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One nice thing about traveling for a living is that you're out there among 'em and can see what others in diverse communities think, compared to your own. That's true of institutions, not just individuals. I was moving around upstate Wisconsin for a few days this past week and had a chance to scan local newspapers and monitor local radio and TV, gathering up a sense of how the recall election outcome is being portrayed. Mostly, if you're progressive, it wasn't pretty.

The only truly positive headline I saw in the daily newspapers of several communities I visited was the page one banner in Wednesday's Wausau Herald, which proclaimed in big type that Democrats had won two state Senate seats. That, however, was a real aberration in a political climate where some columnists already have gone so far as to suggest the Wisconsin recall election outcome means progressives in the Badger state and maybe nationwide are toast, while conservatives rule supreme. The somewhat more common spin (as in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) was that Republicans had retained control of the Senate, fighting off Democratic recall challenges.

Then there was Scott Bauer of the Associated Press. Bauer failed whatsoever to note that Wisconsin Democrats took two of six seats from incumbent Republicans until the tenth paragraph of his Wednesday morning roundup. That, among journalists, is called burying the lead.

Indeed, if you only read to the bottom of page one in newspapers that carried Bauer's account, and if you'd been asleep for the past few months, you'd have been misled into thinking there were only four races in total and that the GOP won all of them. You'd also have been misled into thinking only out-of-state labor unions spent huge sums of money on the elections, when Democratic supporters of all kinds once again appear to have been outspent by shadowy outside conservative interest groups who didn't have to report who their contributers were -- about which Bauer wrote not a word.

Worse, the first few 'graphs of Bauer's story made it sound like Republicans had just crossed the Delaware River and unleashed a new American revolution or something. Read along:

MADISON -- Republicans held onto control of the Wisconsin Senate on Tuesday, beating back four Democratic challengers in a recall election despite an intense political backlash against GOP support for Gov. Scott Walker's effort to curb public employees' union rights.

Fueled by millions of dollars from national labor groups, the attempt to remove GOP incumbents served as both a referendum on Walker's conservative revolution and could provide a new gauge of the public mood less than a year after Republicans made sweeping gains in this state and many others.

Two Democratic incumbents face recalls next week, but even if Democrats win those they will still be in the minority... .

Then, seven paragraphs later, Bauer gets around to the rest of the news, and the missing lead:

Also winning on Tuesday was Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Kapanke, who had been in the Senate since 2004. The other Republican ousted was first-term incumbent Sen. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, defeated by Democrat Jessica King, the former deputy mayor of Oshkosh.

Yup, that's in the tenth paragraph. Which contained what journalism veterans would describe as this news story's "man bites dog" moment -- it described the most interesting and newsworthy development on Aug. 9: that Democrats had taken two Senate seats in GOP-held districts. Nowhere in the story was it mentioned that other Democrats had come close in a couple of the other races.

Plus, it took days for the AP and other news organizations to point out what was noted almost immediately on political blogs: That the GOP's two losses -- coupled with two incumbent Democratic senators holding on in their own recalls Aug. 16 -- likely would mean a far more decisive role for moderate GOP senators such as Dale Schultz (who voted against the union busting bill). Meaning, in turn, that Scott Walker's far-right juggernaut would drop its transmission and grind to a halt.

Indeed, Walker made that tacit admission the day after the election when the reactionary, ultraconservative governor who up until now has been all "my way or the highway" suddenly called for more bipartisanship. Gee, now that he's done implementing his blitzkrieg campaign to gut union bargaining rights, help install right-wing morons in more elective offices and wreck school and city budgets, NOW he's suddenly for the other side compromising!?

That's already going to happen thanks to Tuesday. Not because of anything Walker's said or done to enable it, but because of strenuous and successful efforts by legions of upset Wisconsin citizens who worked as volunteers on the recall campaigns and got better results than ever before in history. You know, those people whom Republicans have busily caricatured as consisting entirely of outsiders controlled by "Obama's union bosses." A greater case of psychological projection we probably can't find.

Still, progressives in some cases insist upon regarding the political landscape as a glass half empty rather than one that's half full. In any number of lefty blog posts here and elsewhere, we are advised that the progressive cause "lost" last Tuesday, and that Republicans won. Unfortunately, that was exactly the message being put out by Republicans in Wisconsin on up to the GOP national committee. Aiding and abetting the enemy? What's the point and purpose of that? Remember what Bluto Blutarsky said in the movie "Animal House": This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you're gonna let it be the worst!

