Posts Tagged Wisconsin
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Champion of the right
“Forward”, our motto,
God will give thee might!
It’s hard to overstate the importance of yesterday’s wins in the Wisconsin recall elections. Needing to break even to retake control of the State Senate, the unions and their Democrat subsidiary fell short, winning only two six recalls. And while it’s hard to see what else they could have done to unseat Luther Olson, the Rs were within on 25-year-old secretary of making it 5-1. Apparently, all the union boots on the ground and national organization, along with $32,000,000, will get them a cup of coffee. Maybe a t-shirt.
Make no mistake, this was a coordinated asault on a national scale. The Democrats picked the seats they’d contest. They picked the folks who would contest them. In the case of the Fred Clark – Luther Olson race, they picked This American Life to highlight the race and do an not-too-subtle job on Gov. Scott Walker. Early in the evening, the Democrat state chair was quoted as saying that, while it would be close, his team had “done what they had to do.”
And it wasn’t enough.
Wisconsin isn’t the upper-midwest Massachussets that some Republicans would like to paint it as. The districts where Republicans won flipped back and forth between George W. Bush and Obama. Russ Feingold, today’s lefty savior against Scott Walker, only barely won re-election in 1998, not a banner year for Republicans. Tommy Thompson was elected Governor four times (although it’s not unusual for states to elect governors of opposing parties, while remaining consistent in the composition of the state legislature; look at Colorado from 1962 – 2002). In 2002, Ed Thompson, Tommy’s brother, running on the Libertarian ticket, took 10% of the vote, thus delivering the office to the Democrat Jim Doyle with only 45% of the vote, the ideal election outcome for Libertarians.
The Republicans lost control of the state legislature in the 70s,and the Dems’ high-water mark came in the 1976 Presidential Election. With Carter barely carrying the state, the Dems racked up a 66-33 majority in the House, and a 23-10 majority in the Senate. But the Republicans were never uncompetitive, and by the 90s had clawed their way back to parity in the State Senate, and had retaken the House. In fact, 2009-2010 was the first legislative session with a Democrat House majority since 1993. The Republicans had held a 19-14 Senate majority as recently as the 1995-96 legislature.
Still up until 2010, the birthplace of both the Republican Party and the most welcoming host of the political virus known as the Progressive Movement had a definite leftward tilt. There’s a reason that “Fightin’ Bob” LaFollette is one of the few Republicans my history textbooks looked on with favor. For much of the time in the 1920s and 30s, the main opposition party to usually-lopsided Republican majorities wasn’t the Dems, it was the Progressives, with a few Socialists thrown in for good measure:
Source: Wisconsin Legislative Blue Book
NPR’s This American Life did an extended story on the political discord in Wisconsin. The gist of it was that everybody got along just swimingly, Democrats and Republicans, dogs and cats, until Scott Walker forced – forced, I tell you! – them to pick sides, and then the body politic was rent in half. The storyline probably is true. The lefty press and the lefty Dems were perfectly happy to rhapsodize about Wisconsin’s benign political culture, where everyone was friends, as long as they more or less got their way. But when actual conservatives were elected – as in, got more votes than the other guy – and decided that this actually meant they should be implementing policies they had espoused during the campaign, well, that was just too much.
Which means that last night’s victory – and next week’s possible extensions – weren’t just a ratification of party labels. They were a conscious vote in favor of policies that the new government has pursued.
The unions weren’t just counting on a history of Wisconsinites voting Democrat. They were counting on a deep-seated political culture that has always leaned decisively to the left. The specific districts they targeted had favored Republicans in 2010, but had only narrowly supported George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and had voted for Obama in 2008. That they didn’t return to form says that Wisconsinites – at least those voting last night, are still willing to give their conservative experiment more time, and that the Democrats haven’t given them any reason not to.
UPDATE: Seth Mandel over at Commentary argues that the Wisconsin Republicans should learn to be less aggressive in their agenda. I couldn’t disagree more strongly. This gives the opposition an unearned victory. He uses as his counterexample Chris Christie who, in a far less friendly environment, was able to get legislative Dems to sign on to the fiscal aspect of his plan, without trying to defang the unions. Christie may have accomplished all he could under the circumstances, but it’s not as though he won’t have to face all that public money in his re-election campaign. Scott Walker’s legislative majority survived to see his approach vindicated in finance, and given at least cautious approval by the electorate. The fact that this was, by and large, your money, your tax money, financing the opposition made the candle worth the game.
What the Republicans, in particular the national party, needs to learn, is to go on the offensive, or at least be nimble enough to fight defensively. The fact that the Dems had the initiative from the beginning meant they could pick the most congenial battleground they could imagine. Why on earth was the RNC caught flat-footed? Why on earth was there no concerted effort by the national party to get various state parties involved in making phone calls? Here in Colorado, we managed to provide a certain amount of help, but it’s quite clear that this was, like most other out-of-state efforts, on our own initiative, and mostly from the bottom-up. There’s no excuse for that sort of thing, no matter what’s going on at the Capitol or in the presidential nominating process.
We all know about the efforts by unions and other lefties to recall eight Wisconsin Republican state senators, and to overturn the results of last year’s election, and this year’s vote to limit public sector unions.
