Free Markets, Free People
In the Wisconsin recall election last night, Gov. Scott Walker and Lt Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch jumped to an early lead and never relinquished it, beating their Democratic rivals by 7 points, 53% to 46% and 6 points respectively. 3 of the 4 Republican state senators held their seats with one headed to recount.
Of course given the spin up to the vote, the left was pretty sure that it was a very close race and that they’d squeak out a win because, well, they were the left, for heaven sake and their cause was true and just … or something.
In the end the results left some pretty bitter lefties as seen here with this drama queen:
Of course instead of what this crybaby says, what happened last night was precisely the opposite of what he contends. Democracy didn’t “die” last night, it actually did what it was supposed to do. The unions and Democrats attempted to redress their grievances against the governor, succeeded in getting a recall election and lost.
That’s exactly how the system is supposed to work. Sorry, no guarantee on the outcome.
It also brought out one of the funniest and perhaps stupidest examples of trying to spin/distraction I’ve seen:
You can’t make this stuff up. And of course, watching Ed Schultz melt down on live TV was the treat of the night.
On a more serious note, Josh Marshall at TPM published his thoughts immediately after the results were certain:
These are bad times for incumbents across the country and, frankly, around the world. A governor convincingly (we still don’t know the exact margin) winning a recall election is a big deal. Victory counts. There’s no getting around that.
That’s exactly the opposite that Alec McGillis was trying to contend yesterday. And, Marshall is correct. It is anti-incumbent fever which has been the feature of the past few elections. So surviving a recall and actually doing better than he did the first time? Significant.
Marshall goes on:
This is also a big loss for public employees unions. There’s no getting around that fact. Just why that happened is another matter. But at the end of the day, victory is all that matters. Walker went big to destroy the public sector unions in his state. And the labor movement went all out to take him down and lost. Wisconsin’s a pretty progressive, fairly blue-ish state. This result in this state has to embolden Republican governors across the country to think you can go for game-changing attacks on key Democratic constituencies like labor and not pay a price at the polls. Public employees unions across the country have feel like they have crosshairs on their backs. And they do.
I don’t think you can spin this any other way.
But, as we see with the lame Axelrod tweet, attempts to do so will be fairly common on the left. Already it is “we were outspent” instead of voters just flat rejected their recall effort. And, no denying it, pubic service unions lost big.
I think Marshall was fairly stunned by the result and in a burst of shocked honesty, laid out the real results. I look for he and many others to be much more guarded and circumspect today. I also expect a lot of whistling past the graveyard from them.
The loss in WI is remarkable for the size of the gap between Walker and Barrett. And as usual the left is shocked at the outcome. Because, one supposes, they actually believed they were close to winning given the polling and coverage:
Walker can’t seem to break his 50 percent ceiling of support among Wisconsin voters. His ballot support has hovered at either 50 percent or 49 percent in 12 of the 14 polls released since early May, and recent polls show the race tightening in the final stretch.
“We’re very much anticipating that there’s a chance that we could be in a recount scenario,” said Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He said the party will have more than 440 lawyers in the field on Tuesday “doing election protection activities but also tasked with recount preparation, making sure that we know where absentee ballots are at, making sure that we have a strong handle on what’s happening out there.”
But other than the one State Senate race, none of the other races ended up anywhere near recount territory and were instead dramatic and resounding victories for the incumbents.
I bring the polling up for a reason. It is a way the left is going to console themselves and try to convince themselves that the outcome in WI has no national meaning. Marshall goes on in his immediate reaction to provide the example:
For all the ominous things this election said for labor movement and Dems, I don’t buy that this tells us a lot about President Obama’s fate in Wisconsin or across the country. Why? Look no further than the polls. Tonight’s exit polls showed that President Obama would win handily with this electorate. Indeed, all the polls leading up to this vote showed Walker winning by a solid margin and President Obama winning by an even solider margin.
Right – the polling. It was dead on, wasn’t it? And the exit polling in particular was so … accurate.
Last Marshall quote of significance, because I touch on it quite often and it does point to something I feel is of tremendous importance:
Why weren’t the anti-Walker forces able to sustain those numbers? That’s an important question I don’t think we have an answer to. Enthusiasm is critical. But enthusiasm and passion is evanescent if it doesn’t live within robust institutions. Which brings us back to the power (or lack thereof) of the union movement and public impressions of it. Why Walker ceased to be unpopular is the big question here.
