The eternal problem with spring elections, especially in what is generally an off year, is that they make it very easy for a motivated minority to control the results. That's my greatest concern going into today's election in Wisconsin, especially the race for the Supreme Court seat.
In an ordinary moment, a clueless hack like Joann Kloppenburg would get crushed. There is no compelling reason whatsoever to vote for Kloppenburg, save one: she has promised to do the bidding of angry Democrats and their union paymasters in stopping Scott Walker's reform agenda cold. As the last 6-7 weeks have amply demonstrated, this is not an ordinary moment.
I have no sense about whether or not Kloppenburg will prevail, but I do know this: her supporters are crawling-across-broken-glass-to-get-to-the-polls motivated. They are determined to win, because they are determined to rule. Prosser's potential support is wider, but significantly more diffuse. And in an off-year election, the smart money is on the motivated side.
If Kloppenburg wins, it won't be the end of the world in Wisconsin. But it will make it more difficult for reform to take place any time soon. Essentially, what it will mean is that Wisconsin is on the same timetable as Minnesota. Because we have Mark Dayton in office, there's no chance for meaningful reform of public employee union behavior until his term ends. Other states will begin to pull ahead of both Wisconsin and Minnesota as a result. And we'll have the same discussion again in 2015, except there will be more urgency. Because the underlying structural problems with government and the ruinous long-term financial commitments it makes to the public employee unions won't go away just because Joanne Kloppenburg holds a gavel.