On, Wisconsin! And Indiana … and Ohio.

One of the more reliable truisms is that “the zealots will always overreach”. It’s the question of “when” that gets funky. But pretty obviously the crowd that rode into office on a wave of inchoate, anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-government rage last November is getting slapped upside the head with something they did not expect. It goes without saying that it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

As Wisconsin’s well-coordinated populist uprising spreads around the country the prospects that it’ll stop Tea Party-style revolutionaries in their tracks is not good. They do have the votes, which makes a near-term victory likely, but also Pyrrhic over a longer run of time. Like the 2012 election cycle, for example. I suspect Scott Walker and his crowd probably can figure a way to lure the AWOL Democrats back into Madison — most likely by employing the most tried-and-true gimmick of careerist ideologues … kicking the can down the road. Watch Walker shift the hot-button collective bargaining issue on to Wisconsin’s next budget bill. (Remember, this fight, like the national GOP in DC,  is over gutting the current budget). That “other budget”  has to be fought out by the end of the session this spring. Walker might be able to make the drum-banging protesters go away for a few weeks by playing faux-reasonable and leaving the emotional stuff for … six weeks from now.

But with the maelstrom they’ve created with their ham-fisted maneuvers to date, the national attention that has poured in on them, and the re-vitalized connection of the unions to the Democrats and the Democrats’ organizational machinery, there’s no way for Walker et al to sell one of their classic revisionist histories of what’s going on. Way too many people are paying attention, and just as facts have a liberal bias, a lot of focused attention on the details and the direct, “reality-based” effects of ideological jargon is never a good thing for anti-government zealots. Also, as regards the can-kicking strategy, several observers have noted that (much) better spring weather, in May as Wisconsin’s legislative session is supposed to end, only makes it more likely that more protesters will show up to get in the fun.

So did Walker and his team, with their Koch Brothers support, not see this coming? I mean, their message was “cut spending”. They repeated it ad nauseam, like those raspy audio greeting cards. Everybody knew, right? So what did they miss?

What they “missed” is that since their winning message has no specifics, no details and therefore no honest discussion of the consequences of gutting middle class programs by fiat, there was no way they could have made an informed calculation of the public response. Hell, the public really didn’t know what Walker/every other rote Tea Party-pandering conservative was talking about, other than of course that they were going to wave a sceptre and cut taxes, stop spending, reduce the deficit and provide jobs, jobs, jobs. (Third Rule of Conservative Campaigning: Once you’ve got ’em mad as hell, don’t confuse ’em with details.) Now that the public is getting the cold water wake up to what these guys are really all about, and is getting a 24/7 education in how exactly collective bargaining works, the appeal of the usual conservative bumper sticker logic is, shall we say, somewhat muted. Reality, damn it it’s a pisser.

What is also delicious, in terms of the Tea Party-ites blundering into a situation with a very high-profile scrutiny of their motivations and behind-the-scenes players is the now near universal understanding of the Wisconsin … Indiana … Ohio … Colorado  … Michigan … fight as a thoroughly political brawl, largely unrelated to the righteous claims of fiscal propriety. One analyst quite correctly explained the conflict as the Republicans over-playing their hand in a blitzkrieg attack on the primary sources of Democratic campaign funding … a scenario that could only be counter-balanced if liberals somehow made a similar assault on conservatives’ mega-church constituency, which for them is an equally reliable source of cash and organizing power. The one difference being that there are actual laws on the book — you know, in the Constitution — guaranteeing one while prohibiting the other.

But as we know, the reality of the Constitution is another one of those things the new-conservatives routinely over-talk and wildly under-think.

34 thoughts on “On, Wisconsin! And Indiana … and Ohio.

  1. Mike Thomas says:

    I think you might be over estimating the importance of this “populist” uprising. It seems to me it’s less of a populist uprising than pubilc sector unions taking their loud last breath.
    Take this option to the voting public – should public sector workers be allowed to uninoize and collectively bargain with the State, Counties, Cities – I am guessing it’s not going to be a majority “yes” vote.
    Elections have consequences right? Isn’t that what our President said last year? In fact I believe “The King” says majority rule? The Republicans in Wisconsin have the majority but now fillibustering and abandoning the state to obstruct legislation is alright?

    1. My point — before it gets lost as it usually does here — is that the Tea Party “revolution” was/is based so much on inchoate anger that it is everything anyone with an anti-government/don’t touch my money impulse wants it to be … but also nothing. Since the real world consequences of anti-government, anti-tax, spare-the-rich are not discussed, much less thought through, there’s a moment of shock when the reality hammer drops.

