Barriers to the left in recall elections

March 29, 2011

PAUL HUBBARD and Shaun Joseph argue that "the left" should run candidates for the state Senate in Wisconsin ("The left should run in Wisconsin").

There are currently recall campaigns against eight Republican state senators and eight Democrats, and it seems likely that at least some of the Republicans will actually be recalled. If the recall votes are successful, there will be a vote for a new state senator six weeks later.

While I don't disagree with any of the general arguments that Paul and Shaun make about the value of running viable left candidates in elections, the "political [and] practical details" that they set to one side make all the difference.

First, they are vague about whom they mean by "the left." While there is enormous statewide hatred of the Republican Party right now, the immediate beneficiaries of that will be the Democrats. Outside of Madison and Milwaukee, there is, sadly, no organization or network in Wisconsin of any significant size prepared to run candidates to the left of the Democrats. On a statewide basis, the Green Party is weak and lost its ballot status in the last election.

Second, it is relatively easy for independents to get on the ballot in Wisconsin elections, but this only makes sense if they have strong organization to back them. And here comes the practical difficulty--the districts in which Republicans are most likely to be recalled are a long way from Madison and Milwaukee, where the left is strongest.

The bottom line is that the areas in which recalls of Republicans are most likely to be successful are the areas in which there is little organized left presence. There is certainly a strong labor presence in these districts, but union leaders have no intention of running candidates in opposition to the Democrats, and there is no rank-and-file movement able to do that right now.

None of this, of course, means that there is not an enormous opening for the left in Wisconsin. There is a huge opportunity to start building the kind of organization that in the future will be in a position to run candidates to the left of the Democrats. But, frustrating as it may be, the left is not strong enough to do this in the current recall process.
Phil Gasper, Madison, Wis.

Further Reading

From the archives