Elections Have Consequences – Wisconsin Edition

Elections Have Consequences – Wisconsin Edition


Having won the Wisconsin gubernatorial election in November, Republican Governor Scott Walker set out to do exactly what he said he would do as a candidate. This outraged many Democrats and liberals both in and out of the state of Wisconsin, who apparently believe he should govern more like the Democrat who lost.

A few days ago Rachel Maddow sounded the liberal alarm and, as is often the case, her clarion call is the clearest articulation of the progressive case. We learn from Rachel that nothing less than the entire future of the Democratic Party is at stake in Madison, Wisconsin. Recall that the Democratic Party was characterized as a juggernaut only two short years ago, riding an unstoppable permanent demographic realignment over Republican Party roadkill with an open highway of political dominance rolling out before them. Yet now, suddenly and inexplicably the Democratic Party is facing political extinction in Madison, Wisconsin:

[NOTE: I intended to embed the Maddow youtube here, but apparently my permissions have changed and I cannot]

There is a downside to being crystal clear in your argument. You can be shown to be clearly wrong. Such is the case with the first claim of Maddow’s case, that the state fiscal problems were all ginned up by the new governor. Politifact reports she clearly got her facts wrong:

“There is fierce debate over the approach Walker took to address the short-term budget deficit. But there should be no debate on whether or not there is a shortfall. While not historically large, the shortfall in the current budget needed to be addressed in some fashion. Walker’s tax cuts will boost the size of the projected deficit in the next budget, but they’re not part of this problem and did not create it. We rate Maddow’s take False.”

The rest of Maddow’s argument – that this is really all about money flow to Democratic Party – has merit. In fact, the right and left completely agree on this point. John Fund via Da Tech Guy:

‘Labor historian Fred Siegel offers further reasons why unions are manning the barricades. Mr. Walker would require that public-employee unions be recertified annually by a majority vote of all their members, not merely by a majority of those that choose to cast ballots. In addition, he would end the government’s practice of automatically deducting union dues from employee paychecks. For Wisconsin teachers, union dues total between $700 and $1,000 a year’

This is what this is all about, nothing else, that’s why the biggest guns in the democratic party are fighting this fight. They know those dues will end up funding their campaigns, if they lose this fight here it’s all over…”

Isn’t it great when the right and left, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservaives can come together, be of one mind and agree on the facts? Krugman echoes Maddow’s thoughts, saying this is all about power for Republicans, yet with a partisan blind spot as big as Wisconsin, fails to see that this is also all about power for Democrats. And no – this is not a “false equivalency”. This is as truly equivalent as it gets.

Democrats believe that Republican politicians are the beneficiaries of corporate largess and consequently vote taxpayer funds into profits for private contractors, “public-private” partnerships, and contracts for weapon system contracts, with the expectation that portions of said profits are funneled back into supporting Republican campaigns. Republicans believe that Democrats continually increase spending on the size of the public sector and legislate union-friendly rules in order to increase the base of forced dues payed into union coffers which in turn funnel money back into supporting Democratic campaigns. They’re both right. May the circle be unbroken. Kumbayah.

This is one reason among many why this blogger is so adamant that neither party can ever be trusted with all the keys to the castle. Ever. Without exception. But I digress…

Meanwhile, back in Madison, the public sector unions have again organized protests at the steps of the capitol to exercise their Democratic right to shut down the Democratic process and subvert the Democratically expressed wishes of the Wisconsin electorate, in order to be sure that the money flow to the Democratic Party is not interrupted.

The irony was not lost on Joe Klein:

“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. There are no guarantees that labor contracts, including contracts governing the most basic rights of unions, can’t be renegotiated, or terminated for that matter. We hold elections to decide those basic parameters. And it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker’s basic requests are modest ones–asking public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, though still far less than most private sector employees do. He is also trying to limit the unions’ abilities to negotiate work rules–and this is crucial when it comes to the more efficient operation of government in a difficult time…

Public employees unions are an interesting hybrid. Industrial unions are organized against the might and greed of ownership. Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed… of the public?

The events in Wisconsin are a rebalancing of power that, after decades of flush times and lax negotiating, had become imbalanced. That is also something that, from time to time, happens in a democracy.”

