The effort to recall Governor Scott Walker of the state of Wisconsin is the final drama of a two year long spasm in American politics. The saga includes such diverse fundamentals as the right to collectively bargain, the onus of states to present a balanced budget, the assurance of the integrity of the voting process, the constitutional duty of elected officials to represent their constituents, and the very concept of democratic election. All of these diverse philosophical elements have been personified in the visage of a solitary man, Scott Walker, and the effort to destroy him and his capacity as Wisconsin’s governor to effect these philosophical elements, has made this saga one of fundamental national import. Whoever ends up holding the losing hand in this process, the governor or the public unions that have spent tens of millions to destroy him, will ultimately impact how the nation as a whole faces up to its impending debt crisis.
Wisconsin is no isolated example of the corrosion of the American democratic process and the integrity of effective governance. In a process that has built over decades, the perversion of government to provide a temporary safety net for those who are in need into a redistribution process of taking from the private sector to lavishly secure the public sector, has fractured local, state, and national governments. Wisconsin with its ever expanding multi-billion dollar budget deficits fueled by enormous pension and entitlement demands was in popular company with states such as Illinois and California, in having to delve into ever diminishing resources of infrastructure and taxation to support the ballooning public sector demand. The Wisconsin of 2010, after years of increasing taxes, raiding transportation and malpractice funds, and securing multiple insider protections for unions and casinos, found itself awash in a 3.6 billion dollar debt with no political will to restructure the madness. The electoral result was a complete flushing out of the system, electing tea party sensitive majorities in both legislative houses, and a county executive of Milwaukee County, Scott Walker, to governor, who had run a platform of a fundamental reworking of the public sector.
The key issue of the election was governance. If the great proportion of the annual budget is off limits due to the beholding of the politician to the public sector behemoth, what possible avenue is available to salvage a functional government to the actual needs of the populace? This question resonated in Wisconsin, as it progressively is resonating nationally. For the newly elected governor Walker, the key to permanently solving the puzzle was the public sector union capacity to hold the elected government hostage through the process of collective bargaining. Public unions had utilized tax funded money pools to put into place politicians that would protect their economic clout regardless of the state’s financial health, and maintained those politicians in positions of power in a feedback loop that subverted their constitutional responsibility. Walker saw that disengaging the public official from the threat of the public union by removing the collective bargaining capacity and the power of unions to command the state to universally collect dues for them from state employees would free governments to re-balance the needs of the populace and the needs of the public employee. The simple act of separating the unions from guaranteed access to an enormous money tree would allow the kind of reforms to finally bring sanity to the budgeting of state and local governments.
The effect was earth shaking. The legislatures passed expenditure reductions that required public employees in the manner of private sector employees to pay for some of their pension and healthcare benefits, and to provide the freedom for local governments to do the same. For the first time in years budgets became balancable, projects sustainable, and real estate taxes spiralling ever upward into the first reductions in memory. The seamy underside of the marriage of public unions with politicians, in essence the worker with management at the expense of the stockholder, became exposed. The state for decades had paid exhorbitant fees for insurances it was required to purchase through the unions, and the immediate effect was profound reductions in insurance costs when the monopoly was removed. The removal of the hammer of collective bargaining allowed the beginnings of discussions of educational process such as class size, the student experience, the capacity to reward goood teachers, and the effects of tenure on performance. Massive change and massive change to come with the first rays of sunlight on a secretive and rigged process.
The earthquake of change that Wisconsin became on the strength of the voter in 2010 was such a fundamental threat to the survivorship of entrenched powers both at the state level and nationally, it could not be allowed to stand. The push back was immediate, and overwhelming. National unions made Wisconsin their Stalingrad, pouring millions of dollars and thousands of soldiers into a two year epic battle to destroy the Wisconsin revolution before it could take national root. The unions demanded and got the 14 democrat senators to flee the state rather than face their constitutional duty to represent their districts in an attempt to block the bills passage, they brought tens of thousands to bear in daily protests to pressure the residual senators to give in, their engaged enormous resources to attempt to vote out a key supreme court justice to allow the court to swing in their favor and rule the laws unconstitutional, they mounted recall elections on six republican senators to attempt to swing the state senate democratic and block any Walker reforms, and now the final and ultimate effort, to remove the leader of all that change, Scott Walker, in the recall of recall elections, on June 5th, 2012.
There have been only two other recall elections of sitting governors in the history of the United States, Governor Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921 and Governor Grey Davis of California in 2003. In each case, it was not malfeasance but what was felt to the governor’s disdain for the will of the people who elected him. The 2012 recall of Governor Scott Walker is fundamentally an argument of the will of the people, the will of those who in 2010 voted a reformer in versus those who felt that no reformer would dare to effect the changes Walker achieved. The battle is positioning for a titanic climax which will have profound effect on the national question. Can a nation democratically face up to its fiscal responsibilities when the electoral process progressively is owned by those who will benefit from maintenance of their levers of power and an ever expanding population of entitled who are rewarded for their vote? Governor Walker, if triumphant, becomes a major national force overnight, and a nightmare that may cause public sector unions to never want to sleep again. Governor Walker, Representative Paul Ryan, Senator Ron Johnson, head of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus- something very big is brewing in Wisconsin.