If Scott Walker loses today: The case for reform, at least at the state level, suffers a massive and potentially fatal setback. Whatever other issues may have crept into the recall election, it’s still at heart a recall of a governor who is not accused of malfeasance, it’s a recall of a governor who promised reform and delivered, and whose reforms have demonstrably worked. Recalling Scott Walker kills the governor’s reforms and empowers Big Labor to block necessary reforms in other states facing pension and benefits crises. Governors and legislatures in other states facing public union pension crises will be cowed, as Big Labor will be in a position to threaten them with shutdowns and other measures. Big Labor will have defeated the Tea Party in a head-to-head battle with very high stakes.
If Scott Walker wins today: Big Labor will have failed in an extremely high profile flexing of power, in the cradle of its own movement. The failure will be spectacular, epic, and will build the case for reforming and curbing government union benefits and power nationwide. The Tea Party will have helped break Big Labor’s hold on government. Even Democratic governors and legislatures will be empowered to move against the government unions. Labor states may begin to pass right-to-work laws, flipping the balance toward right-to-work nationally, further diminishing union membership, money, and power. Other than Gov. Walker and the other recalled officials, President Obama has the most to lose and little to win in Wisconsin’s recall. If Walker wins, Big Labor will blame President Obama for his decision not to intervene directly, dampening its enthusiasm and support for him this fall. While Wisconsin’s recall is not a microcosm of the national elections in November, there is no question that President Obama emerges from a Walker victory weaker and less likely to win re-election. Walker emerges in a strong position to win a second term, and depending on how the other recalls go, he and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch could come out of the recall positioned to enact more reforms. Wisconsin will be in play in November.