Senate GOP leaders press ahead on a health care reform bill: What's in it, what's not, and will voters like it any better? Then, lessons learned from the Republican victory in a Georgia special election on Tuesday.
Governor Scott Walker survived an attempt to oust him from office. Wisconsin voters also gave him a place in history: It was the first time a U.S. governor has won a recall election. The recall campaign came about after the Republican governor stripped away collective bargaining rights for public workers. Walker’s win was a blow for Democrats and unions. Republicans say their victory shows voters want leaders who will make tough fiscal decisions. Whether the Wisconsin results are a bellwether for the 2012 presidential race remains to be seen.
- Chris Cillizza Author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, managing editor of PostPolitics.com and author of the book, "The Gospel According to The Fix."
- Molly Ball Staff writer for The Atlantic.
- Craig Gilbert Washington bureau chief, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Douglas Belkin Reporter, The Wall Street Journal.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Wisconsin's recall election pitted Republican Gov. Scott Walker against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat. Walker's strong win yesterday has led some analysts to speculate the results may vote well for Mitt Romney in November. But exit polls in Wisconsin indicate 18 percent of Walker's supporters favor President Obama.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio to talk about what it all means for unions, public employees and 2012: Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post and Molly Ball of the Atlantic magazine, joining us from a studio in Wisconsin, Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Please feel free to call us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody.
MS. MOLLY BALLGood morning.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAGood morning, Diane.
MR. CRAIG GILBERTGood morning.
REHMCraig Gilbert, let me start with you. Tell us about the turnout.
GILBERTThe turnout was pretty historic. It wasn't quite in the stratosphere, like state officials predicted, of near presidential levels. They said 60 to 65 percent of voting-age adults. It was a little over 57 percent with not quite all the votes counted. That's really unlike any typical governor's race. The highest turnout in a mid-term election for governor in the last 50 or 60 years was about 52 percent.
GILBERTSo pretty amazing turnout even if it wasn't at presidential levels, higher in some parts of the state than other parts, particularly in the very Republican suburbs outside of Milwaukee where it usually -- turnout usually is kind of off the charts. So another sign over this past 19 months or 16 months of how really jacked up and engaged the voters in Wisconsin have been about this whole thing.
REHMAnd who voted for the recall, who voted against?
GILBERTWell, it followed some very familiar lines. I mean, it's striking, after everything that's happened and all the money that's been spent and all the pain and struggle, how similar the numbers looked to the 2010 election, which, of course, featured the same two candidates 19 months ago. I mean, you had the same kinds of differences. I mean, Scott Walker won among men, won among women -- I mean, lost among women.
GILBERTHe won, obviously, Republicans overwhelmingly and lost Democrats, overwhelmingly. He won independents, lost moderates. He lost college grads, won people without a college degree. So these patterns -- we've seen them in the polls, poll after poll. We saw them in 2010 -- not a lot of difference there. It was, in many ways, kind of a replay of that last election.
REHMSo what was the mood like last night in Wisconsin?
GILBERTIt was kind of a rollercoaster ride partly because of the -- what the now familiar drama over the exit polls. You had kind of a sense of suspense going in even though Gov. Walker had been ahead in all the public polling recently. People didn't know exactly, you know, what the electorate would look like. And, of course, we're in uncharted waters with a recall election to begin with.
GILBERTIt turned out that things played out a lot like the polls had suggested. But in the mean time, we were getting initial exit poll data that suggested a closer race than it turned out to be and so giving Democrats a lot of hope and then, really, in a very crushing way, taking it away from them as the returns started to come in.
REHMCraig Gilbert, he is with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Turning to you, Chris Cillizza, so how did Scott Walker do this?
CILLIZZAWell, Diane, anytime you have a race that is this high profile, that has this much money spent on it, that has this many people engaged in it, it's hard to isolate one reason. I talked to lots of people, Democrats and Republicans, over the last couple of days. As the writing appeared to be on the wall that Walker was going to win, most people I talked to, frankly, thought Walker will win by two or three points.
