Walker Wins, 53-46
June 6, 2012
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker beat the recall yesterday.
This marvelous illustration (painting of Walker as Perseus, slaying Medusa, against the backdrop of the quasi-apocalyptic protests that rent Madison last year—when thousands occupied the capitol grounds and hundreds of filthy “residents” started living in it “24 hours a day”—see pictures of the general spectacle from the Daily Mail and Sacramento Bee—causing all kinds of mischief and leaving a multimillion-dollar mess for the grown-ups to clean up) is the cover of a recent issue of National Review. That cover story is available here.
Public-sector unions should never have been allowed to exist. They represent a structural threat to democracy, allowing government spending to be set, to a significant degree, by its beneficiaries (the government employees) rather than those who pay for it. They create a vicious feedback loop wherein the government takes money from us through taxation, which it pays to its employees, which they then pay to their unions, which the unions in turn use to elect more Democrats, who raise taxes further, and so on ad infinitum, or at least ad insolvency.
John Derbyshire called repealing public-sector unions “necessary . . . but utterly impossible for political . . . reasons”, and with good reason. Once invented, they take on a life of their own and fight to protect themselves from ever being uninvented. In other words, we thought they were politically impossible to repeal for the same reason we would want to repeal them: their unhealthy entanglement of interests, money, and political power.
But Scott Walker did it.
I consider this very good news. If American democracy still works well enough to turn back the clock on public-sector unions—even in Wisconsin, one of the birthplaces of the American Progressive movement, the first state to allow public-sector unions (1959)—maybe it’s not too late to undo other self-insulating structural threats, such as national entitlement programs. Maybe we can actually reverse the seemingly inexorable growth of the federal government. Maybe it’s not too late for America.
As Walker said before the election,
“We’ve got to drive hard all the way through to 8 p.m. on Tuesday,” Walker says. “The other day, Paul Ryan said that courage is on the ballot. He’s right. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about enabling elected leaders — at the local, state, and federal level — to have the courage to take on the tough issues,” from pension reform to entitlement reform.
Other notes of interest:
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Now that Walker has survived the recall, he cannot face another one for the remainder of his term, which runs until January 2015.
. . .
Barrett has now lost three races for governor — first in 2002, when he came in second in the Democratic primary, then in 2010 when he lost to Walker, and Tuesday when he again lost to Walker. The defeat likely means Barrett, a former congressman, has little hope of running for statewide office again, though he has a full term as mayor ahead of him after winning re-election in April.
. . .
Barrett had said he would have called a special legislative session to restore collective bargaining, but that would have proved difficult because of the large Republican majority in the state Assembly. With Walker remaining as governor, efforts to pass pro-labor legislation will be virtually impossible.
The Journal Sentinel also notes that Walker is now the first governor in America to survive a recall election—ever:
In one sense, Walker defeated not just Barrett, but history. Only two other governors in the U.S. have ever faced a recall election — California’s Gray Davis in 2003 and North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier in 1921 — and both lost.
(All of you who voted for Walker, or supported him in other ways, made history, too!)
Meanwhile his lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, made history yesterday by being the first lieutenant governor ever to face a recall election. She also won.
The Democrats also tried to recall four Republican state senators yesterday. Three of them held their seats by huge margins (57-43 or better), but the fourth one, as of this writing (with 100% of precincts reporting), appears to have lost 49-51—i.e., by only 779 votes.
If Democrat John Lehman wins, that one seat will be enough to flip control of the state senate; the Democrats would then have a 17-16 majority. Lehman has declared victory, but Republican Van Wanggaard has not yet conceded, and is considering calling for a recount.
- Update (June 6th, 2012): Ed Morrissey says it doesn’t even matter—“the Wisconsin Senate will be out of session until 2013”! That leaves plenty of time for Republicans to retake it:
In November, 16 of the 33 seats will be up for grabs, and thanks to the redistricting that will be in place for the first time in that election, Republicans are supposed to pick up at least two seats. The unions spent millions of dollars and over a year’s worth of effort to get a temporary one-seat majority in a chamber that will never meet in session.
One-third of voters were from union households, up from one-quarter in the 2010 governor’s election.
Yet Walker won, and by a bigger margin than he did in 2010.
Also according to the Times, pro-Walker forces (i.e., including independent groups’ expenditures, not just direct spending by the candidates’ own campaigns) outspent the anti-Walker forces almost 3 to 1:
As of late last month, about $45.6 million had been spent on behalf of Mr. Walker, compared with about $17.9 million for Mr. Barrett . . . .
On the other hand, the Times also notes that it may not have made as much difference as you’d think:
The final flurry of television advertising — with Mr. Walker outspending Mr. Barrett seven to one — seemed to have little impact on the outcome. Nearly 9 in 10 people said they had made up their minds before May, according to exit poll interviews.
We Are Ohio raised more than $30 million for its campaign while Building a Better Ohio raised about $7.6 million, according to recent campaign finance reports.
(I don’t know exactly how much spending other groups did for or against Issue 2.)
Money is part of our democratic system. The more people care about an issue, the more of their money they’ll be willing to spend on it. Apparently a lot of us cared an awful lot about not letting what happened to Ohio happen to Wisconsin.
If you still don’t like it, consider again the possibility that all that money didn’t make that much difference. After all the hubbub over Walker’s reforms last year, and after all the campaigning and scrambling for votes on both sides this year, in the end, yesterday’s election results were virtually the same as 2010’s. Walker gained a point, Barrett lost a point—virtually the same. Again, yesterday Walker beat Barrett 53% to 46%; in 2010, 52% to 47%.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has some blunt observations on the consequences of this election:
Though public unions will not disappear as a result, they were the clear losers in a race that confirmed Gov. Scott Walker as a national star for Republicans. They now have no prospects for recovering what they lost, with neither the money nor manpower they had when Walker rose to office.
Don’t worry, the unions will take it like a man:
Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, said his group would continue in much the way it did more than a half century ago, when it had no bargaining rights.
“We aren’t going to go away,” Beil said. “We’re not going to pull a blanket over our head and pee in our pajamas.”
. . .
Joseph Slater, a professor of law at the University of Toledo in Ohio who has written extensively about public unions in Wisconsin and other states, said they will have a diminished role going forward.
“Even though they don’t have collective bargaining rights, unions can still hang around and do stuff . . . .”
Now that’s a slogan to rally around!
Since Walker’s law ended the practice of having the government automatically take employees’ union dues out of their paychecks,
Beil acknowledged that the state employees union has reduced somewhat its average dues amount and still seen between 25% and 40% — he won’t be more specific — of its members stop paying dues. As a result, the union has had to leave some of its jobs unfilled when the positions open up and will have less money for other efforts.
Related entries: all entries about Scott Walker
Red State has some reflections on the political implications of yesterday’s events.
Glenn Beck reckons this victory means that the right has finally learned to do community organizing, too. He recommends that as many conservatives as possible register to vote, starting by using this site to see whether you’re already registered—and while you’re at it, to see whether any dead people you know are still registered and possibly being used for voter fraud.
Update (June 6th, 2012): Some of the blogs I read have also covered this:
Update (June 6th, 2012):
- Apparently some in the liberal media thought a silver lining yesterday was exit polling that pointed to Obama still winning Wisconsin again this November, 51%-45%, but Michael Barone and Allah Pundit debate whether the exit polls actually predict a dead heat, or even a narrow Romney win.
- Also at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey rounds up some of the punchier videos relating to the recall effort, including one put out by the Republican Governors’ Association (huh).
Edit (June 6th, 2012): I moved part of, and added to, my discussion of the New York Times article to make it flow more logically.