Though it hasn't been celebrated as such, Scott Walker's victory in Wisconsin represents the full flowering of the tea party movement. It is also a sign -- among others -- that the Republican Party has recaptured its ideological core.
The tea partyers are often mischaracterized as extreme right-wingers. Thus, proponents of same-sex marriage or unrestricted abortion will invoke "tea party" elements as those most opposed to their efforts. That's off target. Though many in the movement may have conservative social views, those weren't the issues that spurred them to organize, demonstrate and vote.
No, the tea partyers -- judging by their signs, speeches and writings -- were alarmed about irresponsible government spending, bailouts of the undeserving and spiraling debt. The tea partyers are actually the 21st century "goo-goos" -- good government types -- the label that was attached to progressives in the early 20th century. They aren't anarchists, racists (as in the more febrile accusations of their opponents) or culture warriors. They simply want to see government scale back and perform its essential functions fairly, efficiently and honestly.
For some time, Republican office holders were little better than Democrats when it came to spending, accountability and reform. The size of government seemed to grow inexorably under both parties. Some Republicans earned and deserved tea party disdain.
But we are now in an era of true Republican reform. The reformers are Republican governors who, like Scott Walker, have chosen to tackle the bloated budgets and corrupt bargains of state governments. At least a half dozen Republican governors -- Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Chris Christie in New Jersey, Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Susana Martinez in New Mexico, Bob McDonnell in Virginia, and Walker himself -- have taken on the public sector unions frontally.
The word "corrupt" is not too strong for a system that worked like this: Unions worked to elect Democrats. Once elected, Democrats passed laws that permitted states to withhold union dues from state employee paychecks, further enriching and entrenching public sector unions. State governments then signed contracts with the unions giving far more generous pay, work rules (like teacher tenure) and benefits than the average taxpayer receives. Unions thus elected the people who sat across the table from them in contract negotiations. As Victor Gotbaum, a New York City union leader boasted, "We have the ability to elect our own boss." That mutual backscratching has burdened taxpayers with pension and other liabilities mounting into the trillions.