Walker’s method was obnoxious, but if he is recalled that will send a broader message, with effects far beyond Wisconsin. It will be a signal that voters are, indeed, unwilling to tolerate tough decisions to reduce debt. In Washington and in state capitals, it will confirm the view that voters don’t really care about red ink. It will remove any hope this country might have of avoiding a fiscal catastrophe.

On the other hand, if Walker wins today, it will be a sign, as the pollster Scott Rasmussen has been arguing, that the voters are ahead of the politicians. It will be a sign that voters do value deficit reduction and will vote for people who accomplish it, even in a state that has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1984.

A vote to keep Walker won’t be an antiunion vote. It will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good. It will tell the presidential candidates that it is safe to get specific about what they will do this December, when hard deficit choices will have to be made.

President Obama has hung back from the Wisconsin race. I’m hoping that’s not crass political opportunism but an acknowledgment that governments do have to confront their unaffordable commitments.