It was a mystery where they went, because they faded away so very quietly. There was no announcement. They didn't leave a note. Nobody saw them go. There were no long lines of backed up traffic on the Interstate. Airport traffic was normal. They just up and vanished -- and because they vanished, a dirty right-wing, pro-business racist smear campaign of misrepresentation and deception succeeded in giving conservatives the balance of power on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in yesterday's statewide election.
They definitely disappeared. Just do the math: In the Feb. 19 Wisconsin presidential primary, Barack Obama got 646,851 votes. Hillary Clinton was the runner-up with 453,954 votes. The two candidates, not even including the other Democrats still on the ballot, accounted for more than 1.1 million votes. In comparison, the combined total yesterday for Supreme Court challenger Mike Gableman (411,272) and incumbent Louis Butler(391,549) was roughly 803,000. Both Obama and Clinton individually outpolled the winner, and together they had 800,000-plus more votes than Butler.
You can quibble about how many Democratic voters disappeared. The Feb. 19 total was probably inflated by independents and Republicans crossing over. Go ahead. Knock off 300,000 or so of the total as not being "real" Democrats, although they voted Democratic in the Feb. primary. That still leaves 500,000 Democrats who did not show up at the polls to vote for an embattled liberal high court justice fighting a malicious smear campaign fueled by big-money interests. Granted, the race in technically non-partisan. But the battle was fought so ferociously it was clear to everyone who was backing whom and what was at stake.
The sad irony is that Butler did not need all those Democratic votes. A mere 20,0000 more votes would have given him the victory. If a mere 4% of the "missing" Democrats had shown up, Butler would have won. But the missing voters were nowhere to be found. They had disappeared.
The missing were all people who voted for change and against Republican rule on Feb. 19. The vast majority voted for the first real contender to be the nation's first black president. The others voted for the first real contender to be the nation's first woman president. They were good people who braved the February cold to put their principles on the line and vote for hope. And then, yesterday, they played one of the great April Fool's pranks of all time. By staying away from the polls they allowed the state Supreme Court to be sold to the highest bidder in a dirty, rigged auction. And while many Americans are thrilled by the prospect of the U.S. electing its first black president this fall, Wisconsin Democrats were unable to show up in sufficient numbers to keep the state's first black Supreme Court justice from being unceremoniously kicked off the high court.
All this happened while the netroots were otherwise preoccupied. They hardly noticed the disappearing Democrats. The liberal blogosphere was too busy with a fierce and divisive race for the Democratic presidential nomination and the resulting name calling, flame wars and broken friendships.
Has Karl Rove been able to stop cackling with glee? I doubt it. Will the presidential campaign be so dirty it makes the Wisconsin judicial race seem like child's play? Will Republican surrogates play the race card while McCain sails serenely above the fray? You can count on it.
Will Democrats wake up? I hope so.
Crossposted at Daily Kos with, naturally, a lot more comments.