Why? Because results matter and what Walker was able to do is show positive results with his agenda. And, more importantly, he accomplished them in enough time for them to be obvious to the voters. Secondly, 60% of the voters apparently felt the recall system was misused in this case, citing “misconduct” as the only reason it should be used. Obviously they didn’t feel this constituted misconduct.
Finally, it appears that while the enthusiasm of a core of union members remained high (like the guy in the video), the movement wasn’t able to sustain that enthusiasm less involved in the recall effort. Whereas the Walker side was able to motivate voters to turn out for him.
That quiet enthusiasm that manifests itself in the voters is what the left doesn’t understand. And apparently it is something the polls don’t catch. Most voters aren’t these simple animals that are susceptible to spin and appeals to class warfare. They’re much more complex than that, able to weigh arguments and make decisions based on what they see and how they see it in terms of results. Walker produced results. The voters, last night, endorsed them.
Democracy didn’t die last night, it got a transfusion and is well on its way to recovery.
Not that the left is at all happy about that.
Update: About that “we were outspent” meme:
Much of the money for the race has come from out of state. About $63 million has been spent on the race so far, including $16 million from conservative groups such as the Republican Governors Association, Americans for Prosperity and the National Rifle Association. The majority of Walker’s donations are from people outside Wisconsin.
Democratic groups – including those funded by unions, the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic National Committee – have poured in about $14 million, based on a tally from the government watchdog group the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Barrett’s $4.2 million in donations, meanwhile, were mostly from inside Wisconsin.
All you have to do is look at the latest smear against Gov. Scott Walker and its clear that there is no limit to what the opposition will throw out there:
Bernadette Gillick was a college freshman in 1988 when she first met Scott Walker. It was spring semester, and she had just transferred to Marquette University. She was assigned a room in O’Donnell Hall (then a women’s dormitory), which she shared with her new roommate, Ruth (not her real name). Ruth was dating Scott Walker, who was 20 at the time, and, according to Bernadette, Ruth was deeply in love with him.
Midway through that spring semester, Bernadette alleges, Ruth found out she was pregnant. She informed her boyfriend, Scott, and initially he was supportive. That support changed to callous indifference for his girlfriend’s predicament after Scott informed his parents of the pregnancy.
Bernadette reports that at this point Scott began denying that he was the father of the baby, and when Ruth said she was considering an abortion, he claimed he didn’t care, as he wasn’t the father anyway.
Bernadette remembers being present when Ruth was dealing with the wrath of Scott’s mother, who allegedly admonished Ruth for trying to “ruin [her son's] reputation.”
“I supported her [Ruth] as he [Scott] went from encouraging her to get an abortion, to telling me it was in my best interest to keep my mouth shut, to denying that he was the father and having his own mother call her and tell her to stop erroneously accusing her son of paternity,” Bernadette recounts.
It was a “horrible time” for her friend. “Imagine her being 18 years old and pregnant, walking around Marquette’s Jesuit Catholic campus with her boyfriend denying he was the father,” says Bernadette.
All this was taking place while Walker was running for student body president. As one of his classmates, Dr. Glenn Barry recalled in a remembrance published last week, Walker’s campaign was, “one of the dirtiest in school history.” The student newspaper Marquette Tribune called him “unfit for office” after his campaign was discovered collecting and throwing out copies of their paper that endorsed his opponent. Commenting on the election and Walker’s political career and style at Marquette, he noted, “Walker lost on all counts, but not before destroying a few people’s reputations, and amassing personal power.”
If Bernadette’s story is true, Ruth – and eventually their child – were just a few of the people who got in the way of Walker’s quest for power.
Note the last sentence – “If Bernadette’s story is true …”.
Well, according to “Ruth”, it isn’t. Too bad the “Wisconsin Citizen Media Co-op” didn’t bother to do the basic verification a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online reporter (btw, as much crap as we give the MSM, its nice to see one of it’s members do some basic work) did rather quickly and easily:
Daniel Bice June 3, 2012 at 3:15 am Reply
I am getting a lot of emails because of this post. Two things: (1) I tracked down and talked to Dr. Gillick’s freshman-year roommate at MU yesterday, and she adamantly denies that Walker is the father of her child. Yes, she got pregnant as a first-year student, but she believes Dr. Gillick is mixing up stories …
Or, the child wasn’t Scott Walker’s.
