until they get to the crisis stage") can be said about all 50 of the nation's governors at all times. Crappy job performance is a great reason to remove someone from office in a general election, but a recall ought to require something more substantial.
Should a recall effort against Governor Scott Walker get off the ground, his enablers at WMC, WTMJ, and WPRI will no doubt frame the effort as pure labor/leftist politics. But I think the case for a Walker recall is conservative in nature, and should be supported by all citizens who believe in good government regardless of party affiliation. Two main arguments support the recall: (1) the bait and switch, and (2) abuse of power.
First, the bait and switch: We all expect politicians to say one thing during the campaign and do something else once in office. What we DON'T expect is that the "something else" includes immediate overturning of 50 years of established precedent.
Mr. Walker ran for office on a platform of asking for greater state employee contributions to health care premiums and the pension fund. He was clear that if the state employee unions would not agree to greater contributions, he would support continued furloughs or layoffs. He did not run on a platform of union busting.
Baiting the electorate with the promise of being a tough negotiator and then making the switch to union busting mode sets a dangerous precedent for governing. Absent an attempt to recall Walker, the message to future gubernatorial candidates is clear: you can safely overturn settled precedent(s) or laws that you disagree with without even having to be crystal clear about your intentions during the campaign. The result is weasel politics of the worst kind.
Second, the abuse of power: The governor has the duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." No governor has to like state statutes governing state employment labor relations, and he's free to advocate for changes to the rules. Especially given that those rules have been around for decades, it's not unreasonable to expect that radical rewriting of them would be preceded at a minimum by legislative committee hearings, public hearings throughout the state, and vigorous debate on the floors of the Senate and Assembly. That's just good government.
Citizens need to communicate to Mr. Walker that in the phrase "faithful execution of the laws," the word "execution" does not mean "kill." Governors ought not have the power to kill off laws or statutes they do not like on the basis of manufactured crises, ideology, or crass politics.
Should a recall election against Mr. Walker actually take place, millions of dollars worth of outside spending will almost guarantee that Republican voters will stand by him. That's unfortunate, because the case for recall outlined in this post is actually a very conservative one. Conservatives are supposed to value law, precedent, and tradition; for real conservatives change ought to take place only when reasoned argument dictates and only when transparent deliberative procedures have been followed.
Conservatives reject (or should reject) any change that is the result of the application of raw power to overrun political opponents. Liberals should reject that kind of change too.
If the Wisconsin citizens decide to recall Scott Walker, they will be making a conservative statement about the standard of governing behavior we expect from our Chief Executive. The entire nation would benefit from hearing that statement.