Republican victories in the midterm elections widely are viewed as a rejection of President Obama’s failed policies. But are the elections a harbinger of things to come in 2016?
For Scott Walker, the answer is yes.
Walker was elected governor by a 5.77% margin in 2010, and won the 2012 recall election by 6.8 percent.
This year, Walker beat Democrat Mary Burke, by 5.7% despite national Democrats and labor unions pouring everything they had into removing Walker from office.
There even was a third force at play in the election, one which had been stalking Walker for years and like a monster in some horror movie, kept reappearing at the worst possible moment.
That monster was the John Doe investigations launched by Democratic Milwaukee County Prosecutor John Chisholm.
The so-called John Doe Number One, which concerned Walker's time as Milwaukee County Executive, haunted the 2012 recall election with just enough information leaked to create a cloud of suspicion. The fact that Walker ultimately was not found to have engaged personally in any wrongdoing did not impress prosecutors.
After the 2012 recall election, John Doe Number Two was launched to investigate alleged illegal coordination between national and Wisconsin conservative activists and Walker's campaign.
That second John Doe proceeding made John Doe Number One look quaint by comparison.
In John Doe Number Two, homes of conservative activists were raided SWAT-style, as if they were drug gangs. Children were pulled out of beds by frightened parents and computers and records were seized, while the targets were ordered not to tell anyone other than their attorneys about what had happened.
The seizures also included phone and text records, bank information, and all sorts of communications between and among virtually the entire conservative movement in Wisconsin.
The effect was to chill participation of the state and national conservative activists in the political process, including the 2014 election cycle. And to suppress, through fear of retribution, their freedom of speech and association.
For what purpose was this assault on constitutional rights conducted?
The prosecutor's theory of illegality has been rejected at both the state and federal court level. Simply put, there is nothing illegal about coordinating on the types of issue advocacy engaged in by the conservative activists.
From its inception, the legal theory of the case was suspect, and at best a stretch. Yet that stretch played a pivotal role in the Walker-Burke campaign, with Burke running advertisements based on the unfounded accusations of illegality made by the prosecutors.
Worse still, a whistleblower who formerly was employed in Chisholm's office has come forward alleging a political motivation.
Chisholm reportedly said it was his ‘personal duty’ to stop Walker because Chisholm's wife, a school union representative, allegedly was furious with Walker's collective bargaining reforms and survival of the recall.
Chisholm denies that accusation, but that raises other questions. Who will investigate the investigators?
In reelecting Walker, Wisconsin struck a blow against the politics of personal destruction. That is a message Walker now is uniquely capable of delivering to an electoral sick of politics as usual.
Additionally, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is the personification of the politics of personal destruction.
In using the power of prosecutors and the resources of unions to attack, vet, investigate and malign Walker, Democrats hoped to destroy him.
Instead, Democrats gave Walker a national electoral credibility they may regret in 2016.
William A. Jacobson is Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, and publisher of Legal Insurrection Blog.