CILLIZZAHe wound up winning by 6.9, almost seven points. The thing that kept coming up -- there are a few -- but the one that I found sort of the most interesting was the fact that there was a primary. A lot of people -- this was outside of the -- not of people like Molly, Craig and I, but outside of the focus of your average person, there was a primary about a month ago in which Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor, beat the former Dane County executive, a woman named Kathleen Falk.
CILLIZZAShe had run for attorney general before. She had run for governor before. Labor largely backed Falk in that race -- in the primary race. They spent between four and $5 million on ads supporting Falk and hitting Barrett. Obviously, Barrett won that primary. The problem then was that he had a month to turn from winning the Democratic primary to beating Scott Walker.
CILLIZZAScott Walker spent all of that time, all of the spring, all of the late winter, raising tons of money and being very, very directed in what he was doing, never taking his eye off the ball. So lots of people I talked to said that primary -- not that Barrett would've won -- but that primary clearly made it tough for him to come close.
REHMAnd how much money went into that primary on the part of Democrats?
CILLIZZAI mean, at least $5 million on the part of the labor. My guess would be, conservatively, probably $10 million spent on both sides. And, again, this is a number I keep coming back to that's very difficult for Democrats. Scott Walker raised and spent about $30 million on this race. Tom Barrett, on the general elections -- so it was about a month, but he spent -- raised and spent less than $4 million.
CILLIZZAI don't think money alone wins you races. If it did, we'd have a Gov. Meg Whitman in California, for example. But that kind of spending advantage, particularly when you consider all the outside groups in which conservative outside groups outspent -- I think, heavily, we'll find out, you know, in the coming days -- but I think heavily outspent Democratic outside groups. That kind of spending advantage, it's just hard to win elections when you face that.
REHMChris Cillizza, he's author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, managing editor of PostPolitics.com. Turning to you, Molly Ball, what does this say about the 2012 presidential election, if anything?
BALLIt does say something, and although I do think it's wise to make sure we don't read too much into it. It does not mean that Obama is going to lose Wisconsin. And it does not mean that Obama is going to lose the Midwest. And it does not mean that Obama is going to lose the election. All those caveats aside, though, you do have an election with even more turnout, as Craig said, than the actual midterm election, which is astounding for an unscheduled election in the middle of June.
BALLSo that tells you that both parties' bases are very riled up, very excited, very keyed into this political process. And you did see with the exit polls, after they were adjusted to reflect the actual electorate last night, after all the drama Craig talked about with them being off at first, the -- those exit polls still did show that the same electorate that voted to retain Walker would vote for Obama in the general election...
REHMThat is 18 percent thereof. Isn't that about right?
CILLIZZAYeah. I mean, what it is Molly is referencing is that basically if -- they asked on the exit poll, they said, would you vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?
CILLIZZAIt was 53 Obama, 42 Romney, which the Obama people took to be a good sign. The interesting thing, though, is that of the people who said they would vote for Obama, 18 percent of those people voted for Scott Walker, which is a fascinating thing. If you go the other way, only 6 percent of the people who voted for Mitt -- who said they would vote for Mitt Romney in fall, only 6 percent of those people voted for Tom Barrett. So it would suggest there are Walker-Obama voters out there as opposed to just Romney-Barrett voters.
BALLRight. So you have these independent voters potentially who -- one of the theories out there is that these people like the status quo. They feel like things are moving in the right direction, and we don't need to change horses in midstream. So whether that means the governorship of Scott Walker, they feel like he doesn't deserve to be thrown out, or whether that means the presidency of Barack Obama, they feel like he deserves more time to implement his policies as well, those people are out there.
BALLAnd that is one reason that this is not just a simple, you know, Democratic-Republican, they voted for Walker and therefore they're going to vote for Romney. But it is, you know, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, got a lot flack from Republicans especially for calling this a dry run. But it was a dry run operationally for the parties. You had the Democrats and the Republicans both revving up their turnout machines, their voter ID operations, refining their lists and also getting a chance to see the other side's operation in progress.
