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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes


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Some thoughts from a savvy observer:

Let's give credit where credit is due.  In 3 months, with an entirely green team, with no Republican being in executive branch leadership for 8 years, Team Walker accomplished a lot of significant stuff.  The job session bills were really important - tort reform, regulatory reform, etc.

That's VERY significant stuff.  Also let's not forget that if the bargaining changes hold up - which they are almost sure to do - despite whatever collateral damage that he may have done to his poll numbers or to the political atmosphere and to endangered Senate seats, it will have been worth it. 

This is landmark stuff.  It is the most significant re-alignment of the power relationship between the
governing class and the governed since the Progressive era.   It makes Wisconsin a very different place for the long term.  It has the potential to fatally cripple public employee unions' political clout.
Freedom is a tough genie to get back in the bottle.  Even if in some distant future the Dems hold all the levers of state government and try to roll back some of this, it is going to be awful hard for them to go back to forced union membership, forced dues collection, etc. 

Right now all of the political damage done by this fight is speculative.   Let's face it, Stone was not going to beat Abele and it would not have made much of a difference if he did - both guys will/would have been rolled by Holloway and the Co. Board.  Prosser has survived.  No recalls have been lost and the landscape looks like a wash or up or down one for either side. 

But even in a worst case scenario, I still think the significance of the reform makes the potential collateral damage worth it.  Not to get too overdramatic, but the beachhead at Normandy was significant enough that it was worth the bloodbath (even the unnecessary "fog of war" mistake casualties) of D-Day.  What Walker has accomplished so far is worth the risk.  Political capital, after all, cannot be banked indefinitely.   If it is not spent it disappears eventually. Smart politicians spend it on worthwhile things.  Walker has spent a lot of it in a short period, but he used it to buy real, significant change.

One final perspective check.  Not to minimize the criticisms or the need to improve, but let's remember that this administration is only 4 months old. 

By this time in the Doyle administration, they had burned up just about as much political capital on a completely off-message war over perpetual Indian Gaming compacts, were on their way to losing a legal challenge to those contracts in the Supreme Court, and had imposed a Susan Goodwin policy and access bottleneck that had everyone on their own team afraid of their own shadow.  They were sputtering along, 100% off message, and on their way to being rolled politically into signing the GOP's Job Creation Act, package of regulator reforms and Angel investment Tax Credits. 

Doyle never got over that start.  The liberal base viewed him as a disappointment til the day he left office, the stink of "pay to play" set off by him using his full bank of political capital to reward the Indians who pumped late millions into his campaign never left him, and the chilling effect of the Goodwin management style stunted all initiative and creativity in the entire bureaucracy. 

Say what you will about the mistakes Walker has made and the political cost they have exacted, but you have to admit that while his articulation and management of it has not been perfect, from an actual direction and agenda standpoint he is 100% on-message.  There's a big difference between using up your political capital on Indian compacts and using it up on fundamental and landmark changes in collective bargaining.  

In the long run Walker will be judged more by what he does than by how he does it, and he is doing very good and important things. Improving how he does it is critically important, however, because it will make it more likely that he can do more of it, and do it for longer. 

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