The “Wisconsin Citizen Media Co-op” then writes a follow up ironically entitled – “Editorial: On Integrity” where it attempts, poorly in my estimation, to justify running an unverified rumor that was quickly debunked.
Further irony? The Wisconsin Citizen Media Co-op recalls Walker’s campaign at Marquette as “one of the dirtiest in school history”.
Heh … my bet it can’t hold a candle to the dirt the Wisconsin Citizen Media Co-op just tried to dish on Walker.
But the irony impaired won’t get that either.
June 5th ought to be a very interesting day.
There’s a report out that Wisconsin Democrats are furious with the DNC for not supporting their efforts to recall Gov. Scott Walker.
Walker, the target of unions since he tried to curtail their power in the state, is in a runoff election with the former mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett. This is a race the unions have made a “national election”. They’ve poured money, time and effort into this recall election that has been unmatched in recent electoral history. But it seems it isn’t enough. At this point, with 3 weeks to go, Walker leads Barrett by 9 points.
Some of the strength of the base supporting Walker was evident in the primary. Ace fills us in with some numbers:
You know those 626,000 Republicans who turned out in Wisconsin yesterday? Go higher. A LOT higher.
Big number, but if the Marquette Law poll released last Wednesday is to be believed . . . that number is actually low.
MU found that of the voters confirming they would be voting in the Democratic primary, 17% were Republicans.
We will never know the actual numbers per party since there was no exit polling.
Assuming that even HALF of that number stuck by their decision to cross over to cause some mayhem, that means that over 50,000 votes on the Democratic side were just devilish Republicans, bringing the total turnout to over 676k for our side.
If you go by the Marquette number, those "hidden Rs" swell to an additional 110k, bringing total turnout to 736,000: nearly matching Prosser’s share in 2011 for a primary.
There is no way to spin turnout Tuesday in the Democrat’s favor. . . .
Dane County gave the Democrats a massive edge in votes of about 80,000, but proportionally that did not materialize in Milwaukee, which is a big concern for anyone trying to unseat Walker. If you remember earlier discussions here at the AOSHQDD, depressed Democratic turnout in Milwaukee county relative to the rest of the state actually saved Justice Prosser. The Madison vote will show up. The pro-Walker vote will show up from the Milwaukee burbs. Will traditional Presidential-race Democrats in Wisconsin’s largest city bother for a special election, even one as hyped as this? So far, the little evidence we have points to a big fat nuh-uh.
Walker won the largest uncontested share of a primary vote for governor last night in 40 years. His base is behind him when they really didn’t need to show up at all.
If you don’t recognize the name “Prosser”, he was a Republican justice who most felt would fall to a pro-union Democrat. But the election results most desired by the union didn’t materialize. Prosser won. The key graf in Ace’s analysis is the last one. Walker was uncontested. Yet, his base demonstrated their strength and intent. And, if the Marquette poll is to be believed, you can add up to 17% more in June.
It looks like union effort is faltering. How badly? Well, they couldn’t even get their preferred candidate elected in the Democratic primary:
Kathleen Falk’s drubbing in Tuesday’s Democratic primary has some political insiders questioning the decisions, and influence, of the state’s major public labor unions.
Falk, 60, was the first Democrat to enter the recall election, announcing her candidacy even before the race was official. Major labor unions, including AFSCME and the Wisconsin Education Association Council, quickly endorsed her and then went on to spend nearly $5 million to help her win the nomination.
But on Tuesday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett — a candidate for whom the unions initially showed very little love — defeated the former Dane County executive by 24 percentage points; a margin of victory all the more startling given that he entered the race late and was outspent 5-to-1. Barrett’s victory was even more pronounced in Dane County, Falk’s backyard, where he won by 30 points.
As Jim Geraghty asks:
So if the AFSCME and the Wisconsin Education Association Council couldn’t move votes in a Democratic primary, why should we expect them to move more votes in the general election?
That’s why they’re now whining about the DNC. My guess is if they lose, the DNC will be the fall guy, the “if but for the DNC’s failure to throw good money after bad, we’d have won” assertions. It’s time to become a victim. Gov. Walker has returned Wisconsin to at least a semblance of fiscal sanity with a budget surplus this year. His program of changes is working. The voters in Wisconsin aren’t blind or stupid. So victimhood is about all the recall proponents have left at this point.
In a last desperate attempt to salvage the effort, Wisconsin Democrats are trying to rewrite a little history:
“Scott Walker has made this a national election,” the Wisconsin Dem tells me. “If he wins, he will turn his victory into a national referendum on his ideas about the middle class. It will hurt Democrats nationally. The fact that [national Dems] are sitting on their hands now is so frustrating. The whole ticket stands to lose.”
Scott Walker had nothing to do with initiating a recall election, throwing collective temper tantrums in the state capitol or bussing in union members (and buckets of money) in from out of state. Democrats and unions did. It is they who have been appealing nationally. It is they who have elevated the Wisconsin recall election a “national election”. And, to this point, it is they who are fumbling the ball.
But they’re right about one thing. Thanks to them, it has been turned into a national referendum of the sort they don’t want to lose. And, unfortunately for them, at this point, they are.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Japanese earthquake and the implications for US nuclear policy, and Pres Obaba’s leadership style.
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One of the Kossaks has a post up about the polls showing WI Governor Scott Walker on the wrong end of them as he moves to fix the WI budget and curtail the power of public sector unions.
Poll after poll is telling Scott Walker the same thing: you are on the wrong side of public opinion. While early polling can fool you, we now have substantial data both from the nation and from Wisconsin.
The bottom line is that Gov. Walker has overplayed his hand with the public. Every Republican governor who is trying to curtail collective bargaining is at risk for being seen by the public as taking rights away, not balancing the budget. That can be done with givebacks (and the public is all for that, especially through negotiation.) But trying to curtail collective bargaining is seen by the public as the power grab it really is. The polls leave no doubt.
My reaction is, “so what”?
I mean I seem to recall poll after poll telling Obama and the Democrats that Americans didn’t want the ObamaCare monstrosity. But we were reminded that he’d won and elections have consequences.
Is that no longer true?
Since the tragedy in Arizona, where nineteen people were shot (including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and six murdered, talk of “civility” has been plentiful. The right side of the political spectrum was called to the mat for using such horrible words as “target” and “socialism” and having the temerity to employ Hitler/Nazism comparisons in protest signage (that, the truth be told, they weren’t even carrying). Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement were specifically denigrated for employing uncivil “eliminationist” rhetoric that was directly responsible for Mr. Jared Lee Loughner pulling the trigger in that awful event on January 8, 2011.
The gross mendacity (and unintentional preterition) of these charges against the right generally, and the Tea Partiers specifically, is bad enough. That they are leveled with abject hypocrisy is even worse. But politics is not a sport well-played in a tit-for-tat fashion. Everyone is guilty of hyperbole and hypocrisy at some point, regardless of political afflialiation.
What’s truly galling is the way that “civility” is suddenly determined by the language an opponent employs. Civility has nothing to do with words, but instead, everything to do with action. On that score, Democrats are behaving in as uncivil a manner as is possible.
A civilized nation conducts itself according to a defined, written, universally applicable and executable set of laws. Adherence to such laws are the immutable backbone of any society capable of survival. Wanton disregard of such laws inexorably leads to chaos and tyranny. Ergo, “civility” does not depend on people speaking nicely about one another, but upon everyone playing by the same rules.
The current flouting of the legal process in Wisconsin and now Indiana, (and what previously occurred in Texas), is the true definition of uncivil. Ignoring and actively undermining the electoral process is the epitome of “uncivil” action. Whatever harsh words may or may not have been spoken before, civility is still entirely dependent upon the process for determining the course of action in pursuit of public goals. Running away in avoidance of legislative duties smacks of cowardice and worse. It uproots the civil process.
A common observation of the democracy holds that voting is simply a proxy for violence. Fleshed out a bit, the process of electoral action is made in lieu of battle. We could decide the course of society based on bloody battle alone, and let might make right. Instead, civil societies have chosen to allow the consent of the governed to rule, the best of which societies have done so through a responsive and accountable republic. When the governors cease to heed to will of the governed, however, civil society becomes endangered and trouble is inevitable.
No less than Thomas Jefferson warned of the dangers in pursuing “uncivil” means of governance in the “shot across the bow” leading to the American Revolution, entitled “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (emphasis added):
And this his majesty will think we have reason to expect when he reflects that he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government erected for their use, and consequently subject to their superintendance …
To remind him that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants of the British dominions in Europe, and possessed a right, which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice has placed them, of going in quest of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as to them shall seem most likely to promote public happiness. That their Saxon ancestors had under this universal law, in like manner, left their native wilds and woods in the North of Europe, had possessed themselves of the island of Britain then less charged with inhabitants, and had established there that system of laws which has so long been the glory and protection of that country … Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual. For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold …
But that not long were they permitted, however far they thought themselves removed from the hand of oppression, to hold undisturbed the rights thus acquired at the hazard of their lives and loss of their fortunes. A family of princes was then on the British throne, whose treasonable crimes against their people brought on them afterwards the exertion of those sacred and sovereign rights of punishment, reserved in the hands of the people for cases of extreme necessity, and judged by the constitution unsafe to be delegated to any other judicature. While every day brought forth some new and unjustifiable exertion of power over their subjects on that side the water, it was not to be expected that those here, much less able at that time to oppose the designs of despotism, should be exempted from injury. Accordingly that country which had been acquired by the lives, the labors and the fortunes of individual adventurers, was by these princes at several times parted out and distributed among the favorites and followers of their fortunes; and by an assumed right of the crown alone were erected into distinct and independent governments
Jefferson later simplified his empirical understanding of how societies work with the infamous quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Another way of comprehending the principle is that a nation of laws only survives as long as the laws are adhered to. Every sovereign, whether composed of one or many, can only retain the authority entrusted to it by the people for as long as it respects that trust. Once it strays, enough to undermine the confidence of the governed, those “sacred and sovereign rights of punishment” will come into play. While such an extreme consequence may be remote at this time, there is no good that can come from enacting the foundations for its execution.
When the basis of a democratic republic — i.e. the electoral process — is entirely ignored and, worse, evaded as a politically inconvenient nuisance to the preferred outcomes of the very people entrusted with the public duty to uphold the republic, is there any doubt that it will fall?
Civility in our political language is certainly useful and desirable, if not actually attainable. In contrast, civility – i.e. respect for the process and outcomes thereof – is the sine qua non of our democratic institutions. While we may prefer the former, we really must insist on the latter.
Rasmussen says it’s Republican governor Scott Walker:
A sizable number of voters are following new Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s showdown with unionized public employees in his state, and nearly half side with the governor.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters agree more with the Republican governor in his dispute with union workers. Thirty-eight percent (38%) agree more with the unionized public employees, while 14% are undecided.
Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters think teachers, firemen and policemen should be allowed to go on strike, but 49% disagree and believe they should not have that right. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.
Public employee unions have long been strong supporters, financially and otherwise, of Democratic Party candidates, so it’s no surprise that 68% of Democrats support the union workers in the Wisconsin dispute. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Republicans and 56% of voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties side with the governor. [emphasis mine]
The bold line is key. I find nothing particularly surprising about either of the percentages from Democrats polled or Republicans. But again this indicates that the Democrats have lost the independent vote and lost it significantly. Public opinion, based on this poll, is definitely with the Governor.
What is playing out in Wisconsin has been recognized by unions as a hill they must die on or suffer the probably irreversible consequences of losing political power. They also understand the potential reaches far outside Wisconsin. If Wisconsin goes, others could follow:
“Some of the labor people are saying, ‘It’s the beginning of the fight back,’” said a top labor official. “But if the labor movement rallies and gets run over in Wisconsin, it opens [the gates] in every state” for governors to start pushing harder to curtail labor rights.
“Not every state’s going to roll back collective bargaining,” the official — who, like many, spoke off the record to avoid undermining the protests — added, but said it could open the gates for union losses on various fronts, like benefits.
Don’t be fooled – this isn’t just about “benefits”. It is about power, politics and money. The mix of those three have given public sector unions a synergy that has allowed them, in many places, to hand pick Democratic representatives, have them elected and then have them do the union’s business. It is a pernicious and non-competitive arrangement that is finally, because of the financial downturn, coming to light.
