March 1, 2011
The 2012 Nomination Lead is There for the TakingBy C. Edmund Wright
It's right there for all to see: a hanging curve ball moving so slowly that even a "Republican strategist" should see the stitches. Well ok, maybe it's not moving that slowly.
Nonetheless, the early lead for the 2012 GOP nomination is there for the taking -- waiting only for one of the candidates to boldly pounce on this obvious opportunity. I submit that the first hopeful who boldly runs on a platform of simply ending public sector collective bargaining will bust from the pack into the early lead.
And all along we thought the 2012 elections -- like the 2010 elections -- would be about government spending. Well, actually, the seamless way that the public sector union issue ties into government spending -- not to mention the tea party notion of producers and takers -- is what makes this such a dynamic once in a lifetime opportunity. The fact that the opposition here is totally unlovable is icing on the cake.
Consider: Chris Christie became a national sensation for one reason and one reason only: he was bold and unapologetic about staring down the teachers unions in New Jersey. He broke every rule in the strategy book and predictably, it has worked.
(Memo to GOP hacks: throw out the book).
Frankly, Christie is probably not conservative enough to really win a GOP nomination -- and he has not even called for an end to public sector unions -- yet merely the willingness to engage them in battle has made him a superstar. It has some folks so excited they are willing to overlook some ominous Jersey liberal tendencies.
Then there's successful governor Mitch Daniels, a tiny man so bereft of excitement that we can only conclude his charisma bypass operation was a success. And yet, due to his ability to balance the books in Indiana six years after quietly sweeping away collective bargaining power from Indiana government, he is considered by some a serious national player. Serious is what they call you if you have substance but are too boring to have a TV show.
And we now have Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose name has suddenly started appearing on various pundits' Presidential wish lists all over the place. Why? It's not his oratory or his stance on taxes or on terror or on abortion. Nope. It's his stance on public sector unions. His proposed legislation does not wipe out public sector unions per se, but it goes a long way toward neutering them. This he knows is the key to long-term financial stability for state governments. He sees it playing out in Indiana.
So let's take stock of the situation today: We have a seminal moment coming up in a couple of days involving the budget, a potential government shut-down and Congress. By the way, this is the same Congress swept into power with an anti-spending fervor just some 120 days ago. This is supposedly the tea party issue. But what are people talking about?
The Middle East is on fire, and while folks tend to yawn at that nowadays, they don't tend to yawn at four dollar gas tanking an economy. All of that is happening in front of our eyes, but what are people talking about?
Names like Palin, Pawlenty, Gingrich, Romney, Thune, Cain, Huckabee, Bolton, etc have been floated around and talked about for months. But who are people talking about now? Christie, Daniels and Walker -- which is to say, unions.
Are we seeing a trend here? The government union story has captivated most all of us in the country who are not immune to anything important. And it should, because this one issue touches and even embodies most of the big national discussions we are having today. As Christie put it a couple of days ago on the fights around the nation and in Madison, "if we don't win this fight, there's no other fight left." And he's right. This is not only a huge financial issue, this is a "heart and soul of the nation" issue.
Nobody is to be taken seriously on reducing government spending, be they in Washington or Madison or California or Illinois or anywhere else, unless they address unsustainable and gold plated government employee compensation. This is most serious in unionized states and is a serious issue for the Federal budget as well. Unions are responsible for most of these outsized compensation packages and bloated bureaucracies. This makes the public sector union issue tailor made for the tea party mentality.
And of course, government spending and intrusiveness is a key headwind preventing any meaningful economic recovery. Moreover, the more fundamental notion of producers versus takers runs to the heart of this issue. The idea that government workers are, or should be, some sort of protected class immune to the winds of economic reality is one that Americans are beginning to reject as they see the raw entitlement mentality on display.
As these displays go on, this momentum will surely increase. People making 50K a year in a risky environment with no retirement are not thrilled about continuing to pony up for folks making twice that in a risk free bubble of government life. And daily, more people realize that this is the equation in play here.
Another thing the public sector union issue does is really crystallize the biggest topics on our minds into one clean simple narrative. We simply have too much government that spends too much money and has too many bureaucrats that terrorize businesses far too often. This speaks to jobs, the deficit, freedom, and most of the issues that are front and center in our minds now.
Rolling back public sector unions will reduce government spending and will also increase liberty and also unleash the economic engine of entrepreneurs at the same time. It would also, not coincidentally, curtail the channeling of taxpayer funds to the Democratic Party, via union dues taken from paychecks and funneled to Democrat campaigns.
It is almost not an overstatement to say that the public sector union issue is a magic bullet for the nation and for the GOP. For an electorate that is suddenly interested in learning the issues, this will resonate so clearly and address so much in one fell swoop.
For anyone deep down in the pack of presidential hopefuls, it could be a quick elevator ride to the top in these early days. If you doubt that, please tell me why everywhere we turn we now see Christie, Daniels and Walker. None of these three have talked about ending public sector unions nationally -- and only Daniels among them has even feigned interest in the White House.
And yet, because they've taken a stand against public sector unions in their respective states, they are becoming national heroes. The electorate is ready for this. Hopeful candidates should take note. Your local GOP strategist won't get it for you.