REHMWhy do you think the Obama administration did not get more heavily involved in this race?
BALLThat's a very simple answer. They thought they would lose, and they were right. From the beginning, there has been strife within the Democratic coalition about whether this recall was a good idea. I think it's important to remember that this was an optional fight for the left. It was one that they chose to undertake because they thought they could win.
BALLBut there were always dissenters who saw how risky it was and saw potentially how severe the consequences could be if they did not prevail and the message that it would send and the effect it could have in terms of dispiriting progressives and dampening enthusiasm. And I think that's what you see happening now. So the calculation on the part of the White House was that this was too risky.
BALLI think also there was seen as a potentially downside by some Democrats in Wisconsin that if they nationalized it too extensively, if they made it too much a referendum on Obama, that could detract from their message of it being a referendum on Walker. And one of the things that you see in those exit polls that Craig was talking about is that it really was almost a pure referendum on Walker in the way that it turned out.
BALLI mean, Tom Barrett tried very hard to have his own positive message to some extent, but this was all about Scott Walker, all about, do you want to reject his agenda? And in the end, the voters said no.
REHMMolly Ball, she's national reporter for the Atlantic magazine. Chris Cillizza, do you agree with Molly in terms of why the White House didn't spend more money, more energy, more time in Wisconsin?
CILLIZZAYes. Politicians of all of stripes essentially look out for themselves for second and third. Now, people criticize President Obama. He's not doing enough. But, look, all politicians do this, too much risk, not enough for reward.
REHMChris Cillizza of The Washington Post, Molly Ball of Atlantic magazine and Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd as we talk about Wisconsin's governorship and the recall effort which yesterday voters turned down, making Scott Walker an historic winner, we're joined now by phone from Chicago by Doug Belkin of The Wall Street Journal. Good morning to you, Doug.
MR. DOUGLAS BELKINGood morning.
REHMTell me what Scott Walker's win says to other states trying to reign in the unions.
BELKINTo Republican lawmakers, it says that this can be done, that if you get enough money, you can survive a fight with big labor. And to big labor, it says, this is troubling, and this is -- they need to gird for more of these battles.
REHMWe've got a lot of other states with battles over organized labor where those battles have actually intensified, for example, Indiana and Ohio. Same kind of thing going on there?
BELKINYeah, Ohio was very similar. In particular, Gov. Kasich last year went after collective bargaining. The difference is when he went after them, he included police and firefighters. Scott Walker did not take away collective bargaining for them, and that seemed to make a tremendous difference. Union organizers, they organized. They got a repeal on a ballot in November.
BELKINAnd they repealed Gov. Kasich's law by about 62 percent to 38 percent. So it wasn't really close, and that was a big, bloody nose for Gov. Kasich. So this -- what happened in Wisconsin, you know, may reverse that in the minds of lawmakers that you can do this and you can win.
REHMTell me about Michigan. What happened there?
BELKINYou know, the governor there has not been willing to take on this fight, and it's actually an interesting example of Republicans have been interested in creating a right-to-work state. They're concerned that there on the border of Indiana, that jobs are going to go down there. They've been pushing for Michigan to do the same thing, and the governor has said, don't send me that law. I won't sign it. You know, the fight that Walker just won may change his mind. This is going to play into his thinking certainly.
REHMEven in New Hampshire, where a Democrat vetoed a right-to-work bill passed by the Republican control legislature, you still got some efforts going on.
BELKINYeah, it's happening all over the country. You know, in Maine, it's debate. We have to remember what's happening here is that executives are facing terrible budget crunches, and they're looking for where they can cut. Folks are strained. They don't want to have their taxes go up. They don't want to see their services cut more than they already are.
BELKINSo where can a lawmaker look? Well, the unions, if you can bite into their salaries or their pensions, then that's -- especially at a time when there's a fair amount of resentment against those pensions, then that's a politically good move for him. And you're seeing that happening among some Democratic city mayors as well.