But the unions have a problem. They haven’t been able to sell the emotional argument (benefits) and they certainly aren’t about to try to explain the real reason they’re fighting this (power and money). So what they’re having to deal with the the public’s perception, formed over many years in Wisconsin, that the public sector costs too much, has to be cut and that includes public sector employee benefits as well:
But this fight isn’t at the time or place of the unions’ choosing. Hostility to public-sector workers, including teachers, is at an all-time high amid a recession and a new national mania for curbing the tide of fiscal red ink. Walker appears to have a firm legislative majority on his side.
And labor is struggling to explain — and convince a voting public that has inched away from the concept of unions as a bedrock American institution over the years — that while it’s willing to be flexible on Walker’s demands for cost control, his attempts to change the rules governing public unions are a matter of institutional life and death and union principle. Labor hopes the public will see Walker’s attempt to use a budget gap to reshape labor-management relations as an overreach. But for many people watching from afar, the details of what Walker wants to accomplish have gotten lost, and the fight is playing out as yet another in a long string of recent state-based brawls over the high cost of the public sector.
So public sector unions have a heck of a PR problem not only in Wisconsin, but if the Rasmussen poll is to be believed, throughout the US. Nationally that could mean this:
Bradley Tusk, a former Illinois deputy governor and New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign manager, said that if Walker succeeds in the fight, “this will be portrayed as a major change toward fiscal sanity and protecting taxpayers.”
“The average voter will never feel any pain from it,” he added, “so the high ground shifts away from labor. That puts Obama and other Democrats in the position of being forced further to the left, or moving more toward the GOP position and risking losing support from labor. … This almost creates some of the problems that a primary forces on the challenger.”
And the union’s “winning strategy” to counter that?
As a broader issue, in other states, national union officials think they’ve found a winning strategy in shifting the fight off government and slamming Wall Street, armed with repeated polls that show anti-financial industry sentiment at an all-time high.
Apparently, however, union officials don’t understand that it isn’t an “either/or” situation. The public blames both for different reasons. But more importantly, the public realizes “what is, is” and you deal with it. Whether they believe (or not) that Wall Street is to blame, that doesn’t change the fact that the problem (budget deficit) has to be confronted and solved and part of the solution has to be borne by public sector employees.
Norman Adler, a longtime lobbyist for public sector labor unions in New York, says the unions have to fight – that this is not something they can walk away from. And, if they lose in Wisconsin, they “have to reconfigure their tactics and move on.” But, he says:
“Labor pretty much lost the PR fight a number of years ago,” he said, suggesting the true targets of opportunity at the moment are state lawmakers who are “on the fence,” and can be swayed because they’re worried about getting elected back home. “And I think their position is that they have to show political muscle here.”
Translation: this could get even nastier.
Watch for it.
It’s a cold day in hell here as I favorably quote someone who I usually savage. And I have to revise my thoughts on the left not getting irony – apparently some do. Who am I taking about? Joe Klein. Yup that Joe Klein, TIME’s Joe Klein. He actually gets it:
Revolutions everywhere–in the middle east, in the middle west. But there is a difference: in the middle east, the protesters are marching for democracy; in the middle west, they’re protesting against it. I mean, Isn’t it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting "Freedom, Democracy, Union" while trying to prevent a vote? Isn’t it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn’t it interesting that some of those who–rightly–protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in the Wisconsin Senate?
An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that.
I know … you’re wondering, “what did they do with the real Joe Klein”, but hey give the devil his due (keeping with the cold day in hell metaphor) – he’s exactly right.
The other Klein, the Ezra type, not so much.
Let’s be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is — or is not — facing at the moment, they’re not caused by labor unions.
That, sir, is irrelevant. Whatever “fiscal problems” are present need to be solved by having across the board spending cuts and that’s the point of requiring public service labor union members to pitch in a little more on their benefits. Essentially what Wisconsin is trying to do is put state employees on an even par with private employees in terms of benefits.
Here’s the bottom line of what is triggering these protests:
Besides limiting collective-bargaining rights for most workers—excepting police, firefighters and others involved in public safety—it would require government workers, who currently contribute little or nothing to their pensions, to contribute 5.8% of their pay to pensions, and pay at least 12.6% of health-care premiums, up from an average of 6%.
