Thursday, February 24, 2011

Regarding All the Wisconsin Hubbabaloo.

I would like to preface all this by noting that I identify as a left-leaning moderate, so if you want a label to put on my pov, that thar is it.

I'm not that well read up on the regulations regarding unions in Wisconsin, and I don't believe it's moral to take a particular stance on an issue just because an overall party or faction does. I'm not informed enough to make any judgment calls on whether attacking collective bargaining is wise or unwise, justified or unjustified. However, I retain a high interest in current events over there from a 'marketing' perspective. I like to watch politics and contemplate, not just whether an action was the right or wrong one, but whether it was likely to produce popular support or not.

So, judging Governor Walker's actions on that basis, I don't think he's made a very smart move here. In fact, so far I think that he's as good as guaranteeing that a Democrat will be his successor, and here's why I think that.

First of all, let's get the phone conversation out of the way. There was very little that was incriminating in that conversation; Walker handled himself quite well. The only truly damning portion of that conversation was the fact that he admitted to considering planting 'troublemakers' to make his opponents look bad, but the fact that he didn't actually do it likely makes the issue insufficient grounds for serious attack. So, setting that aside....

The Democrats lost midterms badly. They lost midterms in part because Obama heavily pushed unpopular legislation in the healthcare overhaul. Whether the bill was unpopular on its own merits or due to mishandling of its presentation and promotion really isn't relevant anymore. It wasn't popular, and it cost the Democrats a lot of votes to push it through. And they knew the consequences and did it anyway, because they believed it the right thing to do.

So here we are seeing Gov. Walker trying to push through highly unpopular legislation. And he knows the consequences, and he's doing it anyway, because he believes it's the right thing to do. Does this look familiar to anyone else? The Democrats were apathetic in the midterms. They weren't fired up. The Tea Party was fired up. Yet here Walker is now, giving the opposition fire because, just like Obama, he wants so badly to make a historical change in a particular way regardless of the environment surrounding that issue.

Hilariously, Walker is doing the exact same thing Obama was, from the exact opposite affiliation, over the exact opposite issues. And I truly think he will suffer the exact same consequences for it.

The tragedy of the thing is that it would have been a brilliant strategy had he just been willing to play it a little differently. Walker could have started out just the same, overextended his reach to the frantic objections of the left. At this point, if he was willing to compromise, he could get pretty much anything he wanted, simply because the Democrats feel that anything is better than losing collective bargaining rights wholesale. They're willing to give in on all budget matters so long as collective bargaining isn't nuked. Walker might even be able to get away with less extensive attacks on collective bargaining if he was willing to aim a tad lower. But no, Walker wants the whole basket. And in trying for the whole basket, it's probable that he'll get nothing at all.

I don't think success or its lack will alter later election outcomes at this point. Walker went after targets lacking popular support to attack - teachers and prison guards. These aren't exactly Wall Street fatcats you're milking there. And he's using threats of layoffs in an incredibly harsh economy to force the Democrats into surrendering. If the Democrats surrender, they look compassionate. If the Democrats don't surrender, they look steadfast. If Walker gets what he wants, he looks like a bully. If he doesn't get what he wants, he looks like an unsuccessful bully. Unless he's actually willing to change his mind and show some bipartisanship, he's going to lose out in terms of popular image no matter what happens from here on out.

Personally I don't approve of obstructionism in general. I have a great deal of difficulty respecting politicians who abuse obscure clauses in the rulebooks to grind the legislative system to a halt. Broadly speaking, I feel that it's better for laws to go through according to the rules, regardless of the consequences, and then to see the consequences and reform the rules if necessary later on. If people are free to totally block laws they disagree with, then you never see the realistic consequences of those laws. As a result, bad laws don't get a chance to be debunked, and good laws don't get a chance to garner support. Everything controversial just hits a great big government pause button.

So I didn't like obstructionism when the GOP did it with filibustering, and I can't say it leaves a better taste in my mouth with the Democrats from Wisconsin doing it now. But in terms of garnering popular support, they really can't lose, so they can afford to be obstructionists. From a 'marketing' standpoint, it was the smart thing to do.

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