It is vital that every one of us help Governor Scott Walker today.
In Madison, Wisconsin, we are witnessing a profound struggle between the right of the people to govern themselves and the power of entrenched, selfish interests to stop reforms and defy the will of the people.
In 2010, Wisconsin Republicans ran on a clear agenda of reforming government to gain control of spending. This agenda included many reforms to state government employee pay.
These reforms were desperately opposed by the Democrats and union bosses during the campaign and a full and vigorous debate on the merits of these reforms took place in the months before the election.
Then came the moment for the people of Wisconsin to make their choice – Election Day. And thanks in part to this bold agenda, the people of Wisconsin chose to switch control of the governorship, assembly and senate to Republicans.
The people of Wisconsin sent a clear message. They elected leaders that promised to change the way government operated in Madison. The will of the people was expressed through the ballot box, exactly how it is supposed to work in a representative democracy.
However, through a campaign of intimidation and cowardice, the government employee union bosses and the Democratic Party that is beholden to them, are trying to thwart the will of the people.
Every Democrat in the Wisconsin Senate, exploiting a rule that requires a quorum when voting on fiscal matters, has fled the state to prevent a promised government union reform bill from receiving a vote.
Worse, the government employee unions, with the backing of the Democratic Party – including the White House political operation, Organizing for America – have further paralyzed Wisconsin through a series of protests at the state capital.
Furthermore, while most state workers have shown up for work during the protests, some schools have been forced to close without enough teachers reporting. News stories have emerged that teachers have been receiving phony doctor’s notes to justify their absence.
This deliberately organized chaos has one goal – to intimidate Governor Walker and other elected reformers into abandoning the people of Wisconsin’s calls for reform.
A Fight over a Fundamental Question: Who’s In Charge?
The showdown in Madison is precisely the crisis between elected self government and organized self interest seeking to impose their will through intimidation which led Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, during the coal miner’s strike of 1984-85, to warn, “No government or no people can surrender to that kind of mob violence or intimidation, because if we did democracy would be finished.”
This capacity for government employee unions to blackmail the American people is exactly what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt worried about when he warned in 1937:
“All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining…cannot be transplanted into the public service…The very nature and purpose of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations…Their employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.”
We are witnessing one of the most important struggles in modern America.
At stake is a fundamental question of elected government: who’s in charge?
Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans, after receiving a clear mandate from the people of their state, have placed the very legitimacy of representative self government on the line by demanding profound reform of government unions.
Going in, Scott knew this would become a life and death struggle with the forces of the old order.
As Milwaukee County Executive (the only Republican elected there in modern times, Scott won three times) he learned that every major reform designed to save money or improve services would be opposed by the government employee union leadership. Indeed, throughout the United States, government employee unions have been consistent advocates for raising taxes and against reforms to save money and improve service.
From this experience, Scott concluded the only way to make government affordable and enable Wisconsin to attract new jobs was through fundamental reform of state government employee unions.
Callista and I helped launch the Scott Walker for Governor Campaign with a huge event in Milwaukee. During the following year I campaigned with him and heard him make the case for reforming the government unions.
At an event in October 2010, I remember Scott vividly describing the stakes, saying we can no longer function as a society “where the public employees are the ‘haves’ and the taxpayers who foot the bill are the ‘have-nots.’”
When the people of Wisconsin voted last November they knew exactly who they were electing.
Governor Scott Walker’s union reform proposals today are precisely the union reform platform he campaigned on for all of 2010. Furthermore, the Governor’s proposals were validated by the Republican state legislative successes.
It is in this context of fairly won elections in which Wisconsinites consciously chose reform over the status quo that the government employee unions and Democratic Party have decided they would side against the people.
President Obama’s support for the government union bosses is a fundamental betrayal of the principle of self government. The leadership and resources the Democratic National Committee is putting into anti-reform demonstrations and other activities proves what a reactionary, anti-reform force the Left has become.
As Goes Wisconsin…?
This showdown started as a Wisconsin story, but the decision by the national Democratic Party and the intense media interest has made it national in scope.
Government employee union leaders know they are losing the battle for public opinion and that reform is coming. A Clarus Poll found that 64% of the American people do not think government employees should be represented by unions.
A victory for the forces of reform in Wisconsin would provide enormous energy on government reform efforts to balance budgets in Ohio, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere. It will also extend to other issues like meaningful education reform.
However, a defeat for Walker and the reformers would embolden those who seek to preserve the status quo. Yesterday, borrowing a play from their brethren in Wisconsin, Democrats in the Indiana House fled their state to prevent a vote on a measure that would make Indiana a right to work state.
That’s why it is vital for all who voted in favor of reforming government, wherever you live, to support Scott Walker and the Wisconsin reformers.
The most important way you can help is by articulating the case for self government and government reform to your friends and neighbors.
Call your Senators, Congressmen, Governor and state legislators to urge them to stand with the reformers in Wisconsin.
Call talk radio and write letters to the editor.
And if you have friends in Wisconsin, contact them and convince them to be on the side of reform.
Click here for some facts and figures about the sensible reforms Governor Walker is proposing.
P.S. I was on Fox and Friends yesterday talking about the implications of the Wisconsin government employee union showdown. Watch it here.
Newt’s Quick Links
• Callista and I have released a new leather-bound edition of our photobook, Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny. It makes a great gift. Click here.
• At Renewing American Leadership, Timothy Dalrymple asks: Is the Tea Party a Christian Movement? Click here.
• At ReAL Action, watch Niall Ferguson discuss how the Obama administration has mishandled the Egypt crisis. You can watch the video here.