It's fine not to be wholly satisfied with Tuesday's Wisconsin result -- in fact, progressives should use that dissatisfaction to press on to greater victories. But it's not at all helpful to speak as if progressives didn't accomplish anything at all. Far from it, which even the AP and other mainstream outlets only belatedly are beginning to suggest.

Buying into what is precisely the Republican spin on all this simply isn't going to be very enabling or useful -- starting with Tuesday's second round of Wisconsin recall elections in which Democraic senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch need all hands on deck to turn back a crackpot teabagger and an empty-suit Chicago lawyer.

Clearly, Tuesday's outcome in Wisconsin wasn't everything that the Democrats nd their allies hoped it would be, but it certainly wasn't anything at all like what Republicans wanted. And yet it's the Republicans and their journalist/pundit enablers who are busy telling the world -- directly or by implication -- that the anti-Walker, progressive, pro-labor movement in Wisconsin is now dashed and that it isn't going to succeed as a model used elsewhere. Bull hockey.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Bauer = Journalistic Malpractice! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MsGrin, COBALT1928, We Won

    What a terrible article masquerading as journalism/straight news.  Could be right out of the Fox spin factory.

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:36:53 AM PDT

    •  Earlier he had been (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Happy Days

      writing what I considered to be "on our side articles". I am sure that nationally they cannot be expected to understand all the nuances of this the way we do. Also, we are the ones who raised expectations in our enthusiasm to a completely unrealistic level, even though, people kept saying, "Recalls are really hard to pull off". I thought we would win 5 or 6. I could not see losing any, except possibly Darling.

      I don't think it matters too much whether the media thinks we won or not. What matters is what the people who are not liking the Tea Party "solutions" are going to do about it. Are you going to give up or keep working? Outside money benefits the other side, not us.

    •  There's a saying, "If you're going to strike the (0+ / 0-)

      king, you must kill him."

      With all the effort that went into these recalls, we didn't take down the king!

      That's what they see as the story. There is no half revolution. It's either all or nothing.

      I do congratulate the winners, but apparently, one was not such a red district and the other was a wounded candidate (although even with his personal problems, it was still a close race.)

      I am thankful for small steps, but I can also understand how the media interpreted the election results. The story was that this massive effort failed.

      Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

      by auapplemac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 01:56:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  True, enough (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buckybadger1988

        As you say, " The story was that this massive effort failed." But why should progressives buy into that story? We should be championing the huge organizing effort that brought people and resources to bear on this huge, well-funded and implacable enemy, scared the crap out of them and took a bite out of their collective hide.

        No one seems to consider that this effort in Wisconsin sucked tens of millions of dollars of wingnut funding out of the atmosphere -- money that all would have been used in other states, sooner or later. Sure, the bizmo-teabagger elites have tons more bundles of big bills safely stored in their hundreds of Scrooge McDuck-style money bins nationwide, but the very first rule in a guerilla conflict (which modern American politics has now become) is to task your enemy, even if it costs your own side.

        The heat and light alone give some independents and partisans pause. Never mind the actual victories, which are gravy. The next time we organize it will be easier. My only caution is that we should pick our battles and try not to repeat ourselves, and that we shouldn't assume electoral politics is the only battlefield.

        •  I ike your energy. I'm just afraid that in view of (0+ / 0-)

          the size of the effort, the results might deflate any future massive drive.

          Our side also had a lot of money sucked out of it and we can't afford it.

          How does the D recall look. Any polls out there?

          Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

          by auapplemac on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:26:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Dem recall (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            buckybadger1988

            No public polls. Holperin may be in some difficulty with teabagger Simac, although he actually is endorsed both by the Sierra Club and the NRA ((!)) That far northern Senate district is a swing region although it's been in Dem hands for some years.

            Wirch seems safe. But why take anything for granted?

            One thing progressives need to understand: Let's say we'd all agreed NOT to recall Republican state senators. Does anybody really think the GOP would still not have tried to recall Democrats? The Simac campaign's main slogan is that she will not "run away" like the Democratic senators allegedly did. There is no safe way to conserve resources and pick battles against ideological goonies like that.

          •  POLL UPDATE (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            buckybadger1988

            DailyKos has now reported that polling shows the two (of three overall) remaining recalled senators have double-digit leads going into tomorrow's elections. If that holds up, then in all of the Wisconsin recalls, six GOP and three Democratic, the final tally would be:

            Democrats: 5, GOP 4

  •  Easier targets in January (4+ / 0-)

    The guys recalled this year were elected in 2008 or 2006, despite the strong swing to the democratic party those years, so they were in strongly republican constituencies.

    Next Jan is the 2010 crop - who will be much more vulnerable.