REHMBut, you know, it's interesting, this many of the unions employ what would be categorized as middle-class workers, voters. Why is so much anger and hostility being focused on those unions?
BELKINHow's your 401 (k) doing? Everybody's 401 (k) is in the dumper. Folks are paying more for health care. And they look at the public sector, and they see police officers and firefighters retiring with more than they have at an earlier age than they can. And that creates a resentment and an anger, and then they know that they're paying for that. That's taxpayer money. There's an argument against that, of course, but that's the emotion that fuels the fire that Republicans have been able to utilize.
REHMSo what does Scott Walker's win mean for the unions in Wisconsin?
GILBERTWell, it's pretty devastating. They obviously can't compete financially with Republicans. You can see that. It's a -- I don't know if the Democrats can compete financially with Republicans at the state level going forward. But the right-to-work discussion is interesting because Gov. Walker tried very hard to signal to private sector unions that he wasn't going to take the extra step of pursuing right-to-work legislation that would affect them and for a very simple reason.
GILBERTIf you look at the polling, as badly as Gov. Walker did with union households in this election, he still carried about 37, 38 percent like he did in 2010. It turns out that's kind of the percentage of union households that actually are Republicans, and most of those union household Republicans are in the private sector.
GILBERTThe real divide politically is between the public sector and the private sector. So it was important for Gov. Walker to try to hang on to that vote. He is, you know, telling everybody or signaling to everybody that he's not going to pursue right-to-work. And, politically, that's probably the right play for him, even though labor is much weakened in Wisconsin.
REHMAnd, Doug, you've actually called this fight in Wisconsin historic.
BELKINIt is for a number of reasons. Private sector unions have been diminishing for 50 years. They were a massive force in American politics. They -- one in every three workers was a -- carried a union card. They've been diminishing. They're down to, I think, one in 12 now. The strong leg of that stool of unions has been public sectors.
BELKINThey've maintained more than a third of government workers in their unions since the late '70s. So, by going after public sector unions -- and in Wisconsin, you've already seen a massive exodus of public sector union members who've just left because the unions can't do anything for them -- you're going after the strong leg, and you're bleeding organized labor.
REHMSo, finally, Doug, what do you think Walker's win means for the future of unions more generally?
BELKINIt means they're going to be on the defensive. It means they're going to have a harder time fighting back, and it means they're going to have more fights to take on.
REHMChris Cillizza, do you agree with that?
CILLIZZAYeah, Doug is exactly right about all of that. Look, in the 1990s, let's go back to relative recent history. In the 1990s, unions were loved by Democrats and feared by Republicans. Republicans didn't necessarily like what unions did, but they were afraid of them for their organizing power and the money they could bring to barren races. You go back and look in the 1990s when labor cared, labor was able to deliver.
CILLIZZAFast forward, start in 2010, Diane, labor goes after Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democratic senator in a Democratic primary, backs a candidate and loses. In 2011, labor makes overturning control of the Wisconsin State Senate, sort of the precursor to this recall race, overturning the Wisconsin State Senate their number one priority. They needed to pick up three seats. They pick up two seats and don't take it over.
CILLIZZAThen today -- or yesterday, Scott Walker wins by a larger margin than he won this race initially. Remember, he won in 2010 by five-and-a-half points. He won this race by almost seven points. If you are a labor ally, you can certainly argue that these three things are not that related, that labor still has real power. They clearly do. They were 33 percent of the electorate union household yesterday.
CILLIZZABut, but, but you less -- you are less-fearful of them if you are a Republican than ever before. That's Doug's point, and I think he is right to say this emboldens governors and Republican legislatures around the country who want to kind of go at public sector unions.
BALLYes. And I think also Democrats don't fear labor as much as they once did. And unions have -- are losing their centrality in the Democratic Party in a lot of ways. You see, you know, labor spent an estimated $400 million having -- helping Obama get elected. And it was always the case that Democrats had to pay that back in some ways, had to do labor's bidding in some ways. Instead, Obama didn't get card check passed, and labor grumbled a little bit and then kind of decided, OK, they were still in 'cause they didn't have anywhere else to go.
