Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Wisconsin!

   Original post title, huh? Yesterday the Wisconsin recall results were disappointing to some, reinforcing for others and surprising to most everyone. A little gem hidden in the results was the Democratic "flip" for the Senate, which could have the most impact of all. Fitzgerald would no longer control the Senate in tandem with his brother in the House. But I'm not going to pretend to be a "nuts and bolts" analyst here, I'm more interested in the long view, the big picture and the potential for upside.
   A little background. I've been a Union member as well as a Management Representative in different periods of my life. A steelworker for 5 years...on the "other side" for nearly 3 decades. I never lost my respect for Unions and the good they did for me and my fellow Union members. As a Manager, Business Owner and Employee Relations Rep, I've seen the positive impact of collective bargaining. I've also taken advantage of the biggest problem in Union membership...greed. Unions have lost their core message, but that's another issue that you can read about in hundreds of blogs and articles. The bottom line on collective bargaining? It's valuable to American workers and that includes non-members. Without bargaining, there is no pressure on Management to offer attractive benefits and wages, other than an individual's decision to "quit" on their own or turn down an offer for employment. In this environment? It either won't happen or one of a dozen other potential employees will replace that individual. Even during periods of high employment, the impact of one or two individuals has literally no influence on Management. It's an easy fix, just pull the "informal leader" of the employees aside, offer them a "lead" position with a 25 cent per hour raise and task them with creating unity and teamwork (basically parrot the Management talking points). It's POLITICS, folks, and MONEY rules. But I digress...though it's important to recognize that throughout most Americans' careers, they are constantly reminded by management that Unions are "bad", "cost you more than you'll ever make" and "force you to pay dues and walk off the job".
   The recall was misguided from the start. It became a referendum on Unions from the Democrats while Republicans simply countered with a referendum on "the recall process". It should have been a referendum on a Governor that allowed the State Legislature to break their rules, break their laws and ignore the voice of the minority. The Governor that will continue to "divide" Wisconsin. The Governor that raised taxes on the poor while lowering taxes on the Wealthiest in the State. The Governor that promised 250,000 jobs that has factually LOST jobs from Wisconsin to neighboring States. The Union issue? The message should have been simply "YOU are next on the chopping block". With all that said, the results weren't all that bad, considering the only message that reached the National Stage was "Unions are under attack". Over a million Wisconsinites voted in support of Unions. From where I sit, that's extremely impressive. Barret lost by the same margin he lost the first time...the same voters that elected President Obama by a sweeping margin. In all of the hullabaloo, Republicans have yet to sober up to the stark reality that there hasn't been a significant shift of voters to the Republican side. District 21 actually appears to have made a "correction" by recalling Van Wanggard (R) in favor of the Democrat, Senator John Lehman. If the results survive a recount, it is a huge shift in "power" with the Democrats controlling the Senate and telling Scott Fitzerald to kindly step aside from his Leadership perch. Not a bad way to "lose" when you think about it.
   A bigger message was sent that is slowly starting to sink in. Voting "against" someone carries far less weight and momentum than voting "FOR" a leader. This is the big take-away, in my opinion. This is the big advantage we, as Democrats, MUST exploit in 2012. In essence, the Republicans are running a "Recall Election" in 2012. They want to recall Pres Obama and undo the "damage". Hmm...sound familiar? Sounds like the basic strategy in Wisconsin that failed the Democrats.