Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has won his battle against public employee unions (albeit in a manner that's being challenged), with both the state House and Senate passing his bill, which guts the collective bargaining rights of government workers. Still, now that the three-week standoff over the controversial measure is over, it's pretty clear that this wasn't a clean victory for Walker and his party. Here's a look at some probable winners and losers from the Battle of Madison:
The 14 Democratic state senators "took a big risk" by leaving the state to block Walker's bill, says E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post. And though the bill eventually passed, they successfully "defined the political argument on their own terms — and they are winning it," to the palpable "surprise of establishment politicians." The timid, divided "Washington Democrats" would do well to take note.
"This is the beginning, not the end, of this fight" in Wisconsin, says David Dayen in Firedoglake. And much of that fight now moves to the courtroom. There will be legal challenges to the way the bill was shoved through, including the assertion that collective bargaining is not a "fiscal issue." "It's sure to go up to the state Supreme Court."
The first big challenge to the measure, then, might be an upcoming election for a state Supreme Court seat between incumbent David Prosser (R) and Democratic challenger JoAnn Kloppenberg, says David Weigel in Slate. If Kloppengerg wins, the balance of power on the court swings to the Democrats. With homemade "Vote Kloppenberg April 5" already showing up in Madison, she just got a potentially huge organizational boost.
There's a reason AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is thanking Walker and nominating him for "Mobilizer of the Year," says Taylor Marsh in her blog. The GOP's "hollow, Pyrrhic victory" in Madison almost singlehandedly revived the labor movement, agrees E.D. Kain in Forbes. "Republicans have a long history of union-busting and anti-labor rhetoric," but they foolishly chose "public-sector workers and teachers as their hill to die on." It will be their "Waterloo."
In crushing union rights, "Walker got his No. 1 item, but he paid a huge price," says Christian Mistermix in Balloon Juice. He probably would have weathered this storm if the GOP senators had deployed their "sketchy parliamentary move" to "jam through" his bill as soon as the Wisconsin 14 left the state. Since they dithered, Walker now has a political "trainwreck" on his hands, and "he's almost certainly a one-term governor."
"Reason has taken a holiday in Wisconsin politics," says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an editorial, and "civility along with it." In their place we have a nastiness rarely seen in Wisconsin. The protest have been peaceful, but they barely cover up a strong wave of anger. And if Democrats and labor leaders don't denounce the death threats and other "scary stuff" coming from their side, says John Guardiano in The Daily Caller, the result could be "murder and mayhem."
Unions may get a short-term boost from this fight, but ultimately it is "a battle lost," says labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein in The Washington Post. Walker is "completely correct that it's in his self-interest to ignore public opinion," because once the unions are "destroyed, public opinion will follow."
Wisconsin GOP senators
Walker can't be put to a recall vote for another year, but several GOP senators can, says Greg Sargent in The Washington Post. And according to a new poll, at least two probably will be, and they'll lose, given "the intensity of grassroots anger at Wisconsin Republicans." Be that as it may, says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic, "the real issue will be if Democrats can recall Walker and retake control of the state House in 2012."