BALLYou have the Democrats holding their convention in North Carolina, a right-to-work state that has the lowest percentage of union workers in the workforce of any state in the entire United States. And labor grumbled a lot about that. And they're still grumbling, but they don't have anywhere else to go. And so you increasingly see politicians in the Democratic Party willing to thumb their nose at organized labor.
REHMCraig, let me ask you this: Have Democrats regained control of the Wisconsin Senate, and is that going to put a stop to Walker's agenda?
GILBERTWell, it appears they have. The problem for Democrats is that one of the many things Republicans did after they were swept of power in 2010 to take care of their long-term political interests was to draw a very favorable map for Republicans -- a very favorable legislative map.
GILBERTSo this -- a really fascinating district in Racine County south of Milwaukee that appears to have gone to the Democrats, it has tossed out incumbent after incumbent and, in fact, has now recalled a state senator for the second time, the only place in America that's ever done that. Battleground district of battleground districts is disappearing in the new map in November, and it's going from a 50/50 district to a overwhelmingly Republican district.
GILBERTYeah. So it just becomes very hard for the deck is stacked against them in November for holding on to the state Senate.
REHMAll right. Let's -- here are some emails, all pretty much along the same thread. First from Jeff: "Could you speculate on the role money played in this recall election? I read two-thirds of Walker's super PAC money came in from outside the state, thanks to Citizens United." And Robert sends an email, saying, "It's true about outside money. I live in Georgia, and I contributed," he puts modestly in parentheses, "to Scott Walker's campaign." Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZADiane, it is undoubtedly true that huge amounts of outside money poured in on both sides. Now, I think more money came in on the Republican side. But, look, labor understood that this was going to be seen, as we've just been talking about, as a referendum on labor and whether they could get things done. So they spent heavily as well in this state.
CILLIZZAAs I said at the top, anytime you are being outspent 10-to-1 or maybe even worse -- at least 10-to-1, as Tom Barrett was -- you are unlikely to win. That said, the number of persuadable voters in this election was as small as you will ever see in any election, presidential election, including...
REHMPeople were absolutely entrenched from the beginning.
CILLIZZAIf you held this vote six months ago, there would have been 46 or whatever, 45 percent for Barrett and 46 or 47 percent for Walker. And those people will never change their opinion. We could hold this vote 20 years from now, and those people would still be in their same camps. It was that small group of undecided, 5 to 10 percent. I was just looking at polls that were just sent us, the most updated exit polls, Diane.
CILLIZZAWalker won among independents, 54-45. It's no accident that roughly mirrors his overall victory margin. So the money matters clearly. But at the same time, in an election in which both bases are already so enthusiastic, it's such a small portion, honestly, of undecided voters that I don't know what sways them. We'd have to talk to them and interview them.
BALLI'd also add to that. Of course, Barrett was vastly outspent, and that surely made a difference. But let's think through why he was outspent. Where was that money coming from? And the reason all of this money poured in from outside Wisconsin is that Scott Walker became a hero to the conservative movement nationally and to specific individuals like the Koch brothers who have an interest in seeing these types of policies implemented nationwide.
BALLAnd so one of the messages that's sent by Walker's victory is that there is a sort of conservative cavalry out there of donors who are willing to send millions of dollars to back up the agenda of governors like Walker who want to implement policies like this.
REHMMolly Ball of The Atlantic magazine, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to open the phones now. We've got lots of callers waiting. First to Brattleboro, Vt. Good morning, Chris.
CHRISGood morning, everybody. Thank you so much for your show, Diane.
CHRISYou had just touched on what my topic was, that they did slip the Senate, it looks like, at least for the time being. But the other thing that I hadn't heard anybody mention yet is this ongoing John Doe investigation in which a number of Scott Walker's employees have been indicted -- and some of them even convicted -- of charges while they were working for him. And we don't know whether or not Scott Walker himself will be indicted. But if he is, what will that do to the situation over the course of the next several months?
