Wisconsin: A GOP paradigm shift on government workers

That’s why the GOP confrontation with labor marks something far more meaningful than the typical policy changes that accompany a switch from Republican to Democratic governance. Instead, it represents a violent break with a bipartisan consensus about government workers that has operated unquestioned for four decades in union-friendly states from California to Michigan to New York.

“The moderate Republicans of the 1960s were totally accommodating to unions,” said E.J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the conservative Empire Center in Albany, N.Y., who cited Michigan Gov. George Romney and New York’s Nelson Rockefeller, who shepherded through that state’s law extending collective bargaining to state workers. “This was the governing consensus up to this crisis.”…

“I never tried to change the rules,” said former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, a moderate Republican, who recalled in an interview that union members picketed his home in the negotiations over his first budget in the recession of the early 1980s. “I had a confrontation, but nothing like Christie’s.”