Unions Dividing Democrats?

J. Robert Smith

This might prove an interesting twist on divide and conquer.  Michael Gerson wrote at the Washington Post on Wednesday that the Wisconsin election results may indicate a split among liberals.  Public sector unions may be driving a wedge between pro-union and pro-activist government liberals (and leaners).  Can conservatives exploit that split? 

A fracturing of the Democratic coalition along the lines that Gerson suggests can only aid Republicans in local and state elections.  It remains to be seen if such a division among Democrats will occur in congressional elections and in the upcoming slugfest between President Obama and Mitt Romney. 

Here's the problem for Democrats, as Gerson describes it:

The voters of the Badger State do not object to the idea of an activist, generous state government. The problem for Democrats in Wisconsin and elsewhere is that state and local budget debates unite conservatives while dividing voters who believe in active government.      

Gerson goes on to explain:

One portion of the progressive coalition -- public-sector unions -- used the good economic times of the 1990s and 2000s to lock in generous health and pension benefits at the state and local level through collective bargaining. Politicians favorable to those unions enjoyed reliable political support. But the Great Recession dried up revenues, making health and pension commitments unsustainable, forcing some states into fiscal crisis and some cities toward bankruptcy, and threatening the provision of public services.

 

Other members of the progressive coalition value public services highly -- parks, libraries, public safety, education, support for the homeless and such. They are joined by civic-minded independents and non-libertarian conservatives. These voters have seen the commitments made to public-sector unions devouring state and local budgets, leaving little room for any initiatives in the public good.

To put it in cruder terms than Gerson permits, among progressives, the difference boils down to old fashion line-your-pockets, Chicago-style libs (union heavies, included) versus pro-government do-gooders.  Scarcity - public finances, in this instance - isn't going to do much for handholding, Kumbaya singing and swaying on the left.

The public monies pie has shrunk (and should continue to shrink), thereby forcing greedy public employee unions to take the gloves off - as they did in Wisconsin - and fight to keep their gains.  That fight laid bare the unions' real agenda. 

For public sector unions, the dirty little secret is that it's really never been about the public good; it's been about power,  money, and benefits - and grabbing as much as possible, taxpayers and public services taking hind tit.

How can conservatives and the GOP exploit this possible divide among liberals?  Do as Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans have done. 

On the local and state levels, prioritize essential services over union pay and benefits.   Press reforms for collective bargaining, pay, and benefits (including pensions).  Make union membership elective, not compulsory.  Aim by law to bring government workers' compensation in line with their private sector counterparts (where it exceeds private sector compensation).  Do carve out exceptions for police and firefighters, given the hazards of their work.   

Strategically, strive to re-establish in voters' and taxpayers' minds that government workers are public servants (and, not incidentally, so are politicians).  Men and women who have entered government service do so for reasons other than compensation.  If public servants want to fare better financially, quit and find private sector jobs. 

Scott Walker's policies and approach certainly played well among independents.  That alone should encourage Republicans. 

Diminishing public sector union power is a key to reducing the size and scope of government.  Providing quality essential government services should be what Republicans stress in opposition to the demands of narrow, selfish public sector unions.

Liberals fighting among themselves is a very good thing.  Getting independents voting for Republicans is even better. 


 


  

This might prove an interesting twist on divide and conquer.  Michael Gerson wrote at the Washington Post on Wednesday that the Wisconsin election results may indicate a split among liberals.  Public sector unions may be driving a wedge between pro-union and pro-activist government liberals (and leaners).  Can conservatives exploit that split? 

A fracturing of the Democratic coalition along the lines that Gerson suggests can only aid Republicans in local and state elections.  It remains to be seen if such a division among Democrats will occur in congressional elections and in the upcoming slugfest between President Obama and Mitt Romney. 

Here's the problem for Democrats, as Gerson describes it:

The voters of the Badger State do not object to the idea of an activist, generous state government. The problem for Democrats in Wisconsin and elsewhere is that state and local budget debates unite conservatives while dividing voters who believe in active government.      

Gerson goes on to explain:

One portion of the progressive coalition -- public-sector unions -- used the good economic times of the 1990s and 2000s to lock in generous health and pension benefits at the state and local level through collective bargaining. Politicians favorable to those unions enjoyed reliable political support. But the Great Recession dried up revenues, making health and pension commitments unsustainable, forcing some states into fiscal crisis and some cities toward bankruptcy, and threatening the provision of public services.

 

Other members of the progressive coalition value public services highly -- parks, libraries, public safety, education, support for the homeless and such. They are joined by civic-minded independents and non-libertarian conservatives. These voters have seen the commitments made to public-sector unions devouring state and local budgets, leaving little room for any initiatives in the public good.

To put it in cruder terms than Gerson permits, among progressives, the difference boils down to old fashion line-your-pockets, Chicago-style libs (union heavies, included) versus pro-government do-gooders.  Scarcity - public finances, in this instance - isn't going to do much for handholding, Kumbaya singing and swaying on the left.

The public monies pie has shrunk (and should continue to shrink), thereby forcing greedy public employee unions to take the gloves off - as they did in Wisconsin - and fight to keep their gains.  That fight laid bare the unions' real agenda. 

For public sector unions, the dirty little secret is that it's really never been about the public good; it's been about power,  money, and benefits - and grabbing as much as possible, taxpayers and public services taking hind tit.

How can conservatives and the GOP exploit this possible divide among liberals?  Do as Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans have done. 

On the local and state levels, prioritize essential services over union pay and benefits.   Press reforms for collective bargaining, pay, and benefits (including pensions).  Make union membership elective, not compulsory.  Aim by law to bring government workers' compensation in line with their private sector counterparts (where it exceeds private sector compensation).  Do carve out exceptions for police and firefighters, given the hazards of their work.   

Strategically, strive to re-establish in voters' and taxpayers' minds that government workers are public servants (and, not incidentally, so are politicians).  Men and women who have entered government service do so for reasons other than compensation.  If public servants want to fare better financially, quit and find private sector jobs. 

Scott Walker's policies and approach certainly played well among independents.  That alone should encourage Republicans. 

Diminishing public sector union power is a key to reducing the size and scope of government.  Providing quality essential government services should be what Republicans stress in opposition to the demands of narrow, selfish public sector unions.

Liberals fighting among themselves is a very good thing.  Getting independents voting for Republicans is even better.