GILBERTWell, it's an interesting question. I mean, we talked about how fixed public opinion was, and nothing -- this is one of those campaigns where nothing that happened on any given day seemed to really move the needle. And the John Doe investigation is an example of that. I mean, Democrats really hit that issue hard in the closing days and thought that it was moving the needle. It turns out it really wasn't.
GILBERTI think under normal circumstances you might expect an investigation that is touching, you know, former top aides to a sitting governor to have a bigger political impact than this had. But it was just, you know, one more thing that failed, I think, to really change this race very much, although it could obviously have an impact on Scott Walker and his career. After this election, we really don't know whether it's going to touch him or not. But as we think about Scott Walker as kind of a rising star in the Republican Party, I mean, this is an asterisk.
REHMAll right. To Columbia, Mo. Good morning, Melinda.
MELINDAGood morning, Diane. Enjoy your program, as always.
MELINDAWhat I want to say is that I never hear on the radio or television is that hate radio or, shall we say, extremely biased radio is going on 24 hours a day. Every day, every night I can hear it. And such people as Rush Limbaugh, red eye man or something like that I've heard recently, Medved, those people -- all they do is constantly hammer away on the Republican viewpoint. There is no liberal media. It's gone. It went with Larry King. And these people don't read The New York Times or The Washington Post. They don't listen to NPR. So they never get the other side of the story.
REHMDoug Belkin, how do you feel about that? Do you believe that so-called right-wing radio has really influenced this? Or do we go back to Chris Cillizza's point that minds were simply made up? Of course, the question is how were those minds made up?
BELKINYeah, the chicken and the egg question. I'll tell you a quick story about a few interviews I did, going back a couple of months, where a guy I was interviewing said to me that 80 members of Congress were -- Democrats were members of the Communist Party. And I said, what are you talking about? Well, he heard that on the, I think, on the Limbaugh show or one of the Republican shows, and that -- you know, it clearly informed him.
BELKINIt turned out, obviously, it wasn't correct. But, for the time being, he was certain that that was a fact and that that was, you know, a horrible thing that needed to be addressed. So certainly people are getting information from it, from radio -- good, bad or indifferent -- that help them make up their minds.
REHMDoug Belkin of The Wall Street Journal. We're going to take a short break here. And when we come back, more of your comments, your questions on Scott Walker's big win yesterday and what it could mean for November. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we'll go right back to the phones. First to Norm in Portsmouth, N.H. Good morning to you.
NORMHi. Good morning. I'm calling from Portsmouth. We're a city of just about 20,000 people, and we have been cheering the success of Gov. Walker out in Wisconsin. Even in our small little city here, we have to negotiate with over 15 separate public employee unions. Our taxes continue to increase, and it has a huge impact on our budget.
NORMWe just -- we would love -- we need a Gov. Walker right here in New Hampshire to help us and the cities like ours do something to prevent all of the problems that come from these extraordinary expenses with public unions, so we applaud Gov. Walker. We think we might get a Republican governor back here in New Hampshire, who may help us in this in November.
REHMNorm, I'm glad you called. Here's an email from Howard. He doesn't tell us exactly where he's from. No, he does. Forgive me. He says, "I'm tired of hearing that governors like Scott Walker and the same type of bully we have here in Ohio are to be admired because they make the tough decisions. Removing the rights of workers to bargain at the table is not making a tough decision.
REHM"Real leaders are those who can take the heat at the bargaining table and who have the guts to force a union to strike if necessary and let the public decide which side they agree with. It's not just crushing those you disagree with." Molly.
BALLWell, to both of these caller's points, actually, one of the interesting things about what Walker is trying to do with collective bargaining in the public sector and reining in some of their benefits is that it is not limited to Republican governors. And when I spoke to Walker a couple of months ago when I interviewed him, this is -- the point that he made was that this is -- taking on the public sector unions is something that governors across the country who are not just Republicans have been doing.
