Wisconsin, once known for being one of the most progressive states in the union, got itself into a mess during the general election of 2010 by electing a fairly innocuous and little known Milwaukee politician as its governor. That error has cost the state dearly.
Scott Walker entered the governor's office in January of 2011 and immediately began waging a war on the state's public employee unions with the ultimate aim of eliminating the collective bargaining rights of people who work for the state. The whole country watched the subsequent circus on the evening news. Thousands of school teachers, fire fighters, police, social workers, medical personnel and countless others came to the state capitol building demanding to be heard as the governor and his puppet legislature began gutting the powers of the state employees' unions. Democratic state senators hopped on buses and fled to Illinois in an attempt to keep the Republican legislature from making quorum and rubber-stamping Walker's spiteful agenda.
Recall petitions were quickly drafted, and some of the Republican state senators were removed from office - but the final tally was one short of a majority for the Democrats. Walker himself had some time to get his house in order because state law said that he must serve a minimum of a year before a recall process could be initiated on him.
The year passed, petitions were circulated that garnered over a million signatures, and Scott Walker faces a recall this Tuesday. His opponent in that election is Tom Barrett, the current mayor of Milwaukee. Most polls show the race to be a toss-up. Walker's campaign has relied heavily on contributions from wealthy conservative businessmen, individuals who feel they will benefit from weakened unions and draconian cuts to social services. The infamous Koch brothers of Wichita have reportedly pumped $700,000 into Walker ads for the recall election.
When Scott Walker was running for governor in 2010, one of his campaign promises was that he would add a quarter of a million new jobs in Wisconsin during his first four years as governor. He recently released figures showing that the state added just over 20,000 jobs in all of 2011 - but other sources say that the state actually lost over 30,000 jobs in 2011, the worst of any state in the union. Either way, Wisconsin has clearly not become the jobs' mecca that Walker predicted - even with the weakened unions.
In addition to facing a tough recall election, one that he may well lose, Scott Walker is reportedly facing a possibility of criminal charges relating to his time as Milwaukee County Executive. News reports state that allegations against the governor range from embezzlement to doing campaign work with taxpayer money.
Wisconsin, the state that gave us Fighting Bob LaFollette, has certainly lost much of the public esteem it once held dear. The state has become a punchline, and Scott Walker is the joke. Wisconsin is in a mess, and giving Scott Walker an early retirement would be the best way to begin getting back on track. Tuesday can't come soon enough!