Bill Clinton, in his speech in Wisconsin just now, framed the recall election as a stark choice between unity and division, between cooperation and conflict, and between shared prosperity and right wing winner-take-all economics. Democrats on the ground in the state are very satisfied with Clinton’s speech, and think he hit the right note to amplify their closing message.
Whether it will be enough, of course, is another question entirely.
“Cooperation works,” Clinton said, in a frequently repeated refrain. “Constant conflict is a dead bang loser. And you need to get rid of it.”
Interestingly, Clinton spent little time directly attacking or even naming Scott Walker, invoking conflict and division themselves as stand-ins for the current governor by frequently repeating the line “divide and conquer,” Walker’s infamous phrase in the video that surfaced recently. And Clinton tried to innoculate Barrett against two of Walker’s main attacks: that he’d presided over a bad economy in Wisconsin, and that he’s soft on crime.
But the most important part of Bill’s speech was the call for voters to come out to the polls on Tuesday, in order to rebuke the national conservative movement’s huge financial investment in this race, and to make a larger statement about the type of leadership they want for the state and the country in the future:
If you believe in an economy of shared prosperity when times are good, and shared sacrifice when they’re not, then you don’t want to break the unions. You want them at the negotiating table. And you trust them to know that arithmetic rules. Show up for Tom Barrett on Tuesday! If you want Wisconsin once again to be seen by all of America as a place of diversity, of difference of opinion, of vigorous debate, where in the end people’s objectives are to come to an agreement that will take us all forward together, you have to show up for Tom Barrett on Tuesday!...
I can just hear it now, on Wednesday. All those people that poured all this money into Wisconsin, if you don’t show up and vote, will say, `see, we got them now. We’re finally going to break every union in America. We’re gonna break every government in America. We’re gonna stop worrying about the middle class. We don’t give a riff whether poor people get to work their way into it. We got our way now. We got it all. Divide and conquer works.’
You tell them no. You tell them, Wisconsin has never been about that, never will be about that — by electing Tom Barrett governor!
This is a strong articulation of the message Dems hope to close this out on. The basic case Dems have tried to make is that Walker’s experiment has introduced an uncompromising and dictatorial leadership style into the state that’s fundamentally at oddds with its character; that Walker’s preconceived and sharply ideological agenda has torn the state apart; and that only by ending the Walker experiment can Wisconsin reunite and move forward again. That’s why Bill framed the choice on Tuesday as one about Wisconsin’s fundamental identity.
It’s anyone’s guess whether this will be enough to make up for Walker’s seeming lead in the polls. I’ve said before that I’m skeptical that he’ll be recalled. But this race is expected to come down to turnout above all. And Dems are hoping that Clinton’s visit, yesterday’s debate in which Walker was clearly on the defensive, and new revelations in the John Doe investigation will create a sense of momentum for Barrett in the final five days that will motivate core supporters just enough to put him over the top.