BALLHe pointed to Deval Patrick in Massachusetts, Andrew Cuomo in New York, Jerry Brown in California, Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. These are not Republican governors. They're in some of the bluest states in the country.
CILLIZZADan Malloy in Connecticut, I would add, too, same...
BALLDan Malloy in Connecticut, another very good point. And they have all approached the topic of pension reform in one way or another. So this is becoming, as we discussed earlier, much less of a hot potato and something that a lot of governors who are not Republicans are willing to approach.
REHMDoug Belkin, give me the arguments about public versus private unions and why public unions have become such a target.
BELKINThe essence of the argument is that public unions collect dues. They use those dues to elect Democratic politicians. They may sit across the table and bargain their contracts to those politicians who are, to some extent, beholden to them. And that creates a situation where the Democratic politician gets elected and the unions give raises. And it's become too expensive. That's the argument.
REHMCraig Gilbert, do you want to add to that?
GILBERTWell, I mean, one point I would make about what Gov. Walker did in Wisconsin that some people sometimes lose sight of is that it wasn't just the changes in collective bargaining. But he really, across the board, went for the jugular with these unions. I mean, he made it extremely difficult for them to recertify themselves. He also took away automatic dues deduction.
GILBERTHe did a lot of things across the board to really cripple these unions, some of which are -- have actually initially been rejected in court and are still being fought out in court. So it's not just a public policy fight that we're talking about. It's a very political fight, as we have alluded to earlier, that this is, you know, a vital part of the Democratic coalition, both financially and organizationally.
GILBERTAnd what Gov. Walker did was kind of a short-term gamble with potentially a huge long-term reward and just really kind of emasculating the unions in a way that took people by surprise and took the Democrats by storm, risking the potential short-term backlash. I didn't think he would -- I don't think he thought it would play out the way it did but with the possible political reward in the long run that you've really weakened a major part of your opponent's coalition.
REHMAll right. To Clermont, Fla. Good morning, Christie.
CHRISTIEGood morning, Diane. I wanted to ask why the panel thinks that the unions have gone so much on the defensive instead of the offense in this battle. These people in this country have forgotten that after the Industrial Revolution, we might not even have a middle class if it weren't for unions in this country. And people like the Koch brothers who support Gov. Walker, they're not looking out for the middle class, and anyone who believes they are is a fool.
CILLIZZAYou know, I think this gets -- the caller's question, I think, gets back to a point Craig just made, which is really important, which is that unions have gone, I think, from being perceived by the broad public as a force for good in that they are kind of making sure workers' rights are protected, first and foremost, to being perceived by -- I don't know if it's a majority, but large portions of the electorate, certainly -- as a wing of the Democratic Party, that they've gone from someone who is lobbying for the good of workers to someone who is lobbying and working for the good of the Democratic Party,
CILLIZZAAnd that's where you get -- sorry.
REHMNow, is that simply a perception? Or is it reality?
CILLIZZADepends how you define reality, Diane.
CILLIZZAI would say that we know from campaign finance reports, we know from all sorts of things that unions overwhelmingly give and aid Democratic candidates. There are Republican candidates out there that unions do support, but it's few and far between. So you could certainly -- if you wanted to draw the conclusion that this is essentially a political arm of the Democratic Party, you certainly should -- you could. Organized labor would obviously resist that characterization, and they would point you to Republicans that they have supported.
BALLI would say this also goes back to what Doug was talking about a little bit ago about how dominated the union movement has become by the public sector unions, especially as manufacturing has declined and that leg of the union stool has increasingly vanished. The public sector unions dominate the union movement, and that has meant that it is -- that the public doesn't identify with them quite as much, and the right has painted them as government bureaucrats.
BALLWhen you hear Democrats talk about public sector unions, it's always cops, firefighters and teachers. But when Republicans talk about it, it's always government bureaucrats and people think, oh, that nasty woman in the DMV. And so there's increasingly a view of union members being identified with government and with big government, which has been a right-wing talking point, you know, at least going back to Reagan.
