recall

Edward Luce

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker reacts at his victory party Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Waukesha, Wis. Walker defeated Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Scott Walker at his victory party on June 5. AP Photo/Morry Gash

The great novelist William Faulkner once said: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

On Tuesday night, Republicans issued a warning shot to Barack Obama with the defeat of a recall vote against Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor, who last year stripped public sector unions of most of their bargaining rights.

There were plenty of omens for Mr Obama’s November prospects, mostly – but not all – bad (he came ahead of Mitt Romney in the exit polls).

But the fact that normally Democratic Wisconsin is now in play for November may be less important than the relevance of Tuesday’s history lesson. Stalking in the background, and doubtless turning in his grave, was Robert La Follette, the Wisconsin reformer, who championed worker rights more than a century ago. As father to the Progressive Era, La Follette led the reaction against the inequities of the Gilded Age by taking on the great railroad and oil industry money machines. Read more