Democrats are bracing themselves for a mini-disaster — okay, a full, no-excuse disaster — two weeks from today when Wisconsin voters go to the polls to decide whether to boot out Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Politico notes that what started out as a revolt against Walker’s collective-bargaining reforms has turned into something else:
Isn’t the recall in itself becoming disingenuous?” said Walker spokeswoman Ciara Matthews. “They started this because of collective bargaining and now, right in the middle of the recall, there’s no mention of collective bargaining.”
But a top Democratic strategist, exasperated by claims that the party’s anti-Walker messaging is scattershot, said the multifront attack strategy is quite deliberate.
But wait. If a Democratic strategist is quoted as saying, “It’s not a referendum on collective bargaining,” then why recall Walker? After all, even if you believe that he’s not performing as well as you’d like, is that grounds for short-circuiting his term? If that is the standard, at one time or another, every governor will be vulnerable.
In the meantime, voting has already begun. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Absentee voters came to the polls in strong numbers Monday as the first day of early voting started ahead of Wisconsin’s June 5 recall. . . . Clerks statewide reported much higher absentee turnout Monday than in the spring presidential primary as well as the May 8 recall primary. Most said the turnout for absentee voters appeared to be on par with that for a typical November general election.
That probably bodes well for Walker, who turned out a ton of people in his primary, even though he had minimal opposition.
This should be a wake-up call for the Democratic Party and for liberals more generally. The over-dependence on Big Labor, which has essentially become organized public-sector labor (less than 7 percent of the private-sector workforce is unionized) is increasingly dangerous. The co-dependency forces the Democratic Party to adopt positions not embraced by the electorate as a whole (e.g., union card check, luxurious public-employee benefits) and that prevent sound public policy decisions with regard to government spending. The reliance may also prove financially precarious; if public sector unionization takes a nose-dive, Big Labor won’t have the largess it once enjoyed to bestow upon friendly politicians.
It would behoove Democrats to think hard about whether Big Labor has become a weight around its neck, preventing sensible fiscal policy (take a look at California, where public-employee benefit costs are sinking the state) and sending the party on self-destructive political jaunts that waste money and erode Democrats’ image as the party of the “little guy.”
If Walker wins, the infighting on the left will be fierce. If he wins big, there could, and should, be some real soul-searching. As President Obama put it in another context, it would be good for there to be some ”daylight” between the Democrats and Big Labor.