Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finally got his way. His budget bill that strips collective bargaining rights from public employees is headed for his desk. Ohio Governor John Kasich will sign a similar bill. Other states are sure to follow. It’s unfortunate that the Tea party fervor and Democratic apathy in 2010 has led to this. In the back of my mind I can’t help but think, Gov. Walker may have won today, but will he win in the end?
I don’t think this move played well for Scott Walker. I think it was bad politics. As the protests continued, the Governor was losing public support. At one point polls showed the 2010 election would have had the opposite result were it held now. Walker could have been the good guy. He put up a bill and people protested. The unions agreed to concessions as long as they were allowed to keep bargaining rights. He refused to compromise. Democrats fled the state and prevented a vote. He still refused. He could have accepted a compromise and looked like a statesman and a leader to the people of Wisconsin. He didn’t. In refusing he forced himself into a corner and looked like the bad guy. Sure to the right he’s a hero. To the left he’s a villan, but what is he to the middle? That’s where he loses.
Political battles are won and lost in the middle. It’s the independents who matter. Walker could have looked like a great guy to the middle. A governor who is really ready to tackle a budget. A governor who is willing to set ideology aside to solve the problem. Now pictures of teachers standing up for their rights are all over the media, and Scott Walker is the guy who refuses to budge. John Kasich knew this was a thin line. He made a point that he wanted the signing of his bill to be low-key. The Ohio bill doesn’t reach as far as the Wisconsin bill, and Kasich still didn’t want to cause any stir.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years. The Supreme Court ruled last year that corporations could spend as much as they wanted on political activities. That ruling also applied to unions. 2012 and 2014 could be years in which places like Wisconsin and Ohio are hotspots for union spending. The NEA, AFT, and AFSCME are all likely to be very interested in defeating politicians like Scott Walker.
Russ Feingold could be the big winner in all of this. Wisconsin took a swing to the right in the last election. I think it’s going to be swinging back and former Senator is a liberal icon in the state. If he has his eyes set on Madison, this might just be the time.