Last night, the Wisconsin GOP decided that rather than compromise with Democrats, it would pass the bill and repeal bargaining rights without them. To do so, they quickly stripped the budget bill of its financial measures which require a 20-member quorum and passed a budget-neutral bill that just repealed union bargaining rights.
Many people have speculated on what happens next, and the consensus is a political battle to recall the Republican state senators who voted for the bill alongside a court battle over the bill. David Dayden sees these challenges going all the way to the state Supreme Court, where elections being held next month will determine the majority party on the court. Sadly, the politicization of recall elections and judicial elections is not something progressives should be looking forward to.
Both Nate Silver and Matt Yglesias have compared what happened last night to the way in which Democrats passed health-care reform last year. In many ways, this is a telling comparison. When Democrats fell short of the supermajority needed to pass health-care reform, they used the budget-neutral process of reconciliation, which only required a simple majority. Silver argues that Democrats faced a serious backlash for ramming through an unpopular bill and took losses in the midterm elections because of it. Now in Wisconsin, it could be the Republicans’ turn.
Given the serious risk of political backlash, both instances speak to the priorities of each party when put in a tough spot. As Yglesias wrote, “What it reminds me of is congressional Democrats after Scott Brown’s election. The early CW was that somehow Democrats ‘had to’ back down in the face of their unpopularity. But they didn’t have to do anything. They believed as strongly in universal health care as the Wisconsin GOP believes in crushing labor unions. So they passed the damn bill.”
In the case of health-care reform, while the overall bill was unpopular, Democrats and Obama felt that in the long term, they would make the country a better place, and that people would therefore come around to supporting both reform and the Democrats. The Wisconsin GOP is also taking the long view. Their bill is unpopular today, but in the long term, it will so cripple their political opposition that their party will become stronger. Besides, they really really don’t like workers’ rights. At least for now, they’ve brought their state a little bit closer to the corporate-friendly paradise their party is so dedicated to creating.