Of all the coverage of the Wisconsin recall election, the best by far is Charlie Pierce over at Esquire. He’s been on the ground there since the beginning. And what started out as a seething rebellion of thousands of people has turned, alas, into just another campaign that can be bought and paid for.
It’s hard to believe that this is the same state I visited last winter, when Madison was ablaze and people were sleeping on marble staircases and getting rousted by the capitol cops for the offense of standing up in the gallery, and the momentum of it all seemed to have increased threefold since the whole thing began in March of 2011. Right now, we are coming down the stretch of a reasonably tight election that seems like every other reasonably tight election that I’ve ever seen. (Right now, I’d bet that Barrett gets inside the five points by which he lost to Walker two years ago, but only barely. The get-a-hunch-bet-a-bunch wager would be Walker’s winning by more than that.) Outside the traveling bubble of the campaign, the state simply seems exhausted and anxious to be done with all the fuss and bother. It is grinding toward a strange and bloodless denouement.
We’re already seeing signs that the national parties are going to use the Wisconsin results as a beta test for the fall campaign. If Walker stays in office, to the Republicans it will prove that Citizens United and the Tea Party can prevail and Obama is toast; if he loses it will be dismissed as union thuggery and partisanship at its worst. To the Democrats, a loss will be no big deal because they never really put much fight into it anyway, and if by some miracle they win it will be hailed as people being fed up with plutocrats and outside money. Pick your bingo card and play along.