Unaccustomed as we are to presenting good news, it’s hard to find anything bad about the results of Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin.
A more determined pessimist could find cause for worry in the fact that more than 46 percent of Badger State voters went against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, which is indeed a frighteningly large number, but even that cannot suppress our giddiness about the clear majority that voted to keep him around. The outcome is not only good for Wisconsin, which will retain the policies that have turned a multi-billion dollar state budget deficit into a multi-million dollar surplus and allowed school districts to hire rather than fire teachers, all without job-killing tax hikes, but it’s also good news for 49 other states where the political class now knows that such good deeds can go unpunished.
The only Wisconsinites who aren’t better off as a result of Walker’s actions are the teachers and other state employees, or at least the ones who wouldn’t been have been laid off if not for his reforms, and even they are still better compensated as a group than the public sector working stiffs who pay their salaries. Such reasonable, necessary, and widely beneficial demands were enough to enrage the public sector unions and their leftist allies, though, so they threw all their financial and physical resources into making an example of Walker with hopes of intimidating any other governor who might consider challenging their political power.
Governors in several states are being forced by economic realities to enact similar reforms, but the labor movement picked Walker for the fight because they thought Wisconsin — the proud home of “Fightin’ Bob” La Follette and the Progressive Movement, the first state to allow collective bargaining for public bargaining, and a state carried by the Democrats in every presidential election since 1984 — would provide the most favorable battleground. Having suffered a complete rout there, which included losses in previous recall elections for several state legislators and a proxy election for the state Supreme Court, the unions are now unlikely to intimidate reformers elsewhere.
Some are predicting the Wisconsin battle will prove devastating to the public unions, even likening it to the left’s Stalingrad, and there is ample reason to hope they might be right. Tuesday’s results mean that the state will continue to refuse to collection dues on behalf of the union, allowing members the option of not paying at all, and already the unions have suffered a huge drop in membership as a result. The often thuggish tactics that the anti-Walker forces resorted to almost certainly further damaged the unions’ reputations, which were already suffering according to numerous polls, and they ultimately proved ineffective.
– Bud Norman