The idea that the demonstrators in the state capitol in Madison, Wis., and the Democratic state senators who fled the state to prevent a vote on the bill to restrict collective bargaining are upholding democracy rather than thwarting it is, of course, absurd. But it is an absurdity that represents the logical conclusion of a disconnect that defines today's Democratic Party and the union movement: Their almost total estrangement from the productive sector of our economy.And these same people are declaring war on Michigan governor Rick Snyder, not for anything he's done, but just as a preemptive strike. They realize that any attempts by the Republican governors who were just elected to decrease state spending will come at the expense of their members.
At the national level, that disconnect is reflected in a Democratic Party dominated by unions that are themselves now dominated by government workers. It's not just the increased spending, though that's bad enough. It's also an increasing contempt for the realities of the marketplace and the democratic process.
The irony here is that though Michigan is in far worse shape than Wisconsin, Gov. Snyder's reforms are far more modest. This weekend he told the Associated Press that he's not here to "pick fights" over collective bargaining; what he wants is to get a sound budget passed. But here the Democrats and the public-sector unions are more aware than he is: They grasp that what is going on now in Wisconsin has implications for every other state. Mr. Snyder may not think he's at war with them, but if they declare war on him, it won't matter what he thinks.Fleeing their responsibilities seems to be a Democratic specialty. That's the path they've chosen, but don't try to tell us that you're doing so because you support the democratic process. And don't try to snow people into believing that there is any parallel to what is going on in Wisconsin with what is going on in Egypt or Libya.
Across the heart of the Midwest, the new Republican governors (and the reform incumbent in Indiana, Mitch Daniels) all start from two propositions. First, their states can't keep spending more than they take in. Second, they need to make their states attractive to business and entrepreneurs so that the economy will grow, create jobs, and bring in tax revenue. And they are working through the legislatures to do it.
In fact, even where they are in a minority, Republicans are playing by the rules. In Illinois, voters retained their Democratic majorities in the House and Senate while electing as governor Pat Quinn, who campaigned on raising taxes as the answer to the state's fiscal mess. No doubt many in the Republican minority in the Illinois House and Senate think this insane. But unlike their Democratic counterparts in Wisconsin and Indiana, you don't see these Illinois Republicans fleeing the state to prevent the legislature from functioning.
How strange is this? The governor of Wisconsin has the power to veto individual words in an appropriations bill so that he can completely alter the meaning of the bill by excising key words like "not." So if the state Senate passed some sort of compromise on collective bargaining like reactivating the rights in a few years, he could simply cross those words out.
Notice how the Wisconsin unions would rather give up jobs for younger members than give up their political negotiating advantages. So it's not only the regular taxpayers that they're sticking it to; it's their own members.
And President Obama might be trying to mute his obvious support for the public employee unions, but his secretary of labor is out there in full-throated support.
One of those nice civil Democratic state representatives in Wisconsin tells a female Republican colleague after the vote on the state budget repair bill, "You are f-ing dead." And he didn't abbreviate the expletive. Charming. It's so nice when the Democrats practice civility. Or maybe those are the manners he mastered in his patronage of a massage parlor for which the hometown police cited him last week for paying having his "sexual parts."