  2. Newt says:

    Brian, Jim et al …

    You must concede that collective bargaining with government employees is an inherent conflict of interest. Employees are negotiating terms with the people they pay to get elected.

    Just a month ago, members of the Minneapolis School Board issued a statement on teachers’ union letterhead:

    “The agreement, announced in December, came weeks after four newly elected school board members waiting to take office sent letters to the board on Minneapolis Federation of Teachers letterhead, urging a quick resolution.”


    Taxpayers are screwed under these arrangements.

    Thus, the Wisconsin imbroglio. Let Democracy yield its result.

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      So, to follow your logic, Newt, state workers have been negotiating with their stooge, Tim Pawlenty, the previous two terms?

      1. Newt says:

        Ah no. That would be your tortured logic.

        The state AFSCME workers elected the DFL legislature elect and then squeezed them to pass more obscene spending.

        Pawlenty line-item vetoed the items he needed to balance the budget.

      2. Jim Leinfelder says:

        “squeezed” “obscene” AFSCME elected DFL majorities all on their own. But the GOP, they get elected off the coupons they save and bake sales and the cogency of their message, nobody’s narrow interests served there?

        Gimme’ a break. This effort in WI is nothing more high-minded than a political power grab, an effort at Republican hegemony. Walker appears to be out on his own now, to turn slowly in the wind, perhaps.

      3. Newt says:

        So you don’t see any problem with the Minneapolis School Board promoting a $10.9 million increase in teacher benefits on …. teachers’ union letterhead … when Minneapolis schools are insolvent?

        I get it – they did it for the children.

    2. PM says:

      Seems to me that unionized state workers have been giving back raises and various benefit increases that they won in good years over the past few years (certainly since times have been tough for state budgets). Clearly collective bargaining has not allowed them to buck the trends. When the money isn’t there, it isn’t there, and unionized workers, like all other workers, have sacrificed.

      What Walker is doing has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with budget problems.

    3. Newt: Your “screwing of the taxpayers” argument is awfully reminiscent of Reagan’s “welfare Cadillac” … which never existed, but if it had wouldn’t have amounted to a rounding error in terms of tax liabilities lobbied down or avoided by the 1% crowd underwriting the other half of Congress.

  3. Mike Kennedy says:

    Fox sees it differently and so does Rasmussen.


    The right to associate is guaranteed under the Constitution, not the right to be forced to associate. As for government workers being unionized, we are all shareholders, let us vote. The results won’t be pretty.

    I have to laugh at the overreach crowd. Let’s let the voters determine that. So far, the Repubs have the votes and I hope they use them. As Mike Thomas said, quoting Mr. Obama. “Elections have consequences.”

    The notion that public employees should be unionized is a laugher. Unions were meant to protect workers from the big bad corporations. Public union workers are being protected against…………..the taxpayers?

    Reagan was absolutely right to fire the air traffic controllers. A similar dose of medicine might be necessary here.

    Oh, and all the Astroturf protesters that liberals whined about before, what are these people being bused into Madison? Astrocheeseheads?

    How lame to drag school kids to these protests. It’s all about the kids, remember? Yeah, right.

    1. Festus says:

      Mr. Kennedy sites a different poll, while Fox was referencing the same poll.

      About that different poll:


      “Because of the problems with question design, my advice would be simply to disregard the Rasmussen Reports poll, and to view their work with extreme skepticism going forward.”

      More from Mr. Silver on the public employee union question:


      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Feel free to “call me out” any time you wish. Mr. Silver says it’s biased. That’s his opinion. Perhaps he could prove it by doing his own poll. I don’t know if he’s wrong. I’m skeptical, though.

        Also, thanks for attributing magic and sleight of hand to me. I”ve always wanted to be a magician, among other things.

        If I were going to be sarcastic, I would have maybe said “cheap parlor trick,” — sounds more deragatory, but that’s just me.

      2. Mike Kennedy says:

        “Obtuse pills?”

        Surely, Brian, someone with your talents to be windy, conspiratorial, angry and flowery all at the same time, can come up with something better than that.

        I just felt a lack of punch.

        As for credible news sources, let me get back to you on that one. Now that’s a question that’s really got me scratching my head.

      3. Erik Peterson says:

        BL, tell him the one you came up with about conservative men and their penises. That one’s awesome.

