Governor Tony Evers is proving to be one of the most partisan, nasty, incompetent governors in modern history. Our state is worse off for him having been elected. But we elected him, and he is our governor for at least the next 28 long, long months. The burgeoning attempt to recall the governor, while well-intentioned, is an affront to our system of government and social contract. We elected him. Barring something criminal, we are stuck with him, and that is as it should be.
This is certainly not the first time that Wisconsinites have attempted to recall a governor. In fact, there have been attempts to recall the last two governors. In 2009, after almost two terms of lies and sleaze from Governor Jim Doyle, an intrepid band of earnest citizens attempted to recall the governor. The ill-fated attempt ended as it should have, in failure, and Governor Doyle announced his decision to decline to seek re-election three months later.
Of course, with the taste of recall blood in the water, the liberals in Wisconsin tried the same tactic to remove Governor Scott Walker two years later. They were upset that Governor Walker had the temerity to champion public policies with which they disagreed. They were successful in collecting enough signatures to trigger a recall election and proceeded to rend the political and social fabric of Wisconsin for the better part of a decade.
The process to recall an elected official exists for the citizens to remove a politician who has so abused the public trust that he or she must not be permitted to finish the term. There is no legal or official standard for what action, or lack thereof, defines the threshold for the recall of an elected official, but prudence and respect for representative government demands an extraordinary standard. In the case of Governor Evers, that standard has not been met. It is true that he advocates for policies that are destructive to Wisconsin. It is true that Evers is foul-mouthed, unprofessional, and duplicitous in his dealings with people who do not agree with him. It is true that he is feckless and makes poor decisions when responding to emergencies that afflict our state. It is true that Evers lacks the interpersonal skills to compromise or find common ground. He is a case study for the Peter Principle. All of that is true, but Governor Evers has not done anything for which he deserves to be recalled. He is just a bad governor.
The problem with a recall is that it destabilizes our political system by challenging the will of the people. It is like the people saying, “Yeah, we elected him, but we changed our minds.” The uncertainty that the attempted recall of a governor creates ripples through the state. It roils the electorate and unsettles the economy. The stability of our political system relies on the orderly transition of power and the relative certainty of regularly scheduled elections. The whipsaw of reactive recall elections subverts that stability and risks roiling our state in perpetual turmoil.
The thing with Governor Evers is that his incompetence, dishonesty, poor social skills, and laziness were on full display before the voters elected him. It was obvious to anyone looking. But in a fit of cantankerousness, the good people of Wisconsin elected him anyway. As the old saw goes, elections have consequences.
The frustration that some people are feeling over our governor is a healthy reminder that elections have consequences. The governor is not a boorish house guest that can be shown the door when his behavior becomes too much. We invited him to stay the night and we are stuck with him until morning.
We choose our elected leaders during orderly, regularly scheduled elections. That is where we must spend our time, money, and energy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Good choices during an election prevent the damage bad choices inflict. Recalling a governor should be reserved for only the most egregious and criminal of transgressions.
Focus on the elections. They matter.
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