Despite all the gnashing of teeth over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s survival of a recall attempt, the broader national message isn’t the death of democracy. On the contrary, it’s that the American people are willing to make tough decisions to get their public finances under control.
The issue is not pro- or anti-union at all. Rather, it is whether public unions should be able to use their dual power — to campaign and lobby, and to organize workers — to effectively exploit taxpayers. Walker said no, and the people backed him.
This should also remind us that there is no daylight between “issues” and “women’s issues.” With the state’s finances at risk, so were family budgets across the state. That threatened women as workers and women as mothers. That’s why women numbered among Walker’s prominent backers. In fact, it was a woman, Diane Hendricks, who proved to be Walker’s most generous donor, contributing $510,000 to Walker’s campaign.
As the duly elected governor, Walker and the state legislature adjusted public benefits that had been set by previous governors and legislatures. Some of the governor’s opponents protested and used the established electoral process to try to remove the governor and several of his legislative supporters in a special recall election. The people of the state voted no.
It was a grand democratic spectacle — and reminds us yet again how different the United States is from, say, Syria or Saudi Arabia or China.
While Republicans celebrate Scott Walker’s victory, they should be ashamed of and should oppose policies which act to suppress the vote in states across the country.
They won’t always like the result as much as they liked Tuesday’s outcome in Wisconsin. But nothing should get in the way of people having a chance to choose their leaders.
Michelle D. Bernard is president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. Follower her on Twitter at @MichelleBernard.