It’s been widely assumed that once Governor Scott Walker starts sending out pink slips to public employees, it will increase pressure on fugitive Dems to return to Wisconsin and vote on Walker’s measure rolling back bargaining rights.
But what if the opposite is true? What if the layoffs will actually increase pressure on Republican Senators to reach a deal with Dems and labor?
I’m told that Wisconsin Dems are mapping out an aggressive plan to make that happen, if and when layoffs start happening -- one designed to pin the blame for them direcly on Republican Senators.
“We don’t think Republicans want these layoffs to happen,” Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told me this morning. “They’re going to eat this, and it’s dawning on them.”
Pressed on whether the layoffs would increase pressure on Dems to return, Zielinski said Dems strongly regretted the impact layoffs would have on communities, but rejected the idea that it force Dems to come back.
“The public is not going to blame us for these layoffs -- when they’re on a totally arbitrary timetable and have nothing to do with the fiscal solvency of the state,” Zielinski said. He added that Dems would respond aggressively, characterizing the Dem pushback as follows:
“This was totally preventable. Walker gave $140 million in tax breaks to corporations that don’t need it, and yet he laying off teachers in your own back yards and ending the summer recreational program in your neighborhood.”
“They will own these policies,” Zielinski said of Repubicans.
The basic idea here is that polls suggest that Wisconsinites have already made up their minds about the ongoing standoff. On the core issue of bargaining rights, they side with labor and Dems, and against Walker. Dems think layoffs won’t change that dynamic; if anything, if Dems can persuade the public that the layoffs are the fault of Walker’s unreasonable insistence on an unpopular and extreme proposal, that dynamic could be exacerbated in their favor.
Also: One labor official tells me that if and when layoffs start, they will aggressively highlight the moment on the fake Koch call in which Walker explicitly said he’d use the threat of layoffs to ratchet up political pressure on Dems. I’d say it’s very possible the politics of layoffs will backfire on Wisconsin Republicans in a big way.