Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) slammed unions and liberal activists for pushing to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).
“I think the people on the Democratic side made a big mistake and the funding thing was a big deal,” Frank told The Hill Wednesday afternoon, alluding to Republicans’ big cash advantage in the race. “My side picked a fight they shouldn’t have picked. The recall was upsetting to people, the rerun of the election with [Democratic Milwaukee Mayor] Tom Barrett — it’s not a fight I would have picked.”
Political observers say Obama remains the odds-on favorite to win Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes, a sentiment reflected in exit polls showing the president leading Mitt Romney by a healthy margin.
But they say Team Obama should be shaken by the recall results, which highlighted a strong GOP ground game — including the influx of corporate and special-interest money — headed into the November election…
The result energized Republicans across the country — even in the liberal bastion of San Francisco. Obama, visiting the City by the Bay for a fundraiser on Wednesday, was greeted by signs reading, “As goes WI goes the USA” and “The People 1, Unions 0,” according to a pool report.
Labor unions led the failed effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and their defeat in Tuesday’s election was a significant setback to organized labor’s political clout in both symbolic and tangible ways…
Labor experts also suspect that the loss will hurt efforts to recruit new union members in the coming years.
“What happened in Wisconsin was a huge loss, because it got them on all fronts,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. “It will embolden politicians in other states, it’s emboldened private sector employers to demand greater concessions and will hurt organizing because it will tarnish the reputation of unions as an effective representative.”
While the Democrats said huge campaign spending by conservatives supporters of Republican Scott Walker allowed him on Tuesday to become the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election, the Republicans point to their grassroots, get-out-the-vote work as more important…
Combine that personal contact with energizing a mass movement of door knockers and the latest phone software technology to track voters and you have many of the ingredients for the victory, they say.
The conservative activists have literally taken a page out of a left-wing radical’s guide to organizing – as many have read the late Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.”…
“This is a paradigm shift,” added Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative group chaired by former Republican House of Representatives Majority leader Dick Armey that provides training and resources to Tea Party activists. “If the grassroots embrace a cause, they make all the difference.”
The fiscal medicine he is administering may be bitter, but it looks like it is starting to work. The state budget has been balanced. The unemployment rate has been dropping and is now below the national average. Property taxes are down. Fraudulent sick leave policies—which allowed employees to call in sick and then work the next shift for overtime pay—have been ended. The government has stopped forcibly collecting union dues from workers’ paychecks.
Best of all, the myth that union bosses represent their members’ interests has been exposed as a lie. Now that union dues are voluntary, tens of thousands of union members have stopped paying them. Membership in the Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) has dropped by half. Membership in the state’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is down by over a third. Given unions’ influential role in most elections, the national implications of this trend are staggering.
That’s obviously what the organizers of the recall hoped to do to Walker – to punish his union busting and spending cuts as thoroughly as House Democrats were punished in the 2010 mid-term elections for the votes they cast on the health care bill and the stimulus. The fact that the labor unions and liberal activists failed where the Tea Party largely succeeded sends a very different message, though: It tells officeholders that it’s safer to take on left-wing interest groups than conservative ones (the right outraised and outspent the left by a huge margin in the recall election), safer to cut government than to increase revenue, safer to face down irate public sector employees than irate taxpayers.
A similar message is currently being telegraphed by the respective postures of the two parties in Washington. The House Republicans have spent the past two years taking tough votes on entitlement reform, preparing themselves for an ambitious offensive should 2012 deliver the opportunity to cast those same votes and have them count. The Senate Democrats, on the other hand, have failed to even pass a budget: There is no Democratic equivalent of Paul Ryan’s fiscal blueprint, no Democratic plan to swallow hard and raise middle class taxes the way Republicans look poised to swallow hard and overhaul Medicare. Indeed, there’s no liberal agenda to speak of at the moment, beyond a resounding “No!” to whatever conservatism intends to do.
Democrats are showing a disturbing tendency toward inflexibility about future obligations, and the Republican willingness to confront that issue—however harshly—is a profound electoral advantage. In the face of understood and looming challenges, having an answer is always more potent than having none, even if that answer is completely misguided. The federal Bowles-Simpson commission, which was as unequivocal about the untenable trajectory of future spending, enjoined everyone to confront that by addressing all spending and all tools to both boost revenue, sustain growth, and reduce costs. That meant everything from tax increases to health-care-spending cuts to defense-spending reductions. And it was dismissed…
One way or another, our current series of public obligations is going to change. Even if the United States realigns on a growth trajectory that eases these tensions, retirement spending, health spending, and—of course—defense spending will need to cease increasing at their current rate. Whether health-care benefits are stripped or whether health-care becomes a state-delivered single-payer system, costs must come down, or else other aspects of our lives will be diminished. Decry what Walker did, or celebrate it, but acknowledge that one reason that he has won this round is because he forcefully addressed a real issue and actually devised policies to solve it. Unless Democrats can do the same, this will not be the only losing battle.
Governor Walker and Mayor Barret both gave good speeches last night, and both called for an end to the bitter divisiveness that has polarized Wisconsin for the last 18 months. Both, in a characteristically American way, spoke of the need to put the past behind us and work to build a better tomorrow.
There has never been a greater need for the American faith that leads us to embrace change. The old certainties don’t work anymore, the old institutions are too expensive and too slow, and the old economy isn’t coming back. In Wisconsin, the left embraced the visions and the hopes of the past, but the voters were ready to move on.
Voters in Wisconsin didn’t reject a role for the state in regulating the economy and easing the harshness of life in a market economy. But they turned decisively against the argument that well-paid armies of life-tenured bureaucrats can produce enough good government to justify the cost. And the lesson of the election isn’t that the right has too much money; the lesson is that while the left still has plenty of passion and fire, it has, thanks in part to the power of public sector unions, largely run out of compelling ideas.
This is a big deal beyond the presidential election or even the issue of public sector unions. Conservatives have a tendency to be fatalistic. They often think things only get worse. It’s slippery slopes for as far as the eye can see. Well, this is an example — a major example — of conservatives pushing History up the slippery slope, rather than being dragged down it. It’s a demonstration that the country still has the capacity for self-correction (the theme of my column today, written well before the polls closed), and that active engagement with the democratic process can actually restore the democratic nature of our system, even in such hotbeds of Crolyism as Wisconsin.
“But there’s another option,” Krauthammer explained. “And that is to do as well to add on to that the ideological element of it. This election showed, in Wisconsin, that kind spirit of 2010, the kind of if you like Constitutional conservative philosophy; smaller government is still alive and well and can be used in this election.”
“And I think there are elements of the Ryan plan that Romney might want to highlight, either tax reform or entitlement reform, but something that is risky and bold and strong. I’m not sure he would do it but it would help him and Wisconsin is saying this is going to work. The electorate has grown up and they can take it,” Mr. Krauthammer said.
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