False Consciousness Strikes Again

When political disaster strikes, the losers never say, “the people were against us.” No, defeat comes from the evil ones and their minions. “What [Gov. Walker’s victory] shows is the peril of corporate dollars in an election and the dangers of Citizens United,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, a school workers’ union. False consciousness strikes again.

Yet money appears to have little effect on the outcome. Begin with what was the same and what was different in 2010 and 2012. The two leading candidates for governor were the same. As Mr. Van Roekel points out, the spending was different this time: more money was spent and Walker’s allies spent more.

What was the same in 2010 and 2012 besides the candidates? Walker won in 2010 by 5.8 percent over the same opponent; he survived the recall yesterday by 6.9 percent. The money and efforts spent defending Walker increased his margin of victory by 1.1 percent which is noise in the overall scheme of things. The money had little effect on the distribution of votes.

This conclusion makes sense given that “nearly 9 in 10 people said they had made up their minds before May, according to exit poll interviews.” By the time the ads hit the airwaves, there were few undecided voters.

Yet something was different from 2010. The efforts do seem to have increased turnout significantly from (roughly) 2.1 million voters for the two major candidates to 2.5 million voters, almost a 20 percent increase. The conventional wisdom holds that “get out the vote” efforts affect turnout more than spending on advertising. It will be interesting to see what experts make of the increased turnout in Wisconsin.