One of the zombie distortions about Wisconsin that just won’t die is that Dems and unions are subverting the popular will by continuing to target Republicans over their rollback of public employee bargaining rights. The argument is that by electing Republicans last year, the voters endorsed that agenda.
In reality, if anyone is subverting the popular will in Wisconsin, it’s Republicans.
Charles Krauthammer makes the Dems-subverting-popular-will case this morning in his column, pointing to it as proof that Dems are more beholden to labor than they are to the people:
In last year’s nationwide “shellacking” of Democrats, for example, Wisconsin gave Republicans control of both legislative chambers and elected a Republican governor who made clear his intention to rein in public-sector union power.
When the Republicans tried to do as promised, Democrats, lacking the votes, tried to block it by every extra-parliamentary maneuver short of arson. State Senate Democrats fled Wisconsin to prevent a quorum. Demonstrators filled the statehouse for days and nights on end. And when the bill finally passed nonetheless...they found a pliant judge to invalidate the law. A famous victory, but short-lived. On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the ruling...
Instructive cases all, demonstrating how those who lose popular support — Democrats at the polls, unions in their declining membership — can subvert and circumvent the popular will by judicial usurpation...
This is a very cleverly distorted version of what actually happened. Note Krauthammer’s sleight of hand in claiming that Scott Walker “made clear his intention to rein in public-sector union power.” The reason Krauthammer uses this vague and indirect wording is because Scott Walker never campaigned on the central proposal that has generated months of controversy — the plan to gut public employee bargaining rights. He did campaign on getting fiscal concessions, but not on bargaining rights — indeed, his sudden announcement of that additional proposal is exactly what triggered the protests in the first place.
This is a matter of simple, demonstrable fact. When Walker began claiming that he had in fact campaigned on this proposal, PolitiFact asked Walker’s staff to produce evidence of it. His staff couldn’t come up with a single convincing example, leading PolitiFact to rate the claim “false.” Walker himself subsequently admitted under persistent questioning that he had not explicitly campaigned on the proposal. The only thing established by Krauthammer’s choice of wording is that he is well aware of this truth.
What’s more, multiple polls have shown that majorities of Wisconsintes oppose the proposal. In a rational world this would suggest that it did not constitute subverting the popular will when Democrats and unions also opposed it — even when they tried to go to court to stop it. The people of Wisconsin never endorsed his proposal. They opposed it. Period.
Reasonable people can debate whether the Dem fleeing of the state was fair game. But the simple fact is that right now, it’s Republicans — not Democrats — who are perverting the democratic process in Wisconsin. Leading GOP officials have endorsed a scheme to run fake Democrats in Dem recall primaries in order to delay the recall elections against Republicans, in a last-ditch effort to hold the state senate. These elections were secured by the long and arduous collection of thousands of signatures. Dems got past hurdles designed to guarantee that there’s genuine and widespread support for holding them. By contrast, the GOP scheme — which has not been procedurally endorsed by the public — is quite literally delaying elections that the people of Wisconsin have said they want.
If anyone is subverting the “popular will” in Wisconsin, it’s not Democrats. It’s Republicans.