Just Not Smart

February 24, 2011 4:24 p.m.

I said a few days ago that I didn’t think this drama was wearing well for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). And subsequent events have really confirmed me in that belief. Any victory at this point would, I think, be pyrrhic.

But here’s the thing. It’s not just that — I think — Walker overreached. It’s actually more than that. Early on, from a position of relative strength, he could have compromised and really had his cake and eaten it too.At the original point of breakdown, after the Dems hit the road and the unions agreed to all the financial concessions, he had his chance. He could have said, fine. You gave important concessions. I still think the changes in bargaining are right. But these are tough times. And we have to move forward together. Blah, blah, blah.

As a Republican governor in tough economic times he would have pocketed big concessions from the unions. And then, I think, he would have garnered some real credit at least from a lot of independent voters. I suspect he would have gotten a bump in those polls he’s already taken a hit in.

No doubt he would have caught some grief from the national right — as Scott in Florida and Daniels in Indiana have. But those aren’t the folks he needs to be successful in Wisconsin.
And over time, I think it would have worked well for him across the board.

At the outset the Dems’ decision to bail looked bold but ultimately a move based on weakness. He looked powerful. They didn’t. It was a good time to strike a deal — from strength — precisely because appearances were deceiving. Walker had already lost the initiative. Once they left there was nothing he could do. Literally. In the specific dynamics of this situation there was no action under his control that he could take to advance or resolve the crisis. We know from the prank call that Walker fancies himself a latter day Reagan in his showdown with Patco, the flight controllers union. But that was a wildcat strike and Reagan had it in his power to fire them. He did and that was it. But as things escalated, that lack of any available course of action made him look weak. Even vaguely ridiculous. If he gives in now, the stakes are so high, it’ll just seem obvious that he got totally rolled.

I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Maybe a few of the Dems will give in tomorrow and he’ll get what he wants. But, as I said, I think at this point I think even a victory would be pyrrhic. A recall next year looks like a really strong possibility. And I don’t think he’s going to get that victory at all.

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