Although Scott Walker’s and the Wisconsin Senate Republicans’ move to erase collective bargaining rights is typical of the GOP’s automatic intellectual dishonesty, I must say I have some respect for it. Rules matter, and rules are important, but so is policy. The GOP is committed to crushing unions; indeed, advancing plutocracy is basically the heart of its agenda. I wish that Democrats could be one-half as ruthless in pushing an agenda to help American workers.
But that doesn’t mean that it will work politically over the long run.
This is the sort of thing that might win a battle but lose a war. It is so transparently ruthless that it could enrage the opposition in a way that takes the battle to an entirely new level.
It reminds me somewhat of then-Governor Pete Wilson’s transparently ruthless attempt to demonize the undocumented — which as a practical matter meant demonizing Latinos — in 1994. It certainly helped him get re-elected as Governor that year after it looked hopeless, although in retrospect he would have won anyway in a very good Republican year. But it helped to destroy California’s GOP. It drove away a growing Latino plurality from Republicans, perhaps for a generation or more.
I suppose that Walker and the Republicans are thinking that they will take their lumps now, raise millions from American Crossroads and the Kochs, survive enough recalls to keep their majority, and let the thing blow over. But will this blow over? Or will it so energize Wisconsin workers that the Reagan Democrat will essentially become extinct? And if so, will that be enough?
There are a lot more Latinos in California than union members in Wisconsin. That must be what smart Wisconsin GOP strategists are counting on. But Scott Walker might want to look at his recent California history pretty soon.