With six Republican state Senators facing recall elections in Wisconsin, the Democrats needed only three to take control of the state’s Senate. That control would not have been sufficient to overturn Gov. Walker’s government union benefit reforms, but would have become become a symbol of resurgent union power. Union/Democrat victory in Wisconsin would have become a basis for mounting recalls against Republicans in Ohio, Indiana and perhaps elsewhere. The perpetual campaign would have become truly perpetual, with recalls popping everywhere the unions thought they had any chance of winning.
But the Democrats failed. Of the six seats up for grabs, they only captured two, and despite the massive money backing the Democrats, the GOP holds the state Senate. And one of those two recall races that the Democrats won involved a GOP incumbent who had become mired in personal scandal, so the Democratic victory there doesn’t say much at all about the reforms that are at the center of the recall effort. The four GOP victories speak volumes.
The fact is, the Democrats and unions poured $30 million into the recall and made it a national effort. Their failure, in the heart of Big Labor country, is one more sign that the era of big labor unions dictating policy to state and local government is over. If they can’t win in Wisconsin with a focused effort, just where can they win? With Massachusetts and other blue states also reforming government union benefits packages? And the right-to-work states outpacing the union states in economic growth? And with Big Labor’s president occupying the White House?
The GOP holding onto the Wisconsin Senate is a major blow to Big Labor, maybe their biggest setback in a generation. The big unions will not go quietly, but go they will, eventually.