Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2018

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Cutting through the punditry

Let’s not overthink this stuff.

I couldn’t help think about overthinking during the coverage of the Gov. Scott Walker recall vote last Tuesday in Wisconsin. As you can imagine, and if you were following the election shows you will understand what I am saying, there were all kind and manner of comments, opinions and surmises that attended the build-up and let-down of the evening’s purpose.

There was no shortage of punditry and no speculation too speculative as the experts pored over the results, exit polling and technological wizardry to try to find connections with and prognostications for upcoming electoral battles across the county, culminating in the presidential sweepstakes this November.

At its core, the discussion about the recall election was: What does this mean for the Obama-Romney matchup coming to a voting booth near you?

I don’t know what your threshold for pain is, but mine usually kicks in about 30 minutes into the program when there is nothing new to say so they all just say the same thing in a slightly different way. In the case of the Walker recall, the questions to be answered included whether the unions had lost their clout, if President Barack Obama should have done more, if President Bill Clinton should have done less, if Gov. Mitt Romney should have done anything, if Gov. Walker should have been so hard on working people, and what the impact of multiple millions of dollars from out-of-state donors was. The coverage even included the tearful lament of a working man who saw the end of democracy as we know it as the final result of the election.

I suppose any and all of what those paid pundits were talking about could be significant, even true. Or false. Who knows? And, frankly, who cares? As is always the case on cable these days, the punditry — you know, the stuff that sucks you in for no apparently good reason — is all ratings-based and designed to inflame the passions while making even more dull any reasonable brain activity.

So, now that you know how I feel about the experts and their manipulation of the viewers for financial gain (not all, just most), let me tell you what I think!

As far as the outcome, I think what happened in Wisconsin should have happened.

That doesn’t mean I agree with what Gov. Walker has done by using unions as scapegoats for the ills that have beset Wisconsin and most other states. It is de rigueur in fundraising circles to pick on the unions and the working men and women they represent these days. That’s much easier than making the more difficult and more responsible decisions that adults are supposed to make. You know, the ones that assume we all live in the same country and have the same goals as our neighbors. Somewhere along the line, we got away from making decisions that are good for America and focused, instead, on only that which is good for me and mine.

There are two things about that election that need to be said. I believe that unless the official in question has done something illegal, grossly unethical or just so stupid that it offends the very decency of the people, then recall is not the way to go.

At some point in our lives, we must take responsibility for our actions. We see examples daily in our own homes of teenagers making terrible choices, and, instead of paying the price, they get away with reckless behavior until, one day, they are deep into a mess that could and should have been avoided.

We see it in the world of alcoholism where, as much as we may want to help a friend or loved one, they can’t truly be helped until they admit their problem and accept the truth that they need help. And that usually only happens when they hit the bottom and have no other way to go. They are the lucky ones.

But in politics we have gotten away with our own bad behavior for too many years. The mistakes we make by not becoming more knowledgeable before we vote have almost always been overcome by those public servants who work harder than they should, expose themselves to ridicule and worse that is uncalled for, and sacrifice for their neighbors far more than their neighbors would ever consider sacrificing for them.

The simple truth is that we elect people for fixed terms, and unless they do something so obviously and dramatically wrong, they should stay in that office and perform, or not. If the people aren’t happy with the fellow they elected, too bad. They should have done their homework before they cast the vote.

And that is what I think the Wisconsin election was all about. Just because some people were unhappy because the governor did exactly what he said he would do, that is no reason to recall him. That may be a reason for more people to have voted in the previous election, but absent significant wrongdoing, the right thing is to wait it out until the next election.

The vote in Wisconsin was very clear on that point.

There is something else most people believe. As much as we want to attract the best people we can to the institutions of government — be that public service, police, firemen and teachers, and, especially, elected officials — the fact remains that we live in a society that is fluid. When times are good, we try to pay people well. When times are bad, well, we all must adjust.

It is no secret that the global economic meltdown the entire country has experienced changed the way we think and the plans we have made. People on the verge of retirement know that is no longer an option. People secure in their homes one day have joined millions of homeowners for whom financial security is a thing of the past. And people who once owned 401(k) accounts and other retirement plans have watched those funds disappear overnight.

I think what happened in Wisconsin, not unlike the lack of a backlash in Clark County when too many teacher layoffs were announced a few weeks ago, was that the people just didn’t buy the argument. There is very little sympathy, when everyone is struggling to make ends meet, for anyone who is demanding more money, more benefits or whatever else was on the table.

What was promised yesterday and cannot be paid today must be seen in the new light of reality. Asking taxpayers for more money when they have lost most of what they had is a losing proposition. So, as much as Wisconsin voters may have disliked the assault on union rights, they just couldn’t bring themselves to vote against a governor who appeared to not only feel their pain but was doing his best to alleviate it.

The pundits on television found it inconsistent that President Obama could be winning in the polls by double digits in the same state that seemingly voted against the interests of the working men and women of Wisconsin by a similar margin.

If I am right, there is no inconsistency.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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