Yesterday there was a huge showdown in the state of Wisconsin. Shortly after the downgrade of US debt, the voters Wisconsin showed that they "get it". They understand that the days of huge government spending, and "gold plated" benefits and pay for government workers is over.
Under the leadership of Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin became one of the first states to face the reality and make the hard choices in order to balance their budget. This included taking on the public employee unions.
This is even more significant because of the changes in recent decades in union constituencies. In my father's day, unions mostly represented workers in the private sector. FDR actually stated that union should be forbidden to organize government workers. This gave unions a huge incentive to make their companies profitable and gave then a huge stake in the free enterprise system.
Sadly, this has all changed. Now 80% of union workers are employed by government. The effect has been to eliminate unions interest in the free enterprise system, replacing it with an interest in promoting an ever expanding government and ever higher taxes. Today, unions are no longer champions of the little guy working for a private employer - they are defenders of government workers collecting pay and benefits far above those in the private sector. It also has made today's unions into radical proponents of socialism.
In the wake of Wisconsin's government cutbacks, the unions pulled out all the stops in an effort to reverse them. They targeted every vulnerable Republican lawmaker for recall. They poured millions of dollars and thousands of workers into the effort The elections were held yesterday. The result? Only two lawmakers were recalled. It was a huge defeat for the unions - and a clear indication that the people "get it". Unions are no longer their friends.
What are the long term implications?
First, unions need to return to their roots. They need to sell their services to workers in the private sector and abandon their push for an ever expanding government and socialism. They need to stop complaining that it is too hard to organize Walmart and instead recognize that no one is going to beat them up, turn dogs on them or shoot them. Compared to unions in the past, they have it easy!
Second, this election indicates that Democrats are going to have a very hard time in 2012. Wisconsin is a liberal state, the unions and their democratic allies put forth a huge effort and they lost big. The American people are mad and they want change. They are greatly disappointed in the current administration and want to move to the right. For the Democrats to have any chance in 2012, they must do the same - if they can.