The liberal political machine was in full throttle. Millions of dollars in campaign ads streamed on TV. An army of union workers descended on the state in a massive grassroots voter mobilization effort. But when the dust settled, the smoke cleared, and the votes were counted, the conservative majority that swept into Wisconsin last November remained intact last night despite an unprecedented recall effort designed to bring an end to Governor Scott Walker’s reforms.
Yesterday in Wisconsin, Democrats tried to recall six GOP senators in an attempt to gain a foothold in the state’s legislature—they lost in four of the races, failing to regain a majority in the state senate. Those losses came despite a $14 million effort waged by unions and liberal groups from across the country, including the AFL-CIO, UAW, AFSCME, MoveOn.org, Teamsters, UFCW, NEA, SEIU, and People for the American Way.
The recalls marked the latest battle in the war between liberals and conservatives being waged in the birthplace of American progressivism, and once again, progressivism lost. And it’s no wonder.
In last November’s election, the Tea Party surge brought new conservative voices to Wisconsin’s state government, and under the leadership of Governor Walker, a new way of thinking took hold in the state’s capital. Wisconsin faced the fourth highest tax burden in the country, the state carried a $3 billion structural deficit, and unions had a monopoly on power. In June, Heritage’s James Sherk explained just how sweet of a deal the state’s unions had:
Government employees in Wisconsin paid just 6 percent of their health care premiums and next to nothing for generous pensions, and the average teacher in Milwaukee makes $101,000 a year. Government union contracts also require layoffs to occur on the basis of seniority. Long-time government employees can rest assured that they will never get laid off.
Enter Governor Walker’s sweeping reforms, including a new budget and a new collective bargaining law restraining the unions’ power. His proposals woke the unions from their sated slumber, spurring massive protests that shut down the state’s capitol, and14 Wisconsin senate Democrats fled to Illinois where they hid out for more than three weeks in an attempt to block the law. Ultimately, the reforms passed, they survived legal challenges, and now the state is reaping the benefits.
As America continues to struggle with unemployment, Wisconsin added a net of 9,500 new jobs in June — more than half the 18,000 created nationwide. Meanwhile, neighboring Illinois lost 7,200 jobs in June–and the state’s government is pursuing the well-worn liberal path of drastically higher taxes in order to combat crippling deficits. Heritage’s Rob Bluey reports on Wisconsin’s new-found success:
Wisconsin’s resurgence comes after three years of job losses — more than 150,000 jobs were lost in the three years before Walker became governor. Since he took office in January, the state has added 39,300 private-sector jobs. That puts Walker on pace to exceed his goal of 250,000 new jobs in four years.
In Wisconsin, the voters took notice. In a state that Barack Obama won handily in 2008, where unions have a historical stronghold, and where millions were spent to halt the tide of conservatism, the movement toward reform continues. Last night’s recall elections show that the Tea Party wave, even in the bluest of states, is no fluke.