Welcome to O-Pinion. I'm associate editor Fannie Flono, hosting the conversation today.
So, what does Republican Gov. Scott Walker's win in the recall election in Wisconsin say about the fate of public-sector unions and about the November presidential elections? That's what a lot pundits are pontificating about this morning. Some say not much to both. Others say quite a lot. And for those saying a lot - most of what they're saying is that public-sector unions are in trouble, with their political and negotiating clout taking a hit and not just in Wisconsin. They're also saying the vote may be a harbinger of bad news for President Barack Obama, who took the state in his last election. He could lose Wisconsin this fall, and if Mitt Romney takes it it would be the first time a Republican has done so since Ronald Reagan won in 1984.
Stephen Hayes of the conservative Weekly Standard writes: "Scott Walker won for a simple reason: He did what he promised to do as a candidate and it worked." He contends that his results in his 16 months as governor mattered more to more people than the anger he engendered by unilaterally taking away collective-bargaining rights for state worksrs and the deep cuts in services and wages he demanded. "Walker turned a $3.6 billion deficit into a $154 million surplus. Unemployment is down. So are property taxes... Results matter," he said.
From the National Journal, Reid Wilson writes: "It's difficult to draw national conclusions from a special election. The electorate is far from representative of general election voter turnout, the margin by which (Scott) Walker outspent (challenger Tom) Barrett won't be repeated over the next several months, and the issues in a gubernatorial race focused on collective bargaining are hardly the same as those that will drive the presidential contest... And yet several Democratic strategists said today that, in their darkest moments, they view the results in Wisconsin as troubling foreshadows for Obama's re-election bid. After all, labor unions -- a key pillar of the Democratic electorate -- turned out at higher percentages than they did in previous years, and Walker still won."
But he writes that money was a key factor. Reid quoted one Democratic strategist who pinpointed the edge: "Citizens United has fundamentally changed politics and campaigns. Scott Walker and his soft money Death Star spent over $40 million," said John Lapp, a Democratic operative involved in several House campaigns this year. "If they care about the future of this country and Democratic politics, it's time for progressives of means to wake up and join the fight." Reid said Republicans said what "they could learn from Tuesday's results is that coordination works. Several outside groups -- the Republican Governors Association, Americans for Prosperity and other super PACs -- went up with television ads when Walker went off the air in March. The RGA spent its time tearing down Democrat Barrett, while more local organizations spent their dollars bolstering Walker's reforms."
Dan Balz of the Washington Post takes up that thread: "Scott Walker provided a template for Republicans looking ahead to the presidential race with his victory in Tuesday’s recall election: big money, powerful organization and enormous enthusiasm among his base. Can Mitt Romney match that in November?"
What's as interesting to me is whether Walker's success will embolden Republican legislatures like ours in North Carolina to move as aggressively on austerity measures and on trying to dilute the power of professional organizations? We don't have public-sector unions in our Right to Work state. But some Republican leaders view professional groups like the teachers association, who the N.C. legislature stripped of its ability to automatically collect dues from teachers' paychecks in an infamous late night override of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of the move, in that light.
The teachers group has sued the legislature over that.
What do you think? Will there be fallout over Wisconsin's win beyond that state?
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Posted by Fannie Flono at 11:29 AM