Patrick McIlheran finds support for the Governor from a surprising historical source:

“Roosevelt’s reign certainly was the bright dawn of modern unionism. The legal and administrative paths that led to 35% of the nation’s workforce eventually unionizing by a mid-1950s peak were laid by Roosevelt. But only for the private sector. Roosevelt openly opposed bargaining rights for government unions. “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”

As Klein notes, the politics of power has a way of balancing itself out. The media and Democrats exclusive focus on the union power-play in the “Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill“, have allowed some of the possibly more egregious issues buried in this bill to remain relatively unnoticed. This bill is almost as unreadable as Obamacare. I’ve tried. Undoubtedly Walker is overreaching with the executive empowered to drive crony-capitalist deals through loopholes created in this bill. As with Democrats in 2009, the seeds of destruction for the resurgent Wisconsin Republicans are being planted now in 2011. Perhaps in this very bill. It’s the nature of the beast.

Regardless, I think the Democrats and unions are seriously misreading the temperament of the Wisconsin voters who just elected this Republican governor and legislature. Particularly when Democrats talk about initiating recall campaigns for Wisconsin Republican politicians. Wisconsin does have a history of eating their own, but this recall campaign is truly delusional, and likely to backfire on Democrats in a big way. Who is more likely to get recalled? Republicans doing what they were elected to do four months ago? Or Wisconsin Democratic legislators shirking their responsibilities and hiding out in Illinois motels?

Well, Democrats are always welcomed in Chicago. Maybe the Wisconsin legislators should stay in their Illinois hideouts. They may find that they will be more welcomed in the President’s old Cook County stomping grounds than back in their home districts.

Excerpted and x-posted fromDivided We Stand United We Fall.

  • cat48

    Your link to show the Union in WI shouldn’t be shocked by him taking away all their collective bargaining rights does not prove he ran on taking away their bargaining rights. It just proves he’s a typical repub who hates unions. Nothing odd about that. Even Chrisitie in NJ did not ask for the union’s bargaining rights. This couldnot have been anticipated unless he ran ads saying he would do that.

    They agreed last week to the monetary concessions Walker wanted. He refuses to yield on stripping all their rights they’ve had for FIFTY YEARS, 50 years, thru Republican governors. This is a VAST OVERREACH of power! And it’s coordinated in 15 states. Ohio STARTS TUESDAY! Protests there too. The Koch Bros, his eager supporters, are supporting this in WI and have already shown up in OH. The road to serfdom is upon us & that’s not hyperbole. They’ve already crushed the private co. labor unions which will eventually affect you if you work. Those Holidays will disappear, work hours extended, weekends cancelled. It’s coming to a job near you. If you enjoy workers rights such as these, you OWE a union who fought for years for these things.

    I don’t think the Koch Bros. have ever worked for better working conditions like the unions did in the last 50 years, but you’ll see if you’re not selfemployed. It will eventually effect you or yours personally eventually if unions are destroyed.

    This is all about weilding personal power & Walker is really into crushing folks. Sorry, there is a difference between him & Obama. Obama would not ask for your personal dignity…..Walker is demanding it!

  • angellight

    Let us not forget the history of a very dark past, when….

    On May 2nd, 1933, the day after Labor day, Nazi groups occupied union halls and labor leaders were arrested. Trade Unions were outlawed by Adolf Hitler, while collective bargaining and the right to strike was abolished. This was the beginning of a consolidation of power by the fascist regime which systematically wiped out all opposition groups, starting with unions, liberals, socialists, and communists using Himmler’s state police.

    Fast forward to America today, particularly Wisconsin. Governor Walker and the Republican/Tea Party members of the state legislature are attempting to pass a bill that would not only severely punish public unions (with exception for the police, fire, and state trooper unions that supported his campaign), but it would effectively end 50 years to the right of these workers to collectively bargain.

    Collective bargaining is a process of voluntary negotiations between employers and trade unions aimed at reaching agreements which regulate working conditions. Collective agreements usually set out wage scales, working hours, training, health and safety, overtime, grievance mechanisms and rights to participate in workplace or company affairs. -wiki


  • http://www.whatweshouldknowblog.com Centerist Cynic

    As you point out elections have consequences. You then go on to assume that Wisconsonites were in full agreement with the agenda of the Republican Party.

