Roughly fifteen months ago, Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin's Republican-held legislature began debating a series of major reforms to help balance the state's broken budget. The plan proposed ending compulsory union dues for government employees, requiring public employees to contribute more to their health and pension benefits (though both levels would remain lower than those paid by private sector workers), and limiting government unions' collective bargaining privileges (though they'd still be more generous than those enjoyed by federal employees). Badger State Democrats, egged on by their organized labor patrons, mobilized en masse to block the reforms. Furious protests rocked Madison, State Senators fled the state to avoid votes, and liberals visited intimidation and invective upon Walker's supporters. Despite the furious din, Republicans didn't blink. They passed Walker's budget. This action further enraged the government unions, which saw the new law as an existential threat. In response, they launched a multi-pronged strategy: First, they aimed to unseat sitting Wisconsin Supreme Court justice David Prosser, a conservative. They failed, and the high court ended up upholding the controversial law months later. Next, they maneuvered to retake the legislature's upper chamber via recall elections against six of the Republicans who voted for Walker's budget. They failed, despite engaging in months of relentless demagoguery and spending eight figures. Finally, they're grasping for the crown jewel of this retributive obsession: Recalling Walker himself. This is based not on any legal or ethical malfeasance, mind you. This is pure revenge for enacting policies with which the losing side of the most recent scheduled election doesn't agree. Wisconsin voters decide whether to retain their governor today.
Tens of millions have been spent on this do-over election, and taxpayers are on the hook for a large chunk of that bill. The logistics of carrying out the election alone will cost the state an estimated $16 million, to say nothing of the millions spent by the public employee unions -- whose campaign cash is extracted directly from members' paychecks, which, in turn, are entirely subsidized by taxpayers. Against this backdrop of perpetual campaigning and shrill grievance-mongering, Walker's budget has bloomed as promised. He has nearly erased the state's $3.6 Billion biannual deficit, and Wisconsin is now projected to grow a small surplus within the next year. Wisconsin's citizens have already saved an estimated $1 Billion thanks to the measure. He has not raised taxes; in fact, property taxes are on the decline for the first time in years. And thousands of jobs -- many of them public employee union jobs -- have been saved, as local communities and cities have exploited their new collective bargaining leverage to secure more affordable benefits packages, rather than chopping blindly through mass layoffs. In sum, the state's unemployment rate has dropped, and tens of thousands of net jobs have been added. This is Governor Walker's record.
Wisconsin's Democrats have nominated Tom Barrett, the Mayor of Milwaukee who lost to Walker in 2010. His candidacy was galvanized by the budget melee, but as those reforms have proven successful and increasingly popular, Barrett has shifted his complaints to extraneous issues. Democrats deployed Bill Clinton, arguably their most talented salesman, to the state to swing pulbic opinion in Barrett's favor. And in an appalling final spasm of desperation, the Left even tried to dredge up (or outright fabricate) a two-decade-old rumor about an alleged Walker love child. Why have they resorted to ancillary gripes and sordid personal sniping? Because they're losing -- at least according to every single poll. Even Daily Kos-affiliated pollster PPP pegged Walker ahead in its final pre-election survey. A Republican-aligned firm's final numbers show Walker ahead by double-digits. At long last, all the shouting, lies, robocalls, ads, and polls will go silent. It's up to the people of Wisconsin now. Will they go to the polls today and reward a conservative for his bold, necessary, and successful reforms in the face of searing and hysterical criticism? Or will they affirm his opponents' petulant sore loserism, turning their backs on the reforms that have already begun to repair their state? We'll know soon enough. Polls close at 9pm ET, and Townhall will have full team coverage throughout the evening. Pay attention to this one. The stakes -- for Wisconsin, for conservative reformers nationwide, and for the upcoming presidential election -- are extraordinarily high. I'll leave you with three items:
(1) Walker's closing argument to voters:
(2) Democrats turn-key excuse if they lose this thing (bear in mind that they wanted -- indeed, demanded -- this fight):
If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wins Tuesday's recall election, the big bucks the Republican governor and his allies have spent to run TV commercials will be a contributing factor. Walker, the Republican Governors Association, and independent tea party groups and other grassroots fiscal conservative organizations have spent around $2.484 million to run ads in the recall campaign over the past week, according to data provided to its clients by Kantar Media/Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks and estimates the costs of campaign television ads. That's more than double the $1.125 million Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker's Democratic challenger, Democratic Party committees and independent progressive groups have spent to run commercials from last Monday through Sunday.
(3) A fun anecdote, courtest of NRO's Jim Geragthy:
I drove from Chicago to Milwaukee on Sunday to watch my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Milwaukee Brewers. During the third inning, the jumbotron began showing random crowd shots (which had the attention of the crowd and generated friendly cheers) – the cute baby in the Brewers jumper, the shirtless guys with beers, the pretty girls dancing to the music. Then, the camera panned to a guy holding up a “Vote Barrett” sign. The crowd erupted…in boos! These were significant, sustained boos. I asked the couple seated next to me – a young couple that didn’t appear to be regular CPAC attendees or anything - about the situation and they said, “Barrett’s got no chance. People are sick of this thing.”
Here we go.
UPDATE - Lost in the shuffle is the fact that Wisconsin Democrats have a very reasonable shot at re-taking the State Senate tonight. (If they do, there's a high probability they'll lose it again in November, thanks to redistricting). Also keep an eye on another undercard race: The Lt. Governor recall battle.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography