The establishment ignores all of this because to do otherwise would force them to confront the importance of public-sector unionism to the Democrats and thus center-left governance. The Cheesehead Days of Rage were fueled by Gov. Walker’s reform of some public-sector collective-bargaining rights and compulsory public-sector unionism (unions were willing to increase the employees’ contributions to their medical and pension plans), yet Brownstein treats it as a secondary or tertiary concern. As Jay Cost details in his new book, Spoiled Rotten, Democrats legitimized public-sector unions as private-sector unionism began to decline. However, private-sector unions depend on a growing private-sector, while public-sector unions depend on ever Bigger Government. The differences between the private-sector and public-sector bargaining almost inevitably produce the budgetary problems faced by Wisconsin and other states.

Establishmentarians like Brownstein want to avoid the ugly reality that the Wisconsin budget battle was about reforming a system in which: (1) government unions forcibly extract dues from employees; (2) government union officials enrich themselves; (3) government unions kick back donations and in-kind contributions to Democrat pols who defend them and promise substantial pension and medical benefits; and (4) legislatures fail to adequately contribute to public pensions and medical plans, while looking the other way at public pension accounting that would be criminal in the private-sector. Progressives will complain that public-sector union-busting harms women and African-Americans, who make up a disproportionate share of the public-sector workforce. They rarely mention that the establishment has been effectively defrauding the public-sector workforce for decades, let alone protest the Democrats and moderate Republicans most responsible.