    What I question is the extent that the electorate knew and understood what that agenda would be. It would be interesting for someone to do polling right now that asks what people thought Scott Walker was going to do as Governor.

    I don’t think anyone really knew the Governor was going to try and rush through legislation that eliminated collective bargaining rights, eliminated key protections for environmentally sensitive areas or sell off key government assets.

    I agree with you that elections have consquences but then so does overreach of the our elected officals. Just ask President Obama and the Democrats

  • michael mcEachran

    Generally, I am not pro-union. I have seen first hand the incredible inefficiencies that unions can generate, and I think their power should be limited. However, the part of Maddow’s argument that resonates with me is that the Citizen’s United decision has thrust the balance of power toward those with the largest coffers. If unions are busted, there will be no large organizations on the labor/liberal side of the equasion, and corporate interests / funds will run unchecked into the political process. Basically, mw, this is similar to your idea that no one party should get the keys to the castle. I agree. It makes me a little crazy, because, to me, this is more evidence of how bad the Citizen’s United case is for America. We don’t need more corporate OR union money in our politics, and we certainly don’t need a system where one side has most of the advatage / caries all the keys.

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    Agree with you about the polls and expect we’ll see them in the next few days.

    I have a question for you. You say that Walker “eliminated key protections for environmentally sensitive areas”. I’ve heard this elsewhere, and was told that gutting the conservation departments was also part of the budget bill. I tried to find it in the bill but could not. Much of the 140 page bill is unreadable unless you’ve got a Wisconsin Law Library at your disposal. Can you tell me whether the environmental issues you reference are part of the budget repair bill?

    I don’t disagree, but these things do go in cycles, the pendulum swings too far, and the alarmists usually get it wrong. Elections are the great equalizers. Obama and the Dems overreached and the GOP that was left for dead after ’08 is now resurgent. If the Reps overreach on either the state or federal level (and they probably will), they’ll get slapped back in 2012. In the meantime, they’ll do some things that Dems won’t like. That’s what happens when you lose, as Obama pointed out early in his term. I’d rather that voters not give either party the ability to overreach, but they don’t listen to me either.

    The money issue is real but overstated. First, Dems get a significant share of the Corporate contributions. Not as much as Reps, but plenty. In 2008, they got more than Republicans.

    Money also does not determine elections. If it did, we’d have Senators Carly Fiorina, Christine O’Donnell, Linda McMahon, and Sharon Angle right now, as well as Governor Meg Whitman here in CA.

  • http://www.whatweshouldknowblog.com Centerist Cynic

    I believe the gutting of the conservation dept. is one but I have not found it there specifically. In talking with my brother who is a business owner in Madision, things are happening outside the budget bill as well. Oneexample given to me is that he has waived protections of a marsh area to allow a large donor to build a car dealership. My brother stated there were more in the works.

    I will try and get more examples if you would like.

  • michael mcEachran

    @ mw – ” Money also does not determine elections. If it did, we’d have Senators Carly Fiorina, Christine O’Donnell, Linda McMahon, and Sharon Angle right now, as well as Governor Meg Whitman here in CA.”

    Certainly money cannot buy an election for a bad candidate (this is quite a list), I don’t buy the notion that these examples indicate money doesn’t really matter that much. Even if it were a complete myth that money helps a candidate win, these candidates are all still trying to get as much as possible, and that makes them beholden to the pockets that give it. Therein lies the greatest threat: indebtedness.

  • Mike A.

    Collective bargaining rights give the workers some advantage to influence negotiations that they wouldn’t have had without combining resources. The same can be said for powerful lobbyists working to influence lawmakers in writing laws beneficial to them. Both forms represent the power to create wealth by giving one side an advantage. It can be fair, but can also corrupt the system. Why are we discussing taking it away from the middle class worker and not the corporations?

    I don’t normally side with unions, but in this case this is an overreach of the government.

