When Governor Scott Walker unveiled his budget repair bill late last week he accompanied his announcement with some vaguely threatening statements about the National Guard. Commentators on the left seized on these remarks and tried to paint Walker as petty and dictatorial. What a difference a week makes.
With schools closed in Madison and elsewhere due to teacher sick-outs and thousands gathered at the Capitol to protest, Walker's resolve seems to only have grown. And now that we know the legislative per diem gets you at least as far as a Best Western in Rockford, it is the Senate Democrats that appear petty. Faced with the prospect of losing the vote, this group chose to escape Wisconsin, but to what end?
An argument can be made that such an extreme measure could be employed to allow time for a compromise measure to be worked out, but as Governor Walker said the other day, when you negotiate, you have to have something to offer. What, exactly, do the Democrats and their allies in labor have to offer?
Walker pays absolutely no political price for angry WEAC and AFSCME members. They didn't vote for him last November and they weren't ever going to vote for him in the future. The only lever over Walker they may have been able to pull would have been to sway public opinion to their side. Any such possibility was lost somewhere between the WEAC pleas to close schools and the flight to Illinois of the Democratic Gang of Fourteen.
I'm not ready to pronounce Governor Walker champion in this fight, perhaps most of the work has been done by his opponent's missteps. Regardless, Governor Walker was clearly today's winner.