As the dust settles in Wisconsin, and the right basks in Gov. Scott Walker's (R) recall victory, the obvious question is coming to terms with how the incumbent managed to overcome the extensive grassroots opposition to his agenda and candidacy. There is, however, no great mystery here -- consider this chart we aired on last night's show:
Those pie charts are to scale, by the way. Walker's financial edge over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) was nearly eight to one, thanks to far-right support from across the country. (By some estimates, the margin may have even been closer to 10 to 1.)
Money doesn't always translate into success, but in a compressed calendar, and coming quickly on the heels of a heated Democratic primary, this kind of enormous financial advantage meant the deck was stacked in the governor's favor. Democrats, unions, and progressive activists gave it their all, but they ran into a juggernaut of conservative cash that proved to be too formidable.
Going further, however, the reason Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall race mattered so much, and generated so much national attention, is because the traditional Democrat-vs-Republican contest was only part of the larger picture. Walker faced this challenge, not because he's an unsuccessful far-right ideologue, but because he set out to rig the game -- stripping unions of their power in order to rewrite the political rules and make it all but impossible for Democrats to ever win a statewide race in Wisconsin.
Walker's agenda has always been about taking a level playing field and making a permanent change, tilting it in the GOP's favor forever more. And after last night, he's gotten away with it.
In the process, the governor, his party, and his very wealthy allies have also created a blueprint for other Republicans to follow elsewhere -- crushing public-sector unions in order to destroy one of the pillars of the Democratic Party's electoral foundation. If labor can't organize, Democrats can't compete.
Tom Barrett lost last night, but he wasn't the only one.