I have a feeling this is going to be a problem. Ann Althouse is worried, too:
Yes, the anti-Scott Walker side has its outside agitators. I don't think that necessarily helps the protesters win over the people of Wisconsin. (As I've said.) By contrast, Scott Walker and the GOP legislators have looked like they are focused on the public good, doing what needs to be done for the people of Wisconsin, which I think is a persuasive political message in Wisconsin. You want to switch that to Republicans versus Democrats in a hardcore political standoff? By bringing in your own outside agitators? Is that good Tea Party style? I don't think so!
Of course, we've crossed that bridge rather a long time ago and the stakes here are waaay beyond what happens in my home state. Althouse is arguing this a Wisconsin matter and should remain so:
And if you come in from out of state, I don't particularly want you here, but you need to know — whatever you've read about "thugs" and signs with cross-hairs and Hitler — Wisconsin people are really polite. If you don't understand that and behave extra-well, you will look like a lout — and that's even before the Democratic-friendly media do their usual work of trying to make you look bad.
I hope Wisconsinites do show up today — on all sides of the debate. Be there. I will. Let's be good citizens, interact with each other, try to understand what's going on and who thinks what, who cares about Wisconsin and who's there to take advantage of the spotlight for nonWisconsin purposes. May the greater good prevail.
A noble enough sentiment, I suppose, but Althouse knows this is only about Wisconsin in the same way that the Spanish Civil War was about Spaniards. (And no, I'm not comparing either side to the Fascists or the Communists -- just the dynamic involved.) For both sides, this is the tip of the spear and a proxy battle for larger issues. If Gov. Walker can get the public sector unions under control in the state where AFSCME got its start, there's little reason to believe that the change can't be replicated elsewhere. As we've discussed here earlier, Ohio and other states are watching very carefully.
On the other side, this has become a real test of public sector union power. That's really a distinction not worth making, though, since the union movement is mostly about public sector unionism these days. The key to this power is that the unions have such sway over the Democratic Party that when that D's are in power, the union is on both sides of the bargaining table when the matter of public sector compensation is involved. That is why public sector compensation has been been on autopilot for the last 20-30 years. It's also, as a matter of naked self-interest, a damned good deal.
I'm a heartless conservative so I fully understand the allure of naked self-interest. But pursuing one's self-interest doesn't require gaming the system. And since the system as it currently works puts my children on the hook for bills they'll be hard-pressed to pay, it's pretty easy to support what Scott Walker is doing.
Most importantly, the action the unions are taking are explicitly designed to nullify the results of the 2010 election. Walker's predecessor, Jim Doyle, was an old-school Dem pol who hosted a pretty good party for 8 years at taxpayer expense. Walker and the Republicans who now control the legislature were running explicitly on an anti-Doyle reform agenda. Because Wisconsin is a closely divided state politically, the vote was close, but Walker won the election pretty handily in most parts of the state. Wisconsin voters also sent Russ Feingold into retirement, flipped two congressional seats, the 7th and 8th, from blue to red, and narrowly lost in the 3rd. The verdict of the voters was pretty clear that change needed to happen. The public unions, through their ownership stake in the Democratic Party, refuse to concede that point. I don't think they'll get by with it in the end. But it's going to a tough fight in the meantime and what's happening in Madison will eventually happen in Columbus, Lansing and other places as well. It could even happen in St. Paul eventually, although AFSCME, Education Minnesota and the limousine liberal team have installed a firewall.
So for now, we'll just have to watch the show. And for my Wisconsin readers, if you're going to be in Madison, Mitch Berg has some excellent advice.