What happened in Wisconsin signals a shift in political mood and assumption. Public employee unions were beaten back and defeated in a state with a long progressive tradition. The unions and their allies put everything they had into "one of their most aggressive grass-roots campaigns ever," as the Washington Post's Paul Whoriskey and Dan Balz reported in a day-after piece. Fifty thousand volunteers made phone calls and knocked on 1.4 million doors to get out the vote against Gov. Scott Walker. Mr. Walker's supporters, less deeply organized on the ground, had a considerable advantage in money.
But organization and money aren't the headline. The shift in mood and
assumption is. The vote was a blow to the power and prestige not only
of the unions but of the blue-state budgetary model, which for two
generations has been: Public-employee unions with their manpower, money
and clout, get what they want. If you move against them, you will be
Mr. Walker was not crushed. He was buoyed, winning by a solid seven points in a high-turnout race.
Governors and local leaders will now have help in controlling
budgets. Down the road there will be fewer contracts in which you work
for, say, 23 years for a city, then retire with full salary and free
health care for the rest of your life—paid for by taxpayers who cannot
afford such plans for themselves, and who sometimes have no pension at
all. The big meaning of Wisconsin is that a public injustice is in the
process of being righted because a public mood is changing.
By the way, the single most interesting number in the whole race was
28,785. That is how many dues-paying members of the American Federation
of State, County and Municiple Employees were left in Wisconsin after
Mr. Walker allowed them to choose whether union dues would be taken from
their paychecks each week. Before that, Afscme had 62,218 dues-paying
members in Wisconsin.
There is a degree to which public union
involvement is, simply, coerced.
People wonder about the implications for the presidential election. They'll wonder for five months, and then they'll know.
President Obama's problem now isn't what Wisconsin did, it's how he
looks each day—careening around, always in flight, a superfluous figure.
No one even looks to him for leadership now. He doesn't go to
Wisconsin, where the fight is. He goes to Sarah Jessica Parker's place,
where the money is. (Full Story)