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On Wisconsin! The Meaning of the Recall Effort

Finally, it is more than possible that many union members will themselves be voting for Scott Walker and not the Democratic Party candidate, Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee. Indeed, Barrett has not even made collective bargaining an issue in the campaign, preferring instead to concentrate on corruption charges brought against former Walker aides, hoping that the case against them will rub off on the governor. Walker, polls show, will receive 38 to 39 percent of the vote of union households. John Fund points out today that labor is split into two camps:

Members of public-sector unions represent 55 percent of all union workers in Wisconsin. Their leaders are focused not on economic growth but on securing bigger pay, more benefits, and greater power regardless of the impact on the overall state budget. Public-sector-union households support Barrett over Walker by 66 percent to 31 percent in a recent Marquette University poll. But among the 45 percent of union households that have a member in the private sector, Barrett leads by much less: 49 percent to 45 percent.

-- While Barack Obama undoubtedly hopes Barrett will win, he has himself kept his hands off Wisconsin, and even while he visited nearby states he pointedly did not go to Wisconsin to stand by Barrett’s side. The Democrats did send Bill Clinton for one day, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz made a brief appearance. But it is no secret that the DNC is staying far removed from the fight, hoping that a possible Democratic defeat and Walker victory will not affect the president’s re-election effort.

Obama did at one point call Walker’s reforms an “assault” on the  unions, but even though he pledged in the 2008 campaign to stand by the unions and to picket alongside them, he never came to Madison or publicly endorsed the anti-Walker campaign. Moreover, most federal employees do not themselves have collective bargaining rights, and as federal workers well know, the president imposed a pay freeze on their salaries without the work force having any ability to make their own wills known or to engage in bargaining with the federal government by those unions that represent them.

The last thing Barack Obama wants is for a Walker victory to spell trouble for his own campaign. No wonder union leaders in Wisconsin are furious that the president has not responded to their own efforts to have him come to Wisconsin to rally the troops. His advisers and spokesmen are already getting set to argue that a Walker victory has nothing to do with Obama’s chances for re-election, a claim that would be even more ridiculous than it already is had the president actually gone to Wisconsin to join the fight against the governor.

Everyone realizes that the campaign to recall Walker does have national implications. If Walker wins his fight, it bodes ill for the Democrats -- Wisconsin for the first time in many years will be in play come November and not necessarily a sure state for the Democrats. That is why on Tuesday night all eyes will be on the Wisconsin results.