WASHINGTON -- The real political math in Wisconsin isn't about the state budget or the collective-bargaining rights of public employees there. It is about which party controls governorships and, with them, the balance of power on the ground in the 2012 elections.Remember, the battle in Wisconsin has nothing to do with state financing or any alleged deficit. Had the Republicans not immediately passed laws cutting taxes for corporations and for the wealthy, much of the projected deficit would not exist. And the public unions have already completely agreed to all of the wage and benefit cuts that Walker and his Republicans demanded. This battle is entirely a political power-grab by David Koch and his lap-dog Scott Walker!
For all of the valid concern about reining in state spending -- a concern shared by politicians and voters of all labels -- the underlying strategic Wisconsin story is this: Gov. Scott Walker, a Tea Party-tinged Republican, is the advance guard of a new GOP push to dismantle public-sector unions as an electoral force.
Last fall, GOP operatives hoped and expected to take away as many as 20 governorships from the Democrats. They ended up nabbing 12.
What happened? Well, according to postgame analysis by GOP strategists and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi -- who chaired the Republican Governors Association in 2010 -- the power and money of public-employee unions was the reason.
The GOP strategic aim is simple enough. If they can abolish union collective-bargaining rights, they can undermine the automatic payment of dues to the public-employee union treasuries. Shrinking those treasuries and reducing the union structure and membership will make it harder for Democrats and their allies to communicate directly with workers.
And under the infamous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, unions -- like corporations -- are free to spend as much as they want directly advocating for a candidate. That makes the math even more urgent as the 2012 election season approaches.
The power-grab does not look like it will be successful, though. Here is what several other governors said in a recent press conference discussing Walker's attempted union-breaking:
"If you are a successful CEO of a company or of a state, the most important thing you can do is to build morale of the people who work for you," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-Mont.), citing his experience bargaining with Montana's public-employee unions, which agreed to forgo a salary increase two and a half years ago to avoid layoffs. "It is the people that work for you that make you successful, and when you do that to morale, you are cutting your own throat."The other thing the Wisconsin Koch-fueled power-grab is is going to do is to energize unions across America to get political in 2012 - not just public employee unions, either. The demonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin have demonstrated that workers can and will be mobilized, and politicians are going to be very wary of doing things that might bring out the kind of opposition that Scott Walker has brought down in himself.
As for Walker's management style, "Every governor has to use his own model. But I don't know how this one ends in a good way," Schweitzer said. "How long do you think that CEO would keep his job and how successful do you think that business will be?"
Other governors offered similar sentiments, though with a little less bravado than the outspoken Montanan. Walker's push to effectively end collective-bargaining rights cuts against a fundamental plank of the Democratic platform and deals direct damage to one of the party's most reliable and powerful constituencies. And with poll numbers showing that the public, by and large, agrees with those protesting Walker's actions, there is little downside to Democrats speaking out.
Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.), whose state has become the fleeing ground for Democratic lawmakers hoping to hold up anti-union legislative activity in Wisconsin and Indiana, said he had no problem providing political asylum.
"Illinois is open for tourism all the time," he told The Huffington Post. "We have Wisconsin legislators and I think Indiana legislators, I really think that everybody knows it is important to have collective bargaining. It is the best way to resolve differences, and what's happening in Wisconsin, I don't think will spread anywhere."