First, the excuses. Watching the Democrats and the lapdog media wishing away Tuesday’s election results in the Wisconsin governor’s recall election is both comical and pathetic. After Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s comfortable 7-point victory (53 percent to 46 percent) the liberals are in deep denial.
“We were outspent 7 to 1”, they whine. Actually they were outspent 2 to 1 when you add in all the national labor union cash and support. And polling suggests that most voters had their minds made up by April, long before the TV ad onslaught. Likewise, no one complained when Obama outspent McCain in 2008 and O’Malley outspent Ehrlich in 2010.
“Well, the election wasn’t really about labor unions,” they pretend. “It was about the economy, the voters’ aversion to recall elections and bias against urban Milwaukee (Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate, is Milwaukee’s mayor).” Sorry, Tuesday’s record-breaking voter turnout wasn’t about Milwaukee; it was a referendum on Gov. Walker’s handling of public employee unions, and it was a showdown induced by labor’s successful recall petition drive.
“Actually, the National Democratic Party and the Obama White House never wanted this recall election but labor insisted.” Gosh, you wouldn’t have guessed it until the polls began showing Barrett losing. That’s when Obama and the DNC began putting the blame on the unions.
“We would have won if it hadn’t been for our divisive Democratic primary. And, besides, the outcome was limited to Wisconsin with no long-term implications. Also, it was a moral victory because we scared Gov. Walker, which will discourage other GOP governors from following his example.” Sure, a few more “moral victories” like this, and you’ll be out of business.
So, what really happened in Wisconsin? Well, for one thing it didn’t suddenly switch from a blue state to a red state.
Wisconsin hasn’t voted Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1984, and on Tuesday the Democrats won control of the state Senate by winning a Senate recall election. Also, a Marquette University poll conducted just before the election shows Obama defeating Mitt Romney 51 percent to 43 percent. Tuesday’s exit polls show the same thing, but they are badly skewed and unreliable (they showed Walker and Barrett even). By contrast, the Marquette poll nailed the outcome — Walker by 7.
No, the Wisconsin election wasn’t a fundamental realignment of political parties, but it was a fundamental sea change in how voters view public employee unions. And this “sample” of more than 2 million blue state voters has vast national implications.
Before he became governor, Scott Walker was the county executive of Milwaukee County, where he gained firsthand experience dealing with public employee unions — cops, teachers, firefighters, bureaucrats, etc.
He was elected governor in 2010 on a platform of reforming public employee pay and benefits, and that’s what he did. With the legislature he ended collective bargaining for everything except pay, made public employees contribute more to their health and pension plans and, most importantly, stopped the outrageous practice of mandating, by state law, that union dues be automatically deducted from public employees’ pay checks. (Why shouldn’t unions be forced to chase down their debtors just like the rest of us do?).
Thanks to these reforms, the state’s $3.5 billion deficit became a surplus, property taxes dropped, jobs increased and, freed from automatic dues check-offs, public employees fled their unions (AFSCME membership dropped from 62,818 to 28,785).
Wisconsin’s public employee unions decided to punish Walker by removing him from office. But it was Walker, not the unions, who won the voter’s verdict Tuesday night, undeniable evidence of a growing national backlash against the corrupt relationship between public employee unions and the politicians they elect.
Within the national labor movement, public employee unions are the rising star. Only 7 percent of private-sector industry is unionized compared to 37 percent of public employees. And now, for the first time, public employee union membership outnumbers private-sector membership.
But the difference between private-sector and public-sector collective bargaining is stark. When private-sector owners and workers bargain they have a true adversarial relationship, unaligned interests. Whatever the workers win comes out of the owner’s pockets.
But whatever public employees win when bargaining with elected officials doesn’t come out of the elected officials’ pockets, it comes from the pockets of taxpayers who don’t even have a seat at the table.
Also, private-sector employees don’t choose their employers, but public employees do. That’s why public employee unions dump so much cash and effort into elections; they want to own the elected officials who negotiate their next contracts.
The national recession cast a spotlight on this cozy, corrupt relationship. As taxpayers and private-sector employees suffered layoffs, pay cuts and home foreclosures, they watched Obama’s $850 billion stimulus go to protecting state and local government employees from the same hardships.
But why should public employees get preference over the rest of us? Answer: because elected officials are beholden to the public employee unions.
Now Obama, the Democrats and the media are waging a national election based on a “soak the rich” platform -— punishing “the 1%” will make you feel better and solve our economic problems. But Wisconsin’s election results suggest that voters want to punish a different privileged, protected class that relies on corrupt political connections to enrich itself at the public’s expense.
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.