The System Works (Sort of)
The Tea-Party-propelled, debt-conscious Republicans then move to confront their states’ unsustainable pension and health-care obligations — most boldly in Wisconsin, where the new governor proposes a radical reorientation of the power balance between public-sector unions and elected government.
In Madison, the result is general mayhem — drum-banging protesters, frenzied unions, statehouse occupations, opposition legislators fleeing the state to prevent a quorum. A veritable feast of creative democratic resistance.
In the end, however, they fail. The legislation passes.
Then, further resistance. First, Democrats turn an otherwise sleepy state Supreme Court election into a referendum on the union legislation, the Democrats’ candidate being widely expected to overturn the law. The unions/Democrats lose again.
And then last Tuesday, recall elections for six Republican state senators, three being needed to return the Senate to Democratic control and restore balance to the universe. Yet despite millions of union dollars, the Republicans hold the Senate. The unions/Democrats lose again.
The people spoke; the process worked. Yes, it was raucous and divisive, but change this fundamental should not be enacted quietly. This is not midnight basketball or school uniforms. This is the future of government-worker power and the solvency of the states. It deserves big, serious, animated public debate.
Precisely of the kind Washington (exhibit B) just witnessed over its debt problem. You know: The debt-ceiling debate universally denounced as dysfunctional, if not disgraceful, hostage-taking, terrorism, gun-to-the-head blackmail.
Spare me the hysteria. What happened was that the 2010 electorate, as represented in Congress, forced Washington to finally confront the national debt. It was a triumph of democratic politics — a powerful shift in popular will finding concrete political expression.