  • http://stubbornfacts.us Simon

    Since I would hold all unions to be per se violations of section one—quite aside from the inefficiencies Mike alludes to, as cartelizations of the labor market they are combinations in restraint of trade—I have no problem with the far more modest step of limiting their prerogatives.

    I’m surprised that Maddow let the cat out of the bag; her comments essentially admit that this is all about power. cat48 is right about that (if little else), but gets the valence backwards. These protests are about the Demcorats’ fear of a future in which they cannot rely on union muscle.

    Lastly, the Democrats have forfeited their right to criticize anyone for obstructionist tactics. They’ll still try to play that card, I’m sure, but it will fool no one after recent events in Wisconsin and Indiana. Nor can they play the “politics of fear” card; that card was taken away from them years ago (“Bush lied! Bush is a dictator-in-waiting!”) but they apparently need to be reminded that one cannot criticize fearmongering while engaging in it yourselves.

  • B J

    Geez, mw, what a freaking hatchet job! Do you get paid a nickel for every overgeneralization? Let me give you a hint: the “right” and the “left” aren’t represented by one or two pundits such as Maddow, Krugman, Klein, Oreilly, etc. Similarly, “the unions” aren’t on the steps of the Capitol, lots of different people are there (TA’s, teachers, firefighters, private employees, public employees, kids, tea party activists). And it’s a blatant misrepresentation to say that these protestors are in any way “subverting democracy” by making their opinions known. There are other (perhaps more important) ways to participate in democracy besides voting every few years.

    Also the thought that the “Democratically expressed wishes of the [Wisconsin] electorate” can be equated with actions of ANY politician is truly laughable. The only thing that elections decide is who gets to run/ruin next.

    You know better than this. Stop polluting the internet with yet more thoughtless, superficial hatchet jobs.

  • http://westanddivided.blogspot.com/ mw

    Thank you for the thoughtful, insightful, constructive criticism.

  • http://stubbornfacts.us Simon

    B.J., democracy typically requires a decisionmaking apparatus which (at least in theory) allows all the people to participate. Your error—and it’s become prevalent in recent years—is in equating some people with “the people.” Some people are amplifying their opinions in Madison, but “the people” are not. “The people” had their say at the last election; many said “we don’t care,” and a majority of those left said “we vote for Walker.” In recent days, a small subsection of the people, who happened to be on the losing side of the last election, have mobbed the capitol and are trying to intimidate the legislature into abandoning parts of its program. You can call that many things, not all of them bad, but what you can’t say with any seriousness is that “these protestors are [not] in any way ‘subverting democracy’ by making their opinions known.” Their opinions are already known; the decision to assemble and remain assembled thus has nothing to do with making their opinion known. Some other explanation is required, and the only one that really stands up is a desire to impose their will by force and intimidation, which is what MW (correctly) charged. This is not Egypt. They are not plucky heroes.

  • theWord


    Trying to remember your post about the TeaParty at the Health Care meetings and the thuggery and intimidation of the antiAbortion crowd as they murder and intimidate there way to take away a legal health care option and impose their will on others.

  • theWord

    should have been their my apologies

  • kranky kritter

    The WI episode surely points out that we have flaws in the “decision-making apparatus.

    Did candidate Walker run on a platform promising to sharply curtail union bargaining rights in a fashion identical to whet he is now undertaking? My understanding is that he did not.

    Obviously, any elected official has a responsibility to adjust approaches to meet whatever real problems are encountered upon taking office. Just as obviously, constituents have a right to oppose any approaches they don’t like using whatever civil methods they have available to them. Especially if the next voting cycle is too far off to curb policy actions they don’t wholly support.

  • kranky kritter

    Since I would hold all unions to be per se violations of section one—quite aside from the inefficiencies Mike alludes to, as cartelizations of the labor market they are combinations in restraint of trade—I have no problem with the far more modest step of limiting their prerogatives.

    I don’t disagree with the idea that unions represent a sort of a “cartelization” of the labor force. But I think it’s sort of a trivial insight or a misleading half-truth. Unless it’s paired with insights about the cartelization of other parts of a mature market that has devolved to a point where it’s not especially free.

    Economists know that many many sectors of mature markets are extremely prone to devolving into oligopoly, and economists don’t really have many good answers when it comes to mitigating such problems.