    "Lethality is the prime function of a firearm why pretend otherwise?" 2dimeshift!

    by senilebiker on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:40:51 AM PDT

  •  Scott Walker is weaker than he was before (4+ / 0-)

    He cannot threaten to punish Republicans with redistricting. He signed that into law just in case before the election.

    He can't threaten Republicans now as much because of the danger that one of them might switch to the Democratic Party.

    If even one did, that would give Democrats control.

    He may find it harder to get unanimous votes from Republicans now.

  •  See if they can create enough spin (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mimi9, COBALT1928, We Won

    if Walker can be successfully recalled.

    “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

    by ahumbleopinion on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:49:31 AM PDT

  •  Presenting GOP spin as fact... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    progressivebadger, COBALT1928, We Won

    ...has no place in journalism, period. The fact remains that Democrats took two Wisconsin Senate seats fighting in red districts where the GOP has had past success and came close to ousting a long-time Republican veteran. To say anything else (as the Republican spinners disguised as reporters are trying to do) is completely dishonest and amounts to spreading disinformation and lies.

    The people united will never be defeated.

    by alaprst on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:03:45 AM PDT

    •  one blue district, and one adulterer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      auapplemac

      it would have been patently embarassing had we not won at least two.

      "In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress." -John Adams

      by rcnewton on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:57:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  They were victorious. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thematt523, rcnewton, auapplemac

    The purpose of the recall campaign was to win back the WI Senate and we didn't do that.  

    Let us resolutely study and implement the resolutions of the 46th Convention of the Democratic Party!

    by Rich in PA on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:16:26 AM PDT

    •  Not that simple (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buckybadger1988

      As E.J. Dionne pointed out:

      > If only about 1,100 votes had switched in the closest contest, Democrats would have won the extra Senate seat they needed and would now be celebrating their use of Walker’s frontal attack on the collective-bargaining rights of public employees to produce a political realignment.

      > You could tell even before the polls closed that Democrats feared they would fall short. “I just wish these elections had been held a week ago,” said a Wisconsin-based Democratic consultant as reports of high turnout made their way around the state.

      [And who engineered that delay and more? Republicans who mounted "fake Democrats" to force recall primaries and slow down the anti-Walker momentum.

      Dionne again:

      > These contests will be studied as a laboratory test of wide-open campaign finance laws that allowed outside groups to pour millions of dollars into the state.

      > In truth, the euphoria created by the initial anti-Walker upsurge disguised the fact that the recalls were always destined to be difficult.

      > ... But it’s true that these were fights waged in Republican territory. As Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out in a helpful analysis, while all six districts were swing areas that had voted for both Walker and Obama, five of the six were more Republican than the state as a whole in 2008 and again in 2010.

  •  It's not that crazy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA, rcnewton, auapplemac

    to say that the GOP won that night. The Democrats set a goal to be achieved, and they didn't achieve it. Sure, it was close, and more Democrats are always helpful. But close doesn't matter.

    I don't remember anyone saying that Norm Coleman won in 2008. Or that Kloppenberg won earlier this year.

    You can't fail at your objective and expect people to say you won.

    People panic too much on this site.

    by thematt523 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:16:43 AM PDT

    •  Eh.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      We Won

      That's like saying that when the Allies landed on Omaha Beach and within days retook a sizeable but not total portion of France, the Nazis won. First of all, the war is not over. Second of all, goals should always exceed practical objectives but not achieving every goal is hardly a marker for failure. If it were, we as a society and a species would hardly get anything done, ever. Third, as I noted, objective and functional control of the legislative house are not the same. Coalitions can now form between Democrats and moderate Republicans who already were unhappy with the extreme Walker wing agenda but didn't have the votes to do anything about it. Now they, and thus Democrats, do. Some "failure"! Fourth, the only way a political movement ever advances is by building on its victories, however small. Deciding that a victory is a failure because it wasn't a 100 percent victory is a recipe for continued irrelevance. If you asked Republicans if they'd like back those two state Senate seats they lost, do you imagine they'd say, "Ain't no thang"?

      •  Of course (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        auapplemac

        I didn't say that the GOP won an unadulterated victory and we flunked brutally. It's just that we set an objective, and didn't get it. Sure, it helps later on, but we didn't "win" in the way we said.

        Yes, there are complicated coalition things and election predictions, but in terms of what we wanted, we didn't get it.

        Again, you can get close to your objective and be happy. But if you define a "win" and don't get it, it really makes no sense to claim victory.

        People panic too much on this site.

        by thematt523 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:39:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What spin? They won! n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    auapplemac
  •  Part of the problem is much of Wisconsin only (3+ / 0-)

    gets repug spin.  In Milwaukee, the urinal-genital has directly advocated against the interests of the vast majority of residents in that city (primarily non-majority and disproportionately poor) since the merger of Milw Journal (afternoon) and Milw Sentinel (morning).

