Not to draw an equivalence between a bad bill and a good one, but what it reminds me of is congressional Democrats after Scott Brown’s election. The early CW was that somehow Democrats “had to” back down in the face of their unpopularity. But they didn’t have to do anything. They believed as strongly in universal health care as the Wisconsin GOP believes in crushing labor unions. So they passed the damn bill.
I have no problem whatsoever endorsing the actions of the Wisconsin Senate Republicans. Just because Democrats didn’t feel like showing up to vote on the issues of the day does not mean that Republicans ought to indulge the other side in their desire to shut down the government. The standoff has gone on long enough, and barring the implementation of extraordinary measures, it would not have ended anytime soon.
Obviously, Republicans think that crippling the Democratic Party in the long-term is part of what they need to do to control state-level budgets. But I think the more likely result is simply that Democrats will pass a ball allowing collective bargaining among public employees as soon as they return to power. The ramifications of parties using their political power in order to try to cripple the opposing party are a lot deeper and more dangerous than Walker seems to be reckoning.
[I]f Walker is down politically right now, it may not really matter. Smart executives do the hard stuff in their first months and years in office. An economic recovery - and Wisconsin's already in better shape than most states -- will allow governors around the country to, as is traditional, claim mostly undeserved personal credit for national economic trends, to use new revenues to simultaneously spend freely and cut taxes. Walker's success in cutting spending and longer-term obligations to the state's workforce now will give him more room to please everyone as his re-election (or even his own, more distant, recall fight) approaches.
It seems to me that the system worked. Democrats were able to slow the process down and convince both voters in Wisconsin and the national media that there was something beyond business as usual happening in Madison. National and state polls show they were successful in that effort. Walker and the Senate Republicans ignored the Democrats’ attempts at compromise and ignored the public turning against them and decided to pass the legislation anyway.
In Wisconsin, Democrats are already promising to step-up recall efforts. But the recalls are only a small part of what is likely going to be a huge anti-Republican backlash across the nation, as working Americans finally realize what that party actually stands for: an playing field heavily tilted toward the rich and powerful, toward corporate power, and against worker rights.
Democrats will take power in Wisconsin again, and when they do I think they are likely to restore the “dues checkoff” automatic deductions from public payrolls to pay union dues, eliminated in the just-passed bill. But I think they are likely to find the federal model of limited collective bargaining pretty useful, just as Barack Obama has. Under pressure from municipal officials, Wisconsin Democrats will be more likely to “reform” this law while retaining significant constraints on bargaining than to repeal it entirely.
(Photo: A protestor sleeps on the floor of the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 10, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. Thousands of demonstrators took over the the Wisconsin State Capitol late Wednesday after the Wisconsin Republican Senators voted to curb collective bargaining rights for public union workers in a surprise vote with no Democrats present. By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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