Think we are winning in Wisconsin? I'm not so sure.

The flight of the Wisconsin Democrats has been hailed by movement conservatives as a clear victory for our side. Their flight, you might claim, is an admission of defeat. You may be among those who assert confidently that eventually, the “fleebaggers” will return, tails tucked between their legs, and accept their defeat. And, you could think it reasonable to assume that the victory, once in-hand, will be secure, and the next battle will be for even greater gains.

Unfortunately, this is an inaccurate and unreasonably optimistic assessment of the situation. While we may win this battle, the cost will be high. The Progressive Left is playing its (admittedly weak) hand brilliantly to make it difficult if not impossible to build on this win. Governor Walker’s heart is in the right place, but at best he is moving the ball from his own one-yard line to the five-yard line.

Point 1: Governor Walker has conceded the principle the Left is fighting for. He has stated (and repeated to all who would listen) that the motivation for this battle is theWisconsinstate government’s financial situation: “We’re broke!”

By relying on this rationale, we can be sure that the Left will seek to reverse this win at the first sign of improvement in state finances, and will not relent any time thereafter. Someday the state will be back in the black, or at least not quite as badly in debt. At that time, the “We’re broke” argument becomes inoperative. The overriding principle – that it’s inappropriate for government employees to engage in collective bargaining at all (conflict of interest, etc.) – has disappeared down the rabbit hole.

Point 2: The Progressive Left is living and breathing one of its mottoes, “By Any Means Necessary.” They cheerfully abuse process as much and as often as required to achieve their ends. Fleeing the state is but one example in a rich history of flouting the Rule of Law by the Left. (Remember ObamaCare?) We’re still reading up on Marquis of Queensbury rules while the left pulls a switchblade, throws sand in our eyes, and kicks us below the belt.

Do you doubt this point? Then ask yourself – what negative consequences will befall the “fleebaggers”? That they’ll eventually return in defeat and lose the vote? That win was already in-hand. If this is the outcome, they are no worse off than they would have been had they not pulled their stunt. That Gov. Walker is withholding their paychecks? Boo-hoo. Their union buddies are probably paying their hotel bills and a per-diem to boot. And the paychecks will be there waiting for them when they return, conveniently placed in their top desk drawer. That recalls are being organized? Big deal, this is high-stakes poker. Obama’s OFA and DNC will help their brave soldiers beat back the recall, and in any event will probably offer lucrative consulting gigs to anyone who loses.

Meanwhile, in the complete absence of any real negative consequences, the Left is surely aware that there is always the possibility that Gov. Walker or his Senate allies will lose their nerve and come back to the bargaining table.

Bottom line: the legislative temper tantrum being thrown by Wisconsin Senate Democrats has no downside and BIG potential upside. I would call this “positive reinforcement,” as in: “it works, so be sure do it again the next time you think you’ll lose a vote.”

Point 3: Is anyone even talking any more about the next step in rolling back public-sector union power inWisconsin? Nope. The Left has made this battle so difficult, this hill so hard to climb, that we will be exhausted at the summit, and may not even think about scaling the next peak. (I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.) Remember, this whole battle ultimately will saveWisconsin$300M, a mere down payment on their $3.6B shortfall. How are they going to cover the other 92%? Instead of talking about that, the conversation has been about nothing but the union fight. Does anyone think the next Progressive special interest group whose ox will be gored in the budget battles will roll over any more easily now that they’ve seen what the unions can do to frame the debate, resist, and delay?

What could we have done differently? I’m glad you asked! This is a great opportunity for brainstorming, so we can be ready the next time an epic battle like this rolls around. Here are my thoughts:

Firstly: go back to principles. Instead of: “We’re broke,” try: “It’s inherently corrupt when public-sector unions and politicians conspire to fleece the taxpayer. Public sector unions are different from private unions. And by the way, we’re broke.”

Secondly: make it as painful as possible when Democrats abuse the process and we have the upper hand. If the Democrats are going to abdicate, immediately propose and start voting on items on the Conservative wish-list. (You better believe they’d be doing that to us if the situation were reversed! Remember Rahm Emanuel’s immortal words: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”) The “fleebaggers” can block action only on budget issues. Non-budget matters can move forward smartly. Bottom line: take advantage of (and punish them for) their absence. Voter ID was a good start but let’s go further.

Here are some possibilities: De-certify the teacher’s union (and any other union that is facilitating their illegal sickout), and ban them from organizing on state property for 5 years. Start expulsion proceedings – not just recalls – on the AWOL Senators. Threaten the corrupt doctors who are writing sick notes under false pretenses, with prosecution and jail time. Nullify ObamaCare in the state using any legal pretext available, starting with Federal Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling that it is unconstitutional in its entirety. Cancel state funding to any and all left-leaning groups, such as Southern Poverty Law Center.

By living up to their creed “By Any Means Necessary,” the Progressive Left is fighting an asymmetric war, and the asymmetry isn’t working in our favor. We need to think a few moves ahead, so that this victory, once achieved, is our warm-up act and not our high-water mark. Gov. Walker and his allies in the legislature are so far showing the courage of their convictions, but that’s not enough. It’s time to turn the tables.