In the aftermath of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s sizable recall win over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett, the liberal intelligentsia has been in a state of outright denial about the causes for their huge loss.
To this bunch, Citizens United, the Koch brothers, voter suppression, Fox News and an array of other conservative boogie-men are solely to blame for the major defeat. The most rational and reasonable explanation for the loss doesn’t even seem to occur to them: Wisconsin voters supported Governor Walker’s controversial reforms.
In politics,as in life, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. No matter how liberals attempt to spin it, it’s clear voters are supporting lawmakers who seek to balance their budgets though compensation cuts to public unions rather than continue the bipartisan tradition of buying-off union support with ever increasing benefits.
The same night of Walker’s victory, California voters in San Jose and San Diego similarly voted to overwhelmingly to cut retirement benefits for their unionized city workers.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie recently hit record high approval ratings in deep-blue New Jersey despite instituting a series of similar public employee pension reforms last year. Also recall that Christie was outspent 3 to 1 in 2009 and still won his election by 4-points.
Even Walker’s Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett understood public unions were losing favor with voters. Barrett, who was not the favorite of labor unions during the Democratic primary, explicitly campaigned on preserving some of Walker’s anti-union reforms. When the union-backed candidate can’t even win the Wisconsin Democratic primary, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the union-backed candidate didn’t win the general election, either.
Given that background, the Wisconsin recall results make perfect sense.
Unlike private-sector unions, in which wealthy corporate executives and other shareholders pay for the benefits of the companies employees, public union compensation is entirely taxpayer funded. Wisconsin tax-payers, who are among the most heavily taxed citizens in the country, simply got tired of financing the phenomenally generous pay and benefits of Wisconsin’s public union employees.
What isn’t easy to explain is how millions of dollars in independent campaign expenditures “corrupted” the election. It’s not as if Super PACs and grassroots groups were literally buying votes as some liberal activists were caught doing in Milwaukee in 2000.
Idea-oriented groups on both sides actually performed an invaluable function: informing voters about candidates’ background and positions prior to an election.
Contrary to the belief of liberal establishment, post-Citizens United campaign spending & the Koch brothers didn’t trick gullible voters into showing up at the polls and voting for Walker. Voters merely proved that democracy and informed voting isn’t dead in Wisconsin.