It must be the worst case of timing any political-party convention has ever had.
No doubt when they planned their annual state convention, Wisconsin Democrats didn’t know it would fall only three days after their resounding defeat in Governor Scott Walker’s recall election (the date of the election was set only this spring after recall signatures were turned in). But that knowledge didn’t help delegates get through a downer of a meeting in Appleton.
Leading Democrats did their best to cheer delegates up by claiming that the party’s stands on issues weren’t to blame for the crushing seven-point loss of Milwaukee’s Mayor Tom Barrett.
Congressman Ron Kind of La Crosse pointed to exit polls showing that a majority of voters didn’t want recalls held over policy differences, preferring that they should be reserved for criminal acts and egregious behavior. “I don’t believe for one second this is an affirmation of Governor Walker’s policies,” he told delegates. Peter Barca, the party’s leader in the state assembly, echoed Kind and added that a flood of outside money sealed the recall’s fate. Both ignored exit polls showing that a majority of the state’s electorate thought Wisconsin was moving in the right direction and backed Walker’s collective-bargaining reforms.
It’s clear that the defeat has unleashed a public reaction against public-sector unions that didn’t seem possible a few months ago. Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, appeared on Fox News today, recounting that he not only ended the right of public-sector unions to automatically collect dues from Indiana workers, but he also won a landslide reelection after doing it. Daniels, who signed a bill making Indiana a right-to-work state earlier this year, now says he thinks that “government works better” without public-sector unions.
“I think the message [of Wisconsin] is that, first of all, voters are seeing the fundamental unfairness of government’s becoming its own special-interest group, sitting on both sides of the table,” he said. He added that he hoped Walker’s victory would stand as “some kind of turning point” in how public-sector union power is handled in the country. That power has certainly manifested itself in a situation where public servants now often act as the public’s masters. Nationwide, private-sector workers earn an average of $8.53 in benefits per hour, while government workers earn $14.31 and have far higher job security.