        How come you haven’t been able to sell that? Thats BS the national papers go to Lileks for Minnesota insight.

  4. Mike Kennedy says:

    Count me a shocked that the NYT thinks a poll that shows support for Walker is biased.

    Whodda thunk? All that matters is who has the votes. Unpopular polling never stopped Mr. Obama.

    I doubt it will stop Mr. Walker.

    1. Newt says:

      The WI Dems fled the state for two reasons:

      (1) To obstruct the democratic processs; and

      (2) Fear of returning to answer to AFSCME union bosses.

      If they attempt to return – and are forced to back to the legislature – they know they will find a dead horse’s head in the sheets.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        OK, Brian, back to you. I take back all the scurrilous things I may have ever said about the NYT. It’s now my new favorite paper after reading a piece by Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser that green energy and green jobs are both bad ideas.

        “Why Green Energy Can’t Power A Job Engine” was the headline.

        What I want to know is, how the hell did he sneak that into the New York Times? Perhaps the old grey lady is (gasp) going Star Tribune.

  5. Danny B. says:

    “Count me a shocked that the NYT thinks a poll that shows support for Walker is biased.”

    Let’s play History Lesson. We’ll start with this simple question. “How do you think Nate Silver got that job at the New York Times?

    Those of us who think, instead of using lame conservative tag lines to bash media editorial platforms with which they disagree, recall that Mr. Silver’s 538 blog rose to national prominence during the 2008 Presidential election with it’s extremely accurate predictions in almost every primary and caucus, on BOTH sides of the aisle. Mr. Silver continued on through the Presidential election with his accurate reporting while gaining national media attention. Due to his hard work and accurate results, he was signed on by the NYT following the election.

    Now isn’t that the personal success story conservatives love to champion? I guess only when the results of the polls he’s paid to analyze objectively reach the conclusions you want them to reach, no matter how the data is collected or the questions are answered.

    I’m sorry you didn’t like the 2008 results, but he was pretty much right in every state all the way thru election day. It’s not his fault the GOP ran a fossil and a state fair freak show. Go back and look at his predictions and tell me how or where he was wrong. You can’t because he wasn’t. Guy knows the numbers and does his homework.

    So now because Mr. Silver writes for the New York Times, he somehow forgot all the things that brought him to prominence in the first place? You have nothing to argue regarding Mr. Silver’s analysis so you attack the platform on which he writes. Pretty weak stuff from someone who I think could do better.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      Funny, but I recall that of all the elections since Rasmussen has been polling, he’s been more accurate than most; so have most of his other polls. It’s why his polls get such publicity, though I would guess the far left will say it’s because of the “biased conservative media.”

      Yet the far left continues to rant and rave about the polls he does, calling them bias, even though most of them have been very very accurate. What is it you were saying about people not liking the results so they attack the platform?

      1. PM says:

        Rasmussen’s polls have come under heavy criticism throughout this election cycle, including from FiveThirtyEight. We have critiqued the firm for its cavalier attitude toward polling convention. Rasmussen, for instance, generally conducts all of its interviews during a single, 4-hour window; speaks with the first person it reaches on the phone rather than using a random selection process; does not call cellphones; does not call back respondents whom it misses initially; and uses a computer script rather than live interviewers to conduct its surveys. These are cost-saving measures which contribute to very low response rates and may lead to biased samples.

        Rasmussen also weights their surveys based on preordained assumptions about the party identification of voters in each state, a relatively unusual practice that many polling firms consider dubious since party identification (unlike characteristics like age and gender) is often quite fluid.

        Rasmussen’s polls — after a poor debut in 2000 in which they picked the wrong winner in 7 key states in that year’s Presidential race — nevertheless had performed quite strongly in in 2004 and 2006. And they were about average in 2008. But their polls were poor this year.

        The discrepancies between Rasmussen Reports polls and those issued by other companies were apparent from virtually the first day that Barack Obama took office. Rasmussen showed Barack Obama’s disapproval rating at 36 percent, for instance, just a week after his inauguration, at a point when no other pollster had that figure higher than 20 percent.

        Rasmussen Reports has rarely provided substantive responses to criticisms about its methodology. At one point, Scott Rasmussen, president of the company, suggested that the differences it showed were due to its use of a likely voter model. A FiveThirtyEight analysis, however, revealed that its bias was at least as strong in polls conducted among all adults, before any model of voting likelihood had been applied.

