The impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson was a dangerous time in the life of this Union. Johnson had been impeached in the House and was facing an unprecedented attack by Thaddeus Steven’s Senate Republicans. Johnson was the original RINO. Though on the 1864 republican ticket with Abraham Lincoln, Johnson was actually a former democrat and his inclusion was an attempt to show unity by choosing a former democrat in a border state.
From the beginning, Johnson was the anti-republican. Every reform Republicans wanted included in the reconstruction effort, Johnson opposed. Johnson touted states rights when southern states were literally allowing the slaughter of blacks and Jim Crow laws to spread. Republicans became so frustrated that they turned to the Constitution’s impeachment clause. The House indicted Johnson on eleven trumped up charges which mainly stemmed from removing Edwin Stanton from his own cabinet, which the Congress had ensured would not be legal. The impeachment was a result of political differences more than misconduct in the sense that we think of impeachment today.
In the end, the Senate acquitted Johnson. Aside from the fact that Johnson’s allies paid a few Republican senators off to vote for acquittal, some republican senators simply determined that impeachment wasn’t appropriate and that an elected officer shouldn’t be removed from office simply because people disagree with his policies.
To be sure, a federal impeachment is narrower in scope than a state recall election, yet like presidential impeachment, the Wisconsin recall tool was never intended to take out politicians that one didn’t agree with. This massive overreach and abuse of the law by Wisconsin’s democrats led to candidate Barrett’s demise.
Undoubtedly, this was a win against unions and a win for balanced budgets. But more than that, it is a lesson against democrats attempting to overreach. Most Wisconsin-ites believed democrats to be the victim in having no voice in the collective bargaining rights debate. It was Walker who rightly cut benefits to help balance his budget but then went another step forward in attempting to equalize public sector rights with private sector rights. Unfortunately, the temper tantrum of the state’s democrats who went as far as fleeing to the hotels of Illinois in secret to prevent a proper quorum, allowed Ds to take control of the narrative. Democrats had won. They would be able to overturn this law following the next election. Wisconsin-ites didn’t appreciate the one-sided partisanship. But then something happened.
The far left of the democrat party, the MSNBC talking heads and the most outrageous members of the party began calling for a recall election when this clearly wasn’t a case worthy of recall. They essentially purported that the policies of Walker were so beyond the pale that they should be evaluated under a process normally reserved for misconduct. Rather than respect the will of the people in the last election, they took acted like irresponsible teenagers using their parent’s credit card and spent capital that they didn’t yet have.
They paid dearly for it. Democrats are already blaming this on the disparity in money spent. But, the nature of the race can’t be discounted. Voters already chose Walker over Barrett once and they weren’t prepared to reverse course prematurely. Walker had matured and moderated his style. No amount of union pressure was going to change that.
The lesson is that impeachment and recalls for political purposes, often fail. They should be reserved for true misconduct and nothing more. Nonetheless, Walker has delivered a huge blow to organized labor. We can only hope that this allows other states to balance their budgets and makes it easier to create non-union jobs.