Some Thoughts On Wisconsin
1. Part of me, of course, is sad Scott Walker won. He’s a conservative and I’m not. All things considered, I prefer when conservatives lose elections.
That said, the rest (most?) of me is glad he won. There are a lot of ways in which I’m a small-d democrat. I hate the filibuster and secret holds. I think we make it way too hard for people to vote – from restrictive ID laws to voting on Tuesdays to voting in person to any number of other things. I’d scrap both Article I and II of the Constitution and replace them with a parliamentary system if I got to be in charge of the world for a day.
But man, do I hate direct democracy. Ballot initiatives/referenda are the worst. There’s a reason we have a legislature instead of just running all legislative authority through the public. (California is that reason.) If you want to pass a frivolous law grounded in emotion that you’re going to regret about two seconds after you pass it, put it up for a popular vote. And, while recall elections don’t exactly fit the same mold, I lump them in as well. Unless someone commits a crime or some other serious malfeasance, there’s just no reason to submit political decision-making to this kind of whim. Wisconsin voted for Walker, Wisconsin gets four years of Walker.
2. There seems to be a weird amount of cognitive dissonance surrounding the role of money and unions in elections. On one side, we have liberals lamenting the way Citizens United opens the floodgates for corporate spending on elections during a recall election that only appears to have happened because public sector unions spend so much money on elections in the first place. Meanwhile, conservatives love pointing out that, of the top donors to political campaigns, about half are unions. Matching union power to corporate power seems like, you know, the point of unions. What are we proving here? That breaking the back of public sector unions would actually result in a power shift away from unions and toward corporations? I believe liberals may have pointed that out a time or two.
(I don’t want to get too far into Carney’s second point, about how corporate and union money all went in the same direction in 2010. Having another conversation about “the state of the modern Republican Party” would serve no purpose other than giving us all headaches.)
3. I hate this notion that public sector unions involve government employees setting themselves against the public. The people most likely to talk like this tend to be the exact same people who usually have a keen understanding of the ways in which the public bureaucracy develops a mind and purpose of its own. You’d think they would understand the ways in which public sector management creates its own sort of bastardized business model that operates independently of congressional and public control. I’m not saying this obligates anyone to support public sector unions (I myself am a little on the fence, even if I tend toward support), but I am saying that it obligates you to think more clearly about what exactly public sector unions exist to do. Generally speaking, they don’t exist to protect government employees from the unfair hiring (or firing) practices of voters, who largely have no control over the day-to-day operations of the bureaucracy in the first place.