        Some of the criticisms have focused on the fact that Mr. Rasmussen is himself a conservative — the same direction in which his polls have generally leaned — although he identifies as an independent rather than Republican. In our view, that is somewhat beside the point. What matters, rather, is that the methodological shortcuts that the firm takes may now be causing it to pay a price in terms of the reliability of its polling.”


        Seriously, Mike: Nate Silver is really, really good. He is a stats geek, who started out analysing baseball statisitics, and then started his own blog. He recently 9after the 2008 elections) signed a deal where the NYT hosts his blog, but he has total editorial control. He is by far the best informed critic of the entire polling industry.

      2. Mike Kennedy says:


        I know who he is. I happen to be a baseball fan and was aware of him before he began engaging in polling evaluation.

        He might very well be a good critic. Again, Rasmussen’s polls have been accurate over quite a number of election cycles.

        The fact they are are coming under criticism in this election cycle, while possibly legitimate, doesn’t change his long term performance.

        If there are continual problems (meaning if he is way off in his polls), then I probably will put more stock into those criticisms. I’m just not buying into all the bias charges at this point.

      3. Danny B. says:

        Please show me in my post where I attacked Rasmussen and the validity of his polls. Use my quotes.

        I attacked the sleight of hand where you attempted to pull by playing the NYT card instead of looking at who was doing the analysis and what his “bona fides”, as Bertram Jr. likes to say, are regarding polling and statistical analysis.

        I think you made a lazy argument there and felt you could make it stronger without the cheap magic tricks. It looks like you did below.

      4. Mike Kennedy says:

        Touch some kind of nerve, did we?

        I don’t recall even addressing you, much less paraphrasing you, much less quoting you.

        I made a general statement (if you read it) about all the criticism of Rasmussen by liberals. You see, it’s rather easy to perform a search and quickly see that most liberals have despised Rasmussen polls, calling them biased for some time, even though most of the time they were right.

        Thanks for your quaint little history lesson, but upcoming polls will show whether Rasmussen’s recent polling way on or off.

      5. Danny B. says:

        It isn’t just liberals who question Rasmussen’s polling. I’ve heard David Brook’s be critical of it on the Charlie Rose Show. Andrew Sullivan constantly removes Rasmussen or casts it as an outlier when looking at numbers on his Daily Dish blog. I’m not going to get into the actual performance of Rasmussen. You seem to believe they have always been right whereas PM’s post shows they are like most polling companies, very right one in a while (2004,2006), right most of the time(2002, 2008), and very wrong once in awhile (2000).

        I haven’t looked strongly enough at their methodology to see why they fluctuate. PM’s post seems to infer it isn’t a bias, but more in the way the polls are conducted. I’ve moved on from the Market Research game (mainly because the pay in physical security is A LOT better, have you read Top Secret America in the Washington Post?) so I don’t pay as close attention to the different polls and their accuracy as much as I did in the past. If Rasmussen is wrong though on a more consistent basis, I’d think it has more to do with the way they conduct their research versus a built-in bias. Then again, I don’t get to see how they word the questions either so I can’t say that for certain.

        Finally, I wouldn’t say you touched a nerve. But you were the one who wrote the line discrediting Mr. Silver’s work because it was in the NYT. I just find it annoying when solid research and analysis, which I believe Mr. Silver attempts on a daily basis, gets discarded because it appears on a platform who’s editorial board you disagree with. To me, that’s sleight of hand. Instead of attacking the contents of the letter, you attack the envelope it came in. It’s an old, cheap political trick so I decided to call you out on it. If you want to tell me why you think Nate Silver is wrong on this, feel free.

  6. Erik Peterson says:

    Overreach? I dunno, we’ll see. He may very well get his legislation.

    More interesting is that in crowds of lefties like Madison’s the only way to conceal the vulgar Marxists is to turn off the cameras.

    There’s been some great pictures circulated. The Hitler ones are a goldmine… but obviously the thing you want to be careful of is the false equivalence. What’s the guidance on that Captain Comma? Why are these people not creepier and stoopider than Tea Partiers?


    [Editor’s Note: With apologies to Erik for adding this, here’s the jpeg as image. -EMM]

    Tea Party with horrible sign

  7. Mike Kennedy says:

    Well, it’s still early in this whole public union fracas. I’m not sure that opinions are going to stay where they are once their has been a full and prolonged debate on the issue.

    Personally, I’m against unions for public employees. If unions make sense, they make sense in the private sector, where they have declined.

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