Wisconsin's Proxy War Continues

The Republicans in Wisconsin passed the law circumscribing collective bargaining by state employees, but Democrats expect to reap advantages.

Amiel Ungar, | updated: 23:01

Scott Walker
Scott Walker


Governor Scott Walker's controversial bill severely limiting the collective bargaining rights of state employees was enacted into law and Walker immediately proceeded to sign the bill. In the legislative maneuvering, the Republicans outwitted the Democrats in the end, but the question that remains- now that Japan has temporarily displaced Wisconsin from the headlines- is whether this will prove a pyrrhic victory.

Governor Walker believes that he has struck a blow for "true budgetary reform" that will be emulated nationwide in a movement that will save subsequent generations from massive indebtedness. Walker attempted to be magnanimous in victory by praising the civil discussion mounted by his opponents, although that civil discussion included comparisons between Walker and Hitler, Mussolini and Hosni Mubarak to the extent that a live camel was forced to navigate the snowy streets of Madison Wisconsin.

As the Republicans had emphasized fiscal responsibility, it was a fight that Walker and the Republican legislative majority could not back down from or else they would have demoralized their base.

The Democrats, on the other hand, view of the passage of the bill as something that will energize their base, Ironically,  they feel it will have the same effect that the dodgy passage of the Obama health care bill had. It stirred up what had been considered a moribund Republican base. The Democrats could take heart from the thousands of demonstrators who gathered in Madison during the fight, and the reception accorded the Democratic senators who had fled the state in a vain effort to prevent a quorum and the passage of the bill. They were treated as victorious Roman proconsuls by the crowd that had opposed the bill.

Normally, the Democrats would be faced with a problem:  November 2012, the day of putative retribution, is still a long way off and therefore how does one keep the base energized and provided with a positive outlet for this energy.?

Wisconsin and the progressive laws that it enacted a century ago to combat political corruption, may have supplied a remedy in the recall procedure. Under the recall procedure, it is possible to recall an elected executive as well as members of the Wisconsin assembly and Senate. First, it is necessary to collect 25% of the number of people who voted in the last election, and after the certification process has been completed, the first Tuesday 6 weeks after the certification process has been completed becomes a new election day.

Democratic activists have already compiled a hit list of vulnerable Republican senators who represent districts carried by Barack Obama in 2008.

Recall elections have been successful in Wisconsin before. For example, in 1995, the Republican one-seat majority in the Senate was obliterated by a recall election triggered by dissatisfaction over the funding of a sports stadium. It should be obvious that once the Democrats initiate this tactic, they will invite retaliation by Republicans who will do the same for elected Democrats. Thus Wisconsin can continue to serve as the scene of a proxy war between the two parties and the two conflicting approaches into  which they have become locked.

The Democratic National Committee in Washington is already sending cash to back the recall drive.