Commentary Magazine


What Scott Walker’s Victory Signals

Governor Scott Walker’s victory last night – his seven-point win against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was by a greater margin than in 2010 – will have profound national ramifications. It was a historic defeat for organized labor, and most especially public sector unions. They chose Wisconsin as the ground on which they would make their stand and make an example out of Walker. Instead, they were decimated. In addition, Walker instantly becomes a dominant political player in the GOP, as well as a model to other reform-minded governors. The loss will also drive a wedge between President Obama and organized labor, which cannot be pleased at the indifference Obama showed toward this race. (Tom Barrett was one of Obama’s earliest supporters in 2007.) The president wasn’t there when organized labor needed him. They are likely to return the favor in November.

When combined with the dismal jobs report on Friday, the news Monday that new orders for U.S. factory goods fell in April for the third time in four months, and the downward revision of economic growth in the first quarter (to 1.9 percent) – all of which signal that our weak economy is growing still weaker – Democrats must feel as though the walls are beginning to crash down around them.

The epic 2010 mid-term election was foreshadowed by three races in particular – the victories by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey in November 2009 and Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts in January 2010. They were clear signals of what awaited Democrats in November 2010.

Scott Walker’s crushing win in Wisconsin – which occurred only 154 days before the presidential election — has a similar feel to it. Wisconsin ain’t Utah; it is the home of Robert La Follette and a state with a strong progressive tradition. Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008 and it hasn’t gone Republican since 1984. For Governor Walker to win by the margin he did, based on the agenda he’s enacted, is a sign that the political currents in America strongly favor conservatism and the GOP. Even in Wisconsin.

Intelligent Democrats know that. Which is why panic is spreading throughout their ranks this morning. They see another huge wave forming and growing. And right now, they have no idea how to avoid it.