Overreaching

The story of the morning is undoubtedly the failure of the gubernatorial recall in Wisconsin:

Scott Walker on Tuesday became the first governor in the country’s history to survive a recall election, besting his 2010 rival in a contest that broke spending records and captured the nation’s attention.

“Tonight we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders that stand up and make the tough decisions,” Walker told an overflow crowd at the Waukesha County Exposition Center.

He said he would meet with his cabinet Wednesday to focus on the economy and said he hoped to soon bring Democratic and Republican lawmakers together to meet over brats, burgers and beer. He cut off the crowd when they booed a mention of his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

“Tomorrow is the day after the election, and tomorrow we are no longer opponents,” he said. “We are one as Wisconsinites.”

If Gov. Walker is as good as his word, the leaders of the Wisconsin public employees’ unions are very fortunate. I think that Gov. Walker was needlessly truculent and confrontational but they have waged a personal vendetta against Walker and they have failed. If I were in the Wisconsin governor’s shoes, I would return the favor if only our of a sense of self-preservation.

I think the story is being widely misrepresented or distorted. For example, in listening to the reporting on the election last night I heard the moves to constrain what are deemed as public employees’ collective bargaining rights as “moves by conservatives”. Since the governors of Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois,, hardly hotbeds of conservatism, have all come out in favor of similar constraints and in some instances have enacted them into law, the urge to change the relationship between public employees’ unions and state governments can hardly be characterized that way. That’s no move be a handful of right wing radicals. It’s an idea whose time has come. The states hardly have any other alternative. Their budgets are strained to the breaking point, borrowing becomes more dear to them practically by the day, and their attempts to increase revenue by raising taxes haven’t been as effective as they’d hoped and do not look as though they will become more effective when employed repeatedly.

However, I think that any Republicans who think that this election has implications for the fall are kidding themselves. This election was about Wisconsin and the conditions that prevail there, Scott Walker, and the Wisconsin public employees’ unions. What we have learned is that a majority of Wisconsinites either believe that Scott Walker was right in his actions against the public employees’ unions or don’t believe in government by recall. It was not a referendum on Obama.

Yesterday Mickey Kaus had some good observations about the recall:

Even if you support private sector unionism, I don’t think public sector unionism makes sense–if the unions win too much, we can’t let the government go broke the way we can let GM go broke [bad example-ed you get the point–the market’s restraints aren’t there]. Democrats who believe in affirmative government should want it to be as efficient and affordable as possible–so we can afford more of it, if necessary. The combination of official bureaucracy plus labor adversarialism plus dues-fueled political contributions has not been a happy one.. …

I think this election does expose some of the inherent contradictions of the Democratic coalition. Good government Democrats, of which I guess I’m one, are not particularly compatible with people who believe that the primary purpose of government is maximizing the extraction of rents.

One more point that Mickey makes and that I think is worth repeating. There’s a significant number of people who get their news from CBS or the New York Times, where the possibility that the recall might fail has, shall we say, been underreported, who will be completely nonplussed when they awaken this morning to the news that the recall did, indeed, fail. How could this possibly have happened?

Update

There’s an entertaining post at Politico that uses a series of quotes from Vince Lombardi as a connecting thread in their commentary. The post, entitled, “Wisconsin: the Biggest Losers” has a graphic at the top showing Lombardi flanked by President Obama on his right and Scott Walker on his left. The implication would seem to be the Walker the winner, Obama the loser. As I’ve suggested above, I think that’s exaggerated. However, I do think that the president took the worst possible course of action in his belated lukewarm tweet in support of Barrett. Not only did he inject himself into an ultimately losing election in which he had played no role but neither his distancing himself from the election nor meager belated support exactly covered him in glory with his supporters. He’d’ve been better off saying nothing.

2 comments… add one

  • sam

    “There’s a significant number of people who get their news from CBS or the New York Times, where the possibility that the recall might fail has, shall we say, been underreported”

    I dunno. Is this a case of underreporting? Nate Silver, In Wisconsin, Walker Is Likely to Survive Recall (May 24, 2012) How much do we have to have before the possibility is not underreported?

  • PD Shaw

    As a local matter, its hard not to observe that Wisconsin, like other states surrounding Illinois, has made Illinois’ problems the boogeyman. I don’t know if that’s been picked up by the national media (if it has, I haven’t heard it), but Walker and the Illinois governor have been exchanging economic statistics. Plus, Illinois anti-union measures were at least partly enabled by the local unions fear of Walker.

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