State Journal attempts to reframe recall election. Comes up empty.

When someone starts telling you that Wisconsin’s coming recall elections are ‘all about’ this, or they’re ‘not about’ that, you know it’s nonsense. Complicated events, historic events are NEVER caused by just one thing.

But today’s Wisconsin State Journal editorial, “Let recall election settle union question,” aims to frame widespread discontent as sour grapes from union members, and really, from no one else and about no other things. It’s a frame that Governor Walker would love to campaign on. They say

Everyone knows this recall election, at its core, is about Walker’s strict limits on collective bargaining for public workers. It’s about public workers across Wisconsin taking hits to their pay and benefits…

This is sheer nonsense. If there’s any single thing that most angers us (here at TDT) about Walker’s assault on the unions, it’s that he forgot to mention it when he was running for office.  He was planning it, and he just withheld it from the voters. You can run a ‘trick play’ like that on the football field, and it’s fair. But not in an election. Or if you do run that electoral play, then expect anger, not just dismay and oh-well-shucks, but real anger. That’s what Walker’s gotten.

The editorial tries to rule out Voter ID as a motive for recall:

Nor is the recall about the Republican push to require photo IDs at the polls, which Walker and his fellow Republicans have long favored…

Again, sheer nonsense. We’ve talked to scores of people who see voter ID as a despicable attempt to influence elections by making it harder for folks like African-Americans, students, the poor and elderly to vote. And the Republican campaign, now apparently successful, to convince low-information supporters that there was a voter fraud problem to solve? Also despicable.  (See voter caging over the years. See Karl Rove and U.S. Attorney scandals of  2006.)

But we digress. Others will discuss the recall eloquently. At we talk about the newspapers, and mostly about the editorial page of the Wisconsin State Journal. While frequently critical, and harshly so, we sometimes offer praise. Today though, it’s all criticism. There’s nothing to like.

People can and will have many reasons for supporting (or opposing) recall . There is nothing the State Journal can do to narrow the discussion.  They cannot and should not try to reframe this recall election. By trying to reframe it in precisely the way that best assists Gov. Walker, they poison their own pool of good will (such as it is) among readers.

Often we assume that the daily editorial is simply the output of editorial page editor Scott Milfred and only casually the work of an entire editorial board. Today, however, since it’s a Sunday, and since it’s the most important subject in Wisconsin, we assume the whole board took a longer look than usual.

It’s extremely disappointing to think this is what we get from the whole foursome on the board. There’s no realistic “firewall” between the content on the news pages (which we normally approve) and the editorial page (normally disapprove). It’s mostly the same individuals.  Will we see the reframing of today’s editorial in future news reporting?  We hope not. That would be damaging.