You may not know about another effort to do so by politicizing a race for the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. Unlike our justices, who need only face retention votes, Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices run against each other in nominally non-partisan elections. Via National Review:
The Greater Wisconsin Committee is preparing to throw $3 million into the judicial election to defeat Prosser — not because it is feared that he will fail to administer the law impartially, but because it is feared that he will. To that end, Wisconsin Democrats are working to install one of their own on the court and, if the GWC ad is any indicator, they are prepared to do just about anything to win. Because of legal restrictions, Prosser cannot solicit contributions to aid his campaign under this onslaught. But you can help his campaign by helping the Wisconsin Club for Growth (donate here) or donating to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (donate online here; fax donation form here).
It is important that conservatives nationwide make this campaign their own.
Indeed it is. The elections is next Tuesday, April 5, and the day before, Monday, April 4, unions across the country plan to hold “events.” It’s quite clear that the “event” in Wisconsin will be little more than a campaign rally for Prosser’s opponent.
As Ross Kaminsky has pointed out in recent days, what’s needed is a national effort here, not just against the recall efforts (that will come later), but also for Justice Prosser. If successful here, unions may succeed in cowing the one Republican they need in Ohio’s State Senate to kill a bill limiting public unions in that state. You can forget about making progress in California. And they’ll feel a free hand to go on the offensive in places like Colorado, where thus far, efforts to organize state workers have more or less been a bust.
State legislators across the country will learn a lesson about who’s in charge, and their resulting unwillingness to take bold positions will demoralize the Tea Party movement at a critical moment, and deny citizens victories over would-be aristocrats at a moment when we had all the political momentum, and stretch these battles out for years.
The Left picked this battlefield because it looks like the friendliest turf around for them. If they can’t win in Wisconsin, it’s hard to see where they can win. If we can win in Wisconsin, it’s hard to see where we can’t.
Folks, we’ve seen this movie before, right here in Colorado, where it was test-piloted and perfected: it’s called “The Blueprint,” and this is it on a national scale. It’s a scaled coordination of resources at a point where they can make the most difference. In fact, this may even be the national rollout of that plan. Here’s State Senator Randy Hopper on Fox News:
HOPPER: Well, I can tell you in my district the person that’s heading up the recall effort in my district was doing some work on behalf of either the administration or big labor in Colorado prior to moving into my district to do my recall.
Tea Parties don’t like to be astroturf (as opposed to the Left, which merely has an aversion to looking like astroturf), which sometimes leads them to be resistant to coordination. And independent-mindedness is a virtue. But in situations like this, it plays right into the strengths of union-led activism: their ability to coordinate money and activists on whatever scale is necessary, their exemption from many campaign finance restrictions, and the fact that they’re an easy address to find.
It is necessary – now – to contribute to these advertising efforts, and to the recall campaigns of affected senators. No Republican, Tea Party, or activist event should go by without passing the hat.
It’s hard, raising money for someone else, out of state. But that’s where the battle is.
It’s hard, raising money for an election, when you’re not a party member. But it’s one thing to punish Republicans in office for doing the wrong thing. It’s another thing altogether to let the other side punish them for doing the right thing.
In track and field, when a runner has the wind at his back, and records he sets don’t count. Of course, in track, the win is still fair, because all the runners run under the same conditions. With the press, it’s always uphill and against the wind for Republicans and Tea Parties, downhill and wind-assisted for Democrats and unions.
In a previous post, I put up a little retrospective of some of the more troubling behavior by Wisconsin public servants, aided and abetted by college students, Organizing for America, and the DNC. I doubt whether even Mike Littwin would be able to claim this as a “win” if most of the country had seen these events as they were happening. The national media, which goes out of its way, if necessary, to make up stuff about Tea Partiers, was rigorously careful not to expose the American public to these scenes.
What are perceived as heavy-handed tactics often have a way of backfiring. (In Pennsylvania during the Constitutional ratification convention, for instance, dissenting members of the convention fled the scene to deny the convention a quorum, and two of them had to be hauled back bodily to Independence Hall to get the 2/3 necessary for business. This, along with the refusal of the press to publish speeches critical of the Constitution and the refusal of the convention’s official journal to record all the speeches, forced the Federalists to tread much more carefully in succeeding states, particularly Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia.)
But they don’t usually backfire when the targets are unsympathetic louts.
Just to pick on Mike a little, the last lines in his column suggest that the DC Democrats might find the inspiration and spine to make bold entitlement reform proposals from the events in Wisconsin. This makes no sense. In Wisconsin, the Democrats were defending the insupportable and unsustainable status quo. Failing to deal with entitlements, as the President has failed to do, would be more in keeping with that strategy.
While it remains to be seen if the public sector unions in Wisconsin can (re)build a political movement based on coercion and extortion, it’s worth remembering that they’d have no chance of doing so without help from their friend in the working press. Let’s a take a little trip down memory lane, so close it almost seems like yesterday:
Attack FreedomWorks’ Tabitha Hale
Protesters re-take the Wisconsin Capitol
Wisconsin GOP Senator Glenn Grothman chased, trapped by hecklers, saved by Dem. Rep. Brett Hulsey
Wisconsin Union Wisconsin Republican senators leave through secret tunnel after march 9th vote
Chances are, unless you were reading Ann Alhouse’s blog or Instapundit you didn’t know about much of this. That, combined with the national media blackout on the death threats against Wisconsin Republicans, and the protestors who’ve taken to taking down license plate numbers of their political opponents, constitutes the sort of propaganda that money literally can’t buy.