by Kelly Sloan | 3:55 pm, August 31, 2011 | Comments Off
This past summer, the Democrats and the Labor movement, along with the usual flotsam and jetsam of liberal interest groups, opted to undertake an expensive gamble in Wisconsin; its ultimate failure was in proportion, politically speaking, to the concerted attempt.
The Wisconsin State Democrats put 6 Republican Senators on the recall chopping block, a reaction to fiscal reforms initiated and signed by GOP Governor Scott Walker, which was at least a tad more mature than their previous reactions. The GOP reforms aimed to plug the biggest drain on the state’s finances – the exorbitant benefits extorted from the State by its unionized public workers. Essentially, Walkers reforms did away with the ludicrous practice of allowing public sector unions the power of collective bargaining – not for wages, but for benefits.
For many on the left, the Wisconsin battle was their Thermopylae; the tenets being challenged by Walker’s reforms are among the most sacrosanct in liberal theology. The mere existence of government workers’ unions meshes the left’s class warfare obsession with their fetish for government. They are among the largest, most captive, and deep-pocketed of Democrat constituencies – and also the most powerful and self-perpetuating, owing to the lack of any subjectability to market-based restraints, as well as their unique ability to effectively hire their own bosses through campaign donations. This type of Medici-esque power (which gave Wisconsin’s state employees’ gold-plated healthcare and retirement benefits of a type inconceivable in the private sector, with little to no financial contribution on the part of the union members) was exactly the sort of thing driving Wisconsin – like many states—towards bankruptcy. It was also a power that the unions and their progressive allies had no intention of giving up, the economy be damned; the very factors that contribute to public sector unions being such a deleterious millstone on a state’s economy, after all, zygotically endear them to liberals.
So we began to witness the almost comical reaction from the State’s Democrats and leftists throughout the country. Wisconsin Democrat Senators scurried and hid outside the State both to prevent a vote on the hated measures, and to stymie the State Troopers sent forth to play truant officer and haul them back to work. Meanwhile, a throng of aging, nostalgic hippies did their best to turn the State Capitol into an updated version of Woodstock or Berkley, aided by a younger generation of malcontents apparently yearning for the chance to reenact such great liberal battlegrounds of yore – by, for instance, eschewing the use of garbage cans.
When temper tantrums ultimately failed, they went to the courts; when even that usual last refuge of the radical slammed the door in their face, they turned to the last arrow in their quiver; setting up recall elections for the purpose of gaining a senate majority. It was quite a gamble. Millions of dollars, and an incalculable amount political capital, were invested in an outcome based on the hope that a manufactured public outcry would actually be adopted by voters weary of both a beleaguered economy and the spectacle of the previous months. The sums involved testified as to the extent of the wager.
It was a serious miscalculation, in several ways. First, of course, they failed to attain their desperately sought after majority, rendering the entire expensive exercise moot. Second was the sheer repudiation of their message by the voters. The public revolt amongst the masses that labor leaders, Democrats, and their allies in media had deluded themselves into thinking was coming to a boil, following the epic struggle over Governor Walker’s reforms, simply failed to materialize. Of the two seats the Democrats did manage to pick up, one was the result of the Republican incumbent being accused of having an affair with a 25 year old staffer (a scandal which the Democrats /union coalition kept very much alive in their campaign, hardly mentioning their opponent’s support for Walker’s reforms); the other was in a carefully chosen district that carried Obama by a substantial margin in ’08.
But the principal reason this was such a crucial loss for the left, the reason they invested so much into the fight, was simply timing; the recalls were quite possibly the last chance the democrats had of realistically being able to stop the dreaded reforms. Once they begin to take effect, and the sky does not fall, the lakes not boil, and the streets not turn to rubble, all the caterwauling of the left will ring hollow, and they will find their bandoleers empty of their most potent rhetorical bullets. Worse, once the reforms begin to pay dividends, and Wisconsin’s financial future begins to brighten, any practical argument the left may have yet hoped to wield will dissolve, leaving only clichés and folk-song lyrics.
Once that happens, there will be little the unions can do to prevent similar reforms from metastasizing to other states, especially ones which have been closely watching Wisconsin for signs of which direction to proceed.
The democrats and liberal press can try to paint as happy a face on the recalls as they like; but the failure to snatch the majority in the Wisconsin Senate represents a lost gamble for the left – and a dodged bullet for Wisconsin, and maybe the nation – the magnitude of which is difficult to overstate.
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