June 7, 2012
At The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson compared Walker’s actions to a “jihad” and suggested (paradoxically) that a post-union labor movement might just resort to rioting. Walker “wins one for the plutocrats,” Joan Walsh lamented at Salon, without really explaining how the monocle-wearers could win 38 percent of the union vote.
Such demonization was of a piece with leftish commentary in the run-up to the recall. Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce described Walker as a “goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage its midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin,” which would now be subject to “the habits of oligarchy.” Even more grossly, The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote in The Washington Post that Walker’s policies were intended to “cleanse the electorate of people who don’t look, earn or think like him.”
It’s almost comforting, in such a florid, menacing universe, to wallow in righteous defeat. But I would suggest that if progressives want to change minds and political outcomes, they might try a different strategy: Instead of merely rallying opposition to irredeemable bogeymen, how about providing a concrete, numbers-rich alternative to the brutal budgetary math Walker’s union-tweaking policies were designed to address?
It is a fact that the majority of state budgets are in the red, that overall state spending increased by 81 percent from 2002-2007, and that rare-in-the-private-sector defined benefit pensions for government workers (along with post-retirement medical benefits) are a large and growing portion of state and local budgets, even while being chronically underfunded. The situation is terrible now, and will be much worse in the near future. So, progressives: Tell us concretely what you plan to do about this.
Echoing Tim Geithner, I think they don’t have a plan of their own. They just don’t like yours.