On a number of occasions, I’ve posited that the Wisconsin recall election was the most crucial race this year aside from the presidential contest, so the importance of Gov. Scott Walker’s victory tonight should not be understated. It was a significant political development on multiple levels.
In the raw political sense, it should provide a shot of momentum to Republicans going into this fall’s elections. Walker beating back a recall effort in a Democratic state undercuts the view that the GOP has been severely weakened since its string of victories in 2010.
Locally, it means that Walker will be able to serve at least the rest of his term through 2014 and keep building on the progress made with his education and collective bargaining reforms. More broadly, Walker was able to implement such reforms in a state that President Obama won by 14 points in 2008, and ultimately win popular acceptance after an initially fierce backlash. It means that governors in states throughout the nation should no longer be afraid to take on public sector unions. The unions may make a lot of noise and issue plenty of threats, but in the end, they don’t have the kind of muscle they used to. During a time when most states are strapped for cash, there’s no reason elected officials should allow big labor to maintain a stranglehold over their budgets.
Of course, Walker’s victory is about more than public sector unions. What Walker has demonstrated is that voters will ultimately reward politicians for showing political courage on the big issues if they have the resolve to see their policies implemented and watch them succeed. Enthusiasm for Walker among his supporters was off the charts because people are more willing to fight for a leader who has actually taken a stand. As the United States faces a looming fiscal crisis due to prior generations' unwillingness to tackle runaway spending on the entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, wobbly-kneed politicians in Washington should look to Walker’s triumph in Wisconsin for inspiration.