    It is my understanding that the former, while in a disadvantaged press time (it was largely Dem paper), consistently made more money then the latter (consistently repug).

    Now they want to claim the newspaper business is unsustainable when the real problem is that the combined urinal-genital has sold out its most profitable and natural markets and is repug propaganda.  Waukesha and rich suburbs only buy so many papers you know.

    And TV in Madison and Milwaukee does not have anything to balance the rightwing slant on the most popular stations in those towns (Channel 3 in the former, Channel 4 in the latter).

    Green Bay - forget it!  No news there.  The papers in the fox valley are all gannet rags - the fond du lac daily is literally a 4 sheet (double sided) spread!

    In ripon, the commnwealth is owned by teabaggers - 2 brothers.  One sits on the school board pretending to be a responsible rep while the other does the dirty work.  As you would expect in birthplace of repug party - no real news in that paper.

    I believe the situation is the same all around the state (teabagger owns paper in janesville).  In Racine, a huge African American population (because they were not welcome in Kenosha for many years) is rightwing, Kenosha is worse.

    My understanding is if we go up Eau Claire and La X, we will find same thing.

    This is why the Ripon area needs an alternative tabloid but NOT like the one distributed by a Madison man that only inflamed setiment AGAINST Fred Clark (and We Are Wisconsin got blaimed for it).  More in my comment here:

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    I did try to talk to We Are Wisconsin about this, but they immediately packed up and left Ripon after last Tuesday's election.

    I am involved with a Wisconsin community newspaper.  Newspapers certainly can be viable and even profitable - in the fox valley, there are TONS of them (mostly no news, ads).  

    The cost of printing is actually low, about $135 per thousand (and less in larger quantities) and this is from a very high quality press.  There is money to be made here if done right.

    It would certainly be possible for a concerned organization (like WE ARE WISCONSIN) to create area newspapers that focused on stories that are not in local news (perhaps even forcing coverage), while fully controlling content to avoid the situation that undermined Fred Clark in recall against luther olsen.

    They know that I can do this and would help any way they can, however, they don't seem interested in building on what we started.  Not meant as judgment, observation - we did learn olsen (unopposed for 16 years!) is actually vulnerable.

    Anyone that is or has ideas how to make this happen, please contact me (though I cannot access MESSAGES and am waiting to find out why - I have one already that I can't read/reply too).

    When you find yourself surrounded by alligators, it is time to realize your job is to drain the swamps!

    by badgerbadger on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 11:19:04 AM PDT

    •  I cannot disagree (3+ / 0-)

      Good points. Yes, we can't just kneejerk into elections every two years. We need, as the conservatives figured out, a continuing voice that builds an alternative story people can choose to adopt.

      •  Thanks for sharing, sometimes I feel I am (4+ / 0-)

        just banging my head against the wall in this area.  I appreciate everything everyone does when elections roll around, especially after walker "dropped the bomb."

        But I hope someday we will realize that they can outspend us and if we are going to have to out-organize them like so many proclaim, we cannot wait until the election rolls around.

        It will have to be 24/7/365.

        During last Tuesday's election, we should have learned that WE CAN DO THIS!

        But there is more work to be done.  IMHO, more work than can possibly be done during the election cycle.

        And thanks for pointing out - that is what the other side has been doing for years.

        When you find yourself surrounded by alligators, it is time to realize your job is to drain the swamps!

        by badgerbadger on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 12:10:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  we did a lot in the time we had with these. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          We Won, progressivebadger

          all in all it doesn't matter what Bauer or anyone else says, it matters what we do.

          •  Just to prevent any misunderstanding (0+ / 0-)

            I did not mean to question we did a lot.  I don't speak for riegro, but I didn't take that post to mean that commenter did either.

            Speaking only for myself, we saw that we can make a difference.  We saw more clearly what we will be up against in 2012.

            I am sure both of us want to see change and we are just trying to participate in a dialog of how we can go forward.

            When you find yourself surrounded by alligators, it is time to realize your job is to drain the swamps!

            by badgerbadger on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 01:28:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Fueled by millions of dollars (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    We Won

    The Democratic challengers were way outspent and yet Bauer makes it sound like outside labor money was the dominating financial force in the battle.

    Fueled by millions of dollars from national labor groups, the attempt to remove GOP incumbents served as both a referendum on Walker's conservative revolution and could provide a new gauge of the public mood less than a year after Republicans made sweeping gains in this state and many others.

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