    In mature markets, it’s quite common for a sector to become dominated by a small handful of dominant players that squeeze out less successful competitors. You can see this in many sections of a supermarket, where 2 or 3 large companies or brands (themselves parts of a small handful of large conglomerates) dominate any given category. Show me a non-commodity item, and I’ll show you a section where two or three brands or underlying companies choke out most viable competition. Coke or Pepsi. Kelloggs, Post, or Genral Mills. Keebler or Nabisco. Huggies or Pampers.

    What’s the point? It’s that cartelization of labor is a reasonable counterbalance to market cartelization by powerful management interests.

    Let me be clear, though. I agree that unions need to come to the table to balance out the sweetheart deals they have in terms of protection for inferior workers and benefits grossly out of line with what most of the rest of us enjoy. I support such changes. But I do NOT support conservatives using this as an opportunity to weaken unions as much as possible. It’s quite clear to me that conservatives are using this controversy as an opportunity to diminish the power of the democratic, by going much farther than is needed to resolve budget issues.

    There are many conservatives who view unions as some sort of horrible moral mistake. These are the same sorts of people who always rush to point out that our country is a republic, not a democracy. Because many of them think democracy is another horrible moral mistake, and that we’d be much better governed by a wealthy powerful intelligentsia which excludes some everyday folks who they think lack insight and wisdom.

    Conservatives seem quite jolly for this fight, no? As well as the fight to force deep budget cuts by shutting down the government. This jolliness portends a possible downfall that could be as quick as the fall of liberals from 2008 to 2011 into 2012. Deep fundamental cuts in union power to support liberals with union money may be coming. But what will come with that? An unprecedented level of class-based voting support for democrats and independents in 2012 in midwestern swing states. Maybe 70%. maybe 80%.

    Union workers like cops and firefighters have for some time now had the luxury of dilettantism in support for conservatives, who after all like law and order and public safety, virtues which roll off their tongue. But come 2012, cops and firefighters will have seen conservatives trim the pie slices of teachers and state and municipal workers, while excluding cops and firemen and so on. Who will be the only government union workers that still have the special deal on job protection and extra generous healthcare and retirement benefits? Unless they are morons, they’ll know that they are next on the list.

    I am quite confident that by the time the 2012 election rolls around, there will be many more Americans wondering why we skipped the part where we held powerful financiers responsible for their part in our economic collapse, and fast-forwarded to blaming the government and the “greedy” middle class.

    At that point, Republicans will foolishly try trotting out their dusty old “class warfare” argument. You know, the one where it’s NOT class warfare to cut taxes on the wealthy or curb entitlements for the poor and middle class. But where it IS class warfare to complain about such things. When we are cutting taxes on the wealthy while cutting benefits for the poor and middle class, that’s “pulling together.” And then when the tide rises, we’re all supposed to believe that every boat rises the same, even when some of us don’t have a boat, and other ones are leaking. Don’t look with envy at the yachts or with horror at the drowning, we’re all just equal sailors. Right.

    The conservative argument about the propriety of the class warfare argument is silly. After what we have gone through since 2007, middle class and poor Americans are going to have PLENTY of resentment about how drastically they have had to reorient their expectations. That anger is certain to manifest against those Americans who do not seem to have had to reorient their expectations. That’s how democracy rolls.

    Of course i expect my efforts to temper 2011 conservative jolliness to fall on ears every bit as deaf as the ears of 2008 liberal jolly. A-memba that? Conservatives were “irrelevant.” Huh. My forecast is for deja vu all over again.

  • gerryf

    Excellent post, KK

  • gerryf

    OK, I know this is a DailyKos post link and as such is not going to be taken seriously by some of the rightwingers around here, but anyway, some guy apparantly impersonated Dave Koch and made a phone call to Gov Scott Walker and recorded.


    Anyone who is still supporting Walker after this….

    scary crap.

  • kranky kritter

    Well, I’m more on your side than usual, Gerry, so… . LOL. But thanks.

  • Jim S

    It’s not just the Daily Kos reporting about Walker getting punked any more. Also, the governor’s office has admitted that the phone call took place.

  • WHQ