Wow. No more free lunch. Can’t imagine that, can you? You know, actually having to pitch in for your pension and health-care? Privately employed citizens have been doing that forever. So why are the public sector folks exempt? Well that’s the dirty little secret isn’t it?
Let’s go to Matt Welch for the answer:
We are witnessing the logical conclusion of the Democratic Party’s philosophy, and it is this: Your tax dollars exist to make public sector unions happy. When we run out of other people’s money to pay for those contracts and promises (most of which are negotiated outside of public view, often between union officials and the politicians that union officials helped elect), then we just need to raise taxes to cover a shortfall that is obviously Wall Street’s fault. Anyone who doesn’t agree is a bully, and might just bear an uncanny resemblance to Hitler.
There is Wisconsin in a nutshell – distilled as well as you’ll find it anywhere. These deals were mostly pay for play and the state’s taxpayers were sold down the river. I noted some months ago that the Democrats have become the party of public service unions instead of the party of the blue collar worker. They are dependent on the money and machine those powerful unions provide to stay in power.
And when that machine falters? Well, you get tantrums like this. Remember the union protesters in Illinois a few months ago clamoring for the governor there to raise taxes instead of cutting their benefits? Just like Ezra Klein they want to lay off the fiscal mess on others instead of recognizing its reality and understanding that the free ride has come to an end. It doesn’t matter if the unions had anything to do with the mess – the mess says everything is on the table. That’s the only way out of the mess.
But, this is Armageddon for the Democrats and their stakeholders. If states succeed in breaking the hold public service unions have on government, Democrats stand to lose substantial power. That explains why President Obama has entered the fray. While he wouldn’t back the protesters in Iran because it might be seen as meddling in the internal affairs of the state, he has no qualms whatsoever of meddling in the internal affairs of the state of Wisconsin. Apparently elections only have consequences when he wins.
What has the unions so terrified of the Walker plan? Well here’s the plan:
His plan allows workers to quit their union without losing their job. He requires unions to demonstrate their support through an annual secret-ballot vote. He also ends the unfair taxpayer subsidy to union fundraising: The state and local government would stop collecting union dues with their payroll systems.
Under that plan, union membership would be an actual choice instead of a mandated requirement to hold a job. Horror of horrors. How dare a governor advance something which actually enhances freedom (choice = freedom) – why that makes him a dictator, of course and akin to Hitler.
Make no mistake, these protests in Madison aren’t about democracy, freedom or liberty. They’re about the left’s power and something they love to project on the right and Wall Street – selfishness. The protests are a collective tantrum from adolescents who refuse to acknowledge that their special-interest Candyland no longer exists and while it did, it existed on the back of the tax payers who were made to unwillingly subsidizing their way of life.
This is the wrong fight, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Democrats are on the wrong side. Public sector unions are not popular and despite Ezra Klein’s denial, are held responsible for some of the fiscal problems the states face (like pensions):
A new poll from the Washington-based Clarus Group asked:
Do you think government employees should be represented by labor unions that bargain for higher pay, benefits and pensions … or do you think government employees should not be represented by labor unions?
A full 64% of the respondents said "no."
That includes 42% of Democrats, and an overwhelming majority of Republicans. Only 49% of Democrats think public workers should be in unions at all.
So, as you watch these “protests” keep them in context. They’re an astroturfed attempt, orchestrated from the highest office in the land, to keep the power current structure in place that underpins the political power of the Democrats. This isn’t about rights or liberty or freedom, this is about power and money. And it has finally unmasked the left in this country and revealed what it is really all about.
Wisconsin is a great example of special interest constituency politics. I’m not talking about politics that focus on the constituents in your district or state if you’re an elected representative or senator. I’m talking about special-interest constituents who provide you money and backing when you seek election or reelection – whether from your district or not.
That’s pretty much what is going on in Wisconsin boils down too. Wisconsin’s Republican Governor, Scott Walker has proposed a number of ways to “repair” the budget. In summary, those aimed at public service unions place limits on their existing power:
It would require most public workers to pay half their pension costs – typically 5.8% of pay for state workers – and at least 12% of their health care costs. It applies to most state and local employees but does not apply to police, firefighters and state troopers, who would continue to bargain for their benefits.
Except for police, firefighters and troopers, raises would be limited to inflation unless a bigger increase was approved in a referendum. The non-law enforcement unions would lose their rights to bargain over anything but wages, would have to hold annual elections to keep their organizations intact and would lose the ability to have union dues deducted from state paychecks.
