by Libby Sternberg
When you strike at a king, you must kill him.
Wisconsin's public sector unions and Democrats are surely giving serious thought to this pearl of wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson. They tried to strike at "a king" -- Republicans who had spearheaded budget-conscious legislation that affected collective bargaining and pensions for public employees -- and they failed.
As reported earlier, Democrats and unions did get on the ballot six recall elections for Republican legislators in the aftermath of the debate over changes to public pensions and collective bargaining. But they weren't successful in "killing the king" of GOP dominance. They only took two of the six seats, which means the Republicans still hang on to a hair-thin majority in the state Senate. While the Democrats did hang on to two Democratic seats up for recall, too, this feels more like status quo maintenance than victory, since it didn't result in increasing the Dem percentage in the legislature.
And now they face a big question -- do they proceed with a recall of Governor Scott Walker?
That answer might have been clearer before the recall elections that just took place. In the spring, public polling on this question showed that 50 percent of those polled supported a recall of Gov. Walker, compared to 47 percent who opposed.
However, those numbers flipped exactly after the legislative recall elections. Now, 50 percent of those polled oppose a recall of the governor, while 47 percent support it, according to Public Policy Polling, the firm that did the polling on the question in May, as well.
Taking Gov. Walker out of the governor's seat would be a huge victory for Democrats and union supporters. But if Gov. Walker kept his seat in a recall election, it would be a far bigger victory for Republicans. It would demonstrate that the general Wisconsin electorate is more on their side than on the Democrats' side. It would demonstrate that the Democrats are weak, perhaps just an angry mob (remember those images from Madison?) full of bluster but no bite.
Failing to "strike at the king" successfully in this case would weaken Democrats enormously. And they and their public sector union allies have already been weakened. If I were advising them, I'd suggest they keep their powder dry and look for good candidates to run in the general elections.
But hey, I'm sure they're not listening to me. And if they do decide to "strike at a king" again and fail, all the better for those interested in pubic sector employee reform.