Looking for Big Themes in Wisconsin

Last night on twitter, I wrote “Dear GOP: don’t mimic Dem spin that this will have any relevance on 2012. It won’t.” Interestingly, the first reaction to that from Congressman Patrick McHenry’s (R-NC) Chief of Staff was that I was “officially rooting against Republicans.”Now, I don’t know this lady from Adam . . . or I guess I should say Eve, but I find it surprising her first reaction would be that I’m rooting against the GOP for daring to downplay Democrat oriented spin cooped by the GOP about the recalls’ relevance to 2012.I assume she is one of those typical Republican staffers who thinks you either are on the party talking points or you are the enemy, i.e. the same sort of staffer whose decision making processes helped lead the GOP to disaster in 2006. With staff like that, the tea party might want to keep an eye on Congressman McHenry.Notwithstanding all that, I do want to keep some reasoned perspective. There are already signs some on the right want to spin this as the Democrats intended — that it is somehow a way forward for 2012.This is a huge, huge win for the GOP. And after days of bragging about the $20 million or so they were pouring into the races, it is great to see the unions yet again flush money down the toilet. I hope this emboldens the Wisconsin GOP and Governor Walker who come out as real winners tonight. But let’s keep perspective — a trend in Wisconsin is not a national trend. See e.g. congressional special elections in New York and their predictive outcome to other elections.If there is one overarching thing we can say about Wisconsin it is that the Wisconsin unions now know what a tea party downgrade really looks like and that Wisconsin voters have introduced the left to the idea of “shared sacrifice,” also known as employee sharing in the costs of health care insurance and 401(K)’s.By the way, Governor Scott Walker has now signed a redistricting law so all these seats are going to be redrawn and many of them will suddenly be even more Republican.But I think we need some reasoned extrapolation of lessons for 2012 and not just cheerlead it as a loss of Democrat momentum. Remember, the first few special elections after Obama won in 2008 all went the Democrats’ way and both the Democrats and media were spinning furiously that it was a precursor for 2010. Then Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia happened.In a nutshell, this was all about Wisconsin and very few people outside of diehard partisans and political junkies are or were paying attention to the issue outside Wisconsin.The biggest lesson I think the GOP should take away from this is what actually happened. The GOP played to form. They won their policy victory in the legislature and went home proud. To them it was the end. But to the left, they had not yet begun to fight.The GOP nearly got caught flat footed. Luckily, as much as the GOP played it right, the Democrats overplayed their hand, enraging Republican voters enough to mobilize to combat sore losers. I think we can also extrapolate that unions are on the verge of becoming paper tigers, but I suspect after they analyze just how they squandered $20 million they won’t repeat the same mistakes, however much I hope they will.Another big lesson for the GOP is that reforms the media casts off as “deeply unpopular” among favorite slogans often times turn out to be supported by people. The GOP in Washington should learn something from this on that front. Given the caving on issues Republicans in congress routinely do because the media convinces them the public hates them, the GOP in Washington should get some Wisconsin GOP testicular fortitude. Ironically, I suspect Congressman McHenry’s Chief of Staff who thinks I’m “officially” rooting against the GOP would probably choose to ignore this piece of advice.Beyond all that, though, I would be very cautious for either side to extrapolate much to a national level anything about these recall elections, which are inherently different styles of elections than normal elections.Nonetheless, go toast the Wisconsin GOP and laugh at the $20 million the unions now won’t have next year. It is a beautiful thing.

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