Whatever happens tonight in Wisconsin, it has been a constant of this fight that Republicans have consistently falsified the reason labor and Dems have waged this battle so bitterly. They have steadily downplayed the most extreme union-busting aspect of Scott Walker’s proposals, and have falsely asserted throughout that Dems and labor only made this stand because Walker asked public employees to cough up health and pension benefits.
So it’s fitting that as the recall elections hit their climax, the leader of the national GOP repeated this lie in the most hilariously blatant way yet. Here’s RNC chair Reince Priebus on CNN this afternoon:
ANCHOR: Is there buyers’ remorse in your home state of Wisconsin with Republican/Tea Party policy making?
PRIEBUS: No. I don’t think there’s any buyers’ remorse at all. You have a leader in Scott Walker who asked state employees to pay just a little bit more in pension and healthcare benefits, which was about half of what the rest of the state pays in those benefits. And that’s all he did. Now, in reaction to that, the public employee unions took $25 million, they put together a petition drive, and now they’re dumping millions of dollars on television trying to recall the senators for trying to balance a state budget. It’s the same type of tough choice that is were made in Wisconsin that the Republicans are trying to present to Americans in Washington.
This is a completely false rendering of what actually happened. In reality, the protests from Democrats were prompted by Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of their bargaining rights, protests that were later sustained by the deep cuts in his budget, leading to the recall drive. Priebus doesn’t even mention the collective bargaining piece of the story, only citing the demand for pension and health concessions as the reason for the entire standoff. In the real world, of course, labor unions actually agreed to those concessions, yet Walker pressed ahead with his union-busting proposal anyway, which is what prompted the whole battle.
Various efforts to submerge this truth have been central to conservative arguments about Wisconsin throughout this battle. Prominent conservative columnists such as Charles Krauthammer have pretended that Walker’s proposals shouldn’t have surprised Democrats, and that Dems subverted the will of the people by resisting them, which is a profoundly distorted history of what actually took place.
Meanwhile, Scott Walker himself has sought from the beginning to downplay the importance of his union-busting proposal by insisting that he campaigned on it. Politifact decisively debunked that claim, and Walker himself subsequently admitted under questioning that he hadn’t explicitly campaigned on the proposal at all.
The real reason Republicans and conservatives need to continue dissembling about what happened is that poll after poll has shown that the American people sided with public employees in this standoff, and don’t think their bargaining rights should be taken away. It’s fitting that the public face of the national GOP is seeking to elide this inconvenient fact and falsify the history of events in Wisconsin one last time on national television for all to see as this whole affair comes to its conclusion.