Not surprisingly, the liberal establishment is unhappy with what the Wisconsin legislature and governor have wrought. Robert Reich, absurdly, calls it a coup d’état. But if there was anything extralegal in what has transpired over the past month in Madison, it was the vamoosing of the Democratic caucus of the Senate across a state line to prevent the Senate from conducting lawful business. The New York Times, at least, admits that what happened was the product of democratic government: “the outcome was probably inevitable given the Republican success in the 2010 elections.”
Both Reich and the Times claim that severing the collective bargaining reforms from the fiscal aspects of the bill — made necessary by the Democratic flight to Illinois — lays bare the real, nefarious purposes Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislators were seeking. Reich wrote: “By severing the financial part of the bill (which couldn’t be passed without absent Democrats) from the part eliminating the collective bargaining rights of public employees (which could be), and then doing the latter, Wisconsin Republicans have made it crystal clear that their goal has had nothing whatever to do with the state budget. It’s been to bust the unions.” Says the Times: “they reluctantly exposed the real truth behind the maneuver: stripping the unions of their rights was never about the budget, especially once the unions had agreed to significant concessions on pensions and health care. It was always about politics.”
How passing one bill that calls for X and Y differs from passing two bills, one of which calls for X and the other for Y, Reich and the Times don’t bother to explain.
And, of course, in what is now inevitable in almost every liberal comment on American politics, it was all the fault of the Koch brothers. Reich hopes that the people of Wisconsin — who last November voted resoundingly for Republicans who promised to curb union power — will now see that “Walker and his cohorts are extremists willing to go to any lengths for their big-business patrons (including the billionaire Koch brothers).” The Times echoes: “Undermining public unions — and the support they give to Democrats — has been a long-sought goal of the Republican Party and many of its corporate backers. Koch Industries, one of the party’s biggest supporters, spent $1.2 million last year to help elect Mr. Walker.”
The nice thing about liberal political commentary these days, apparently, is that you only have to read one to know what all the others say as well.