The real loser


The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, working with volunteers from groups such as We Are Wisconsin and We Are One, put together the most aggressive and effective get-out-the-vote effort possible in our recent gubernatorial recall election. Tom Barrett worked harder and showed more passion and command than ever before in his distinguished career of public service. He did not by any stretch blow this race. He and his backers should be proud of his performance.

The real loser on June 5 was not Barrett or the state’s Democratic Party. It was government. The people of Wisconsin preferred Scott Walker because he represents a view that resonates with everyone who’s ever paid an accountant to fill out a needlessly elaborate tax form: He hates government (except for the government jobs and contracts he gives to his supporters, but that’s for another editorial).

Walker outspent Barrett by more than seven to one, with most of the governor’s money coming from out-of-state industrialists who saw the race as a test case for their corporate legislative agenda. But it would be disingenuous to blame Barrett’s loss on political advertising, since the more than $30 million spent by Walker did not change many minds. Walker beat Barrett by only about 1 percent more than he did in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Walker won simply because more than half of Wisconsinites bought his line of reasoning that government is the enemy of business.

That view is easy enough to understand. The government benefits that U.S. citizens enjoy are taken for granted. Few American citizens have lived with impure drinking water, ramshackle highways and bridges, garbage blowing through the streets, lack of sewage treatment and an unregulated food supply.

Americans forget that their Medicare and Medicaid are government programs. They forget their lives are saved by advanced medical research paid for by government or that they fly in planes and airways made safe by government. Instead, they resent the government worker who pats them down to keep deadly weapons off the plane they’re about to board.

The electorate never hears about the value of our government – only about its inefficiencies, which are many, and its costs, which are needlessly high due to the built-in graft that’s equally utilized by liberals and conservatives.

Americans are more likely to be exposed to a sensational story about welfare fraud than about the thousands of good deeds performed by government workers every day. They think of government officials as bloated, self-important bureaucrats who harass them over petty regulations, not as astronauts or Nobel Prize winners.

Progressives have failed to remind voters of what government does or take up the mantle of creating a cheaper, more effective and less-intrusive government that people might embrace. Unless we do this, we will continue to lose elections until we all wake up one day and realize that we have to change our own street lamp bulbs (this actually happened in a community in Colorado) and reach a call center in the Philippines to schedule a garbage pick up from a company owned by David Koch.