Apparently such limits are simply outrageous. Unions hold annual elections? Public workers pay more toward their pensions and health care costs? And, of course, the bargaining “rights” curtailed in everything but wages?
So that’s prompted an astroturf campaign which has involved organizations outside Wisconsin, to include the White House. The one thing public sector unions can do effectively it seems is “flash mobs”. Reports of advertisements in Illinois aimed at recruiting activists for protests in Wisconsin were common.
The Democratic National Committee also has involved themselves in the local fight.
The Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America arm — the remnant of the 2008 Obama campaign — is playing an active role in organizing protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights.
OfA Wisconsin’s field efforts include filling buses and building turnout for the rallies this week in Madison, organizing 15 rapid response phone banks urging supporters to call their state legislators, and working on planning and producing rallies, a Democratic Party official in Washington said.
So anyone who thinks this is all “spontaneous” might want to buy a clue.
Meanwhile, all the Democratic state senators in Wisconsin have run off to Rockford, Ill to avoid having to do their jobs. You see, Republicans hold a majority, but are one short of a quorum needed to pass legislation. So without the Democrats, the Senate is unable to act on legislation. Democrats have issued a “list of demands”:
“We demand that the provisions that completely eliminate the ability of workers… to negotiate on a fair basis with their employers be removed from the budget repair bill and any other future budget,” Miller said.
He also demanded legislative oversight on changes to the state’s medical programs, which are targeted for changes in the bill. The bill would also require union members to contribute to their health care and pensions.
My guess is there’s some negotiating room there, but if I were the governor I’d tell Dems that there’ll be no talk about their demands until they act like adults and show back up in the capital ready to do their jobs. And Governor Walker has laid out the alternative fairly clearly:
Walker said the only alternative would be layoffs of 10,000 to 12,000 state and local employees.
Of course, without a quorum, that isn’t the strongest hand in the world. But what Democrats are doing sure seems like a childish tantrum in my eyes. Republicans may not have a quorum and state government may grind to a halt because of it, but I doubt that voters are going to blame members of the GOP for that.
All of this has spawned the usual misinformation as charges and counter-charges fly. Ed Schultz provides an example of a completely false statement about the controversy according to Politifact Wisconsin. Said Shultz:
Under changes being debated, state employees in Wisconsin "who earn $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year might have 20 percent of their income just disappear overnight."
Not true. Although state employees would have to pay a higher percentage for their benefits (in the 6 to 11% range) none are looking at “20 percent of their income disappear[ing] over night”.
Unions have been losing favor in the eyes of the American public for years, with a fairly sharp downturn in their popularity in 2007. Since then their favorability rating has stayed about the same, but unfavorable numbers continue to build:
Americans’ attitudes about labor unions changed only slightly over the past year, following a sharp downturn between early 2007 and early 2010. Currently, 45% say they have a favorable opinion about labor unions, while nearly as many (41%) say they have an unfavorable opinion.
In January 2007, 58% said they had a favorable opinion of unions; 31% had an unfavorable opinion.
Tantrums like this, astroturfing and the plain old uncivil behavior aren’t going to help their case. Ann Althouse has some examples of the latter. It appears that Adolph Hitler has made a comeback among the left in Wisconsin. Civility is only a requirement for those on the right, apparently. The left – well it’s the left and any insult and comparison, no matter how outrageous, is perfectly fine. Godwin’s law is in effect in Wisconsin.
I think Wisconsin is only the beginning of these sorts of spectacles and fights. Entrenched bureaucracies and unions aren’t going to give up their power easily and go quietly in the night. How they conduct themselves in this sort of fight will be important though. The point, one assumes, is to bring visibility to their arguments and persuade the public to back them. If that’s the case, I don’t think the way the Wisconsin protesters (and legislators) are prosecuting their case will be held up as a model to be emulated.
Cuts are coming – whether made willingly or forced by reality. There’s no escaping that. Gov. Walker is trying to get ahead of that curve.
Human nature says no one wants to see their ox gored, regardless of reality’s demands. But in a battle for public opinion, acting like children, calling people Nazis and importing out-of-state protesters in what is really a local fight doesn’t seem to be the best way to get the public on your side.