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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Whoever Wins, WI Supreme Court Election Shows Big Labor Less Formidable Than Expected

by Matthew Knee

Last night, the movement to save America and the states from corruption and insolvency may have suffered a setback in Wisconsin. Prosser has a razor-thin lead, but almost all the outstanding votes are in Kloppenburg counties, and for whatever reason, Democrats seem to usually benefit from recounts. However, regardless of the final outcome, last night’s election holds important lessons for the future, namely that big labor’s organizational and motivational advantages may count for less than many fear.

In the television air war, reformers prevailed. Free market organizations managed to outspend big labor, and our money was free-range cash, donated willingly, as opposed to monies coerced by law from taxpayers and workers.

On paper, the reformers were severely disadvantaged. Both candidates agreed to run on only $300,000 in public financing, meaning they could not directly operate on the scale this election required. The unions’ well-established political organizations, compounded by likely-stronger recall petition teams that they were able to re-purpose, looked to be an enormous advantage. The Prosser campaign’s lack of infrastructure was so severe that Prosser suggested on The Mark Levin Show that people "simply...talk to their friends" because "there isn't really an adequate office, isn't adequate staff, to handle all the volunteers It will be interesting in the coming days to hear if and how the Tea Party movement managed to organize for this election so quickly.

Big labor should have been far more excited and mobilized than the reformers. Non-public-safety public employee unions’ ability to function in Wisconsin is at stake if the Budget Repair Bill sticks. Special interests with tangible benefits at stake are generally far more motivated to act than taxpayers as a whole, whose losses are less direct and less apparent. In national elections, when every political machine is firing on all cylinders, there are many competing sources of excitement, but in off-season elections, concentrated interests usually have an advantage. In retrospect, Wisconsin, with its recall provisions and upcoming key judicial election, was an especially tough venue for a battle between the interests of the many and the interests of the few.

Despite all these disadvantages, and regardless of who ultimately prevails in this election, the reformers fought big labor to a virtual draw. Perhaps the most powerful collection of special interests in the country gave their best, and all they managed to do was (maybe) eke out a photo finish win in a purple state with disproportionate union membership and under mostly favorable circumstances.

The money to ensure future solvency and prosperity must come from somewhere. Any solution will anger whichever constituencies lose out, and there will be many. The pain and sacrifices will be shared. Unlike many other special interest groups, however, success against public employees unions will severely limit their ability to do further damage, rather than merely angering them. Clearing a hornet’s nest can be challenging, but it is better in the long run than constantly dealing with hornets…and last night showed that big labor's sting is less painful than many feared.

[Correction: I referred to the judicial election as a special election, which it technically was not. It was a regularly-scheduled off-season election, but the exact same principles apply.]

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  1. Yes, Big Labor is far from invulnerable.

    This election hinged entirely on a massive voter turnout in Dane county (the home of the University of Madison). Over 180,000 votes were counted, compared to 280,000 for the 2008 presidential election - nearly 65% of the turnout, accounting for an 85,000 vote edge for the challenger, Kloppenburg.

    In contrast, the largest Prosser county, Waukesha, only had 47% of the voters that voted in 2008. Had they matched the turnout in Dane county and the percentages held, Prosser would have won by nearly 30,000 votes.

    Coulda, shoulda, woulda, I know. But it's clear that Big Labor can be beaten. It's time for the conservative base to re-energize and get to the polls.

  2. Just imagine how much worse off they'd be without the government collecting their dues for them....

  3. "There are still a few precincts left to count, but the number shifted significantly in Prosser’s direction this morning:

    As of 7:35 this morning, the Associated Press had results for all but 24 of the state’s 3,630 precincts and Prosser’s overnight lead had grown slightly from fewer than 600 votes to 835 votes.

    I think we’re heading into a recount either way, but let’s compare the Minnesota recount numbers. Norm Coleman went into the recount with a lead of 215 votes out of nearly 3 million cast, and the recount and challenge resulted in a Franken victory of 312 votes. Assuming Prosser maintains an 835-vote lead before a recount, it’s a significant number with a smaller pool of challenges than we saw in Minnesota."


  4. @viator: problem is, only 2 of the 24 precincts left are in counties Prosser won. A recount where K is already ahead won't be good.

  5. So, how many out-of-state-student voters are living in Madison right now?

  6. Big labor may be less formidible BUT any win, no matter how close or dirty is still a win. Thus we now know how Obama plans to win the 2012 election, $1 billion in advertising. There are still enough voting rubes to pull it off given enough money...