REHMAll right. To Monroe, Va. Good morning, Mike.
MIKEThank you for taking my call, Diane.
MIKEYou know, I am so sad at what I think has happened in this country. The Koch brothers and the Republicans have -- and corporate America has absolutely hijacked any sense of morality that this country ever had. In fact, I really feel like I no longer live in America. Instead, I live in the United States of Corporate America because the corporations are the ones that are trying to destroy the little guy.
MIKECorporations are the ones that backed all of that big money coming in to that election up there. Corporations are the ones that have been brainwashing the vast majority of American people, that government is bad and everything. I got news for you: the government is the only vehicle that the average guy in this country has to protect him against the ravages of big corporations. Those corporations are not there to help us. They're not there to seek justice. They are predators.
REHMAll right, Mike. Thanks for your call. Do we know how much of the money coming into Scott Walker came from corporations, from big donors, how much came from individual donors like our emailer in Georgia?
CILLIZZASo, Diane, it's very hard. Unfortunately, we have the campaign finance system. We have not the one that I would say Molly and I and Craig and other reporters want, which is that transparency is very hard to come at, particularly as it relates to outside spending. Now, lots of these groups spend through super PACs, and that's kind of the buzz word of this election. Super PACs do have to disclose the money they spend through the Federal Election Commission.
CILLIZZAThe problem, from my perspective, is that lots of them also spend through things called 501 (c)(3) s, 501 (c)(4) s. These are all tax designations. They're essentially non-profit groups that do issue advocacy, very thinly defined. It winds up -- basically, you can't say vote for Scott Walker or vote for Tom Barrett, but you can do everything but. That's where a lot of the money comes in, and those groups do not have to disclose their donors or how much money they raise and spend.
CILLIZZAAnd that, to me, is a problem. From our perspective, my attitude is let's let people spend what they want to spend, but let's get it transparent so everyone knows before the election. Here is -- 'cause we can say $63.5 million. That's the number we keep coming at, $30 million...
CILLIZZA…thirty-five million from the candidates, another 30 from outside groups. We have a general sense that more of that money in the outside groups came from conservatives rather than liberals. But -- Molly and I spend everyday with this, and we're still not able to get to the bottom at how do you expect an average person to have any of the tools necessary to make a decision.
REHMOK. Let me ask you all a way-out question. Do you think that this election, the money spent thereon could precipitate a case against Citizens United going to the Supreme Court? Molly.
BALLThe problem with that is that the court that decided Citizens United is the Supreme Court that we have today, and there have been subsequent decisions since Citizens United that have ratified that ruling. So I think, unless we get a different Supreme Court, it's hard to imagine that they would change the ruling that they made in Citizens United, which was very broadly against any kind of campaign finance regulation.
BALLAnd I think there is a fear also on the left that if they brought any more cases, this court -- this conservative court might just broaden that ruling and make even less disclosure required.
REHMInteresting. To Louisville, Ky. Hi, Kathy.
KATHYHi. A little while ago, Chris from The Fix said that Republicans are not afraid of unions anymore because of the 2010 elections. And I was wondering a few things. One, what is the panel's thoughts on the fact that corporations we know spent $31 million anonymously for Scott Walker, which was approximately 7.5 percent more than the $3 million spent by Barrett? In other words, does the panel think there's a mathematical coincidence between Walker's win of 7 percent and the fact that he spent 7.5 percent more?
KATHYMy second question is Cato Institute in 2007 reported that politicians spend $92 billion of taxpayers dollars in cash subsidies yearly. And when will The Fix and The Wall Street Journal write articles that Republicans block bills to end the $92 billion taxpayers spend yearly while, at the same time, Republicans demonize taxpayers' money being spent on teachers and policemen?
CILLIZZALet me answer the first question because I understood it better than the second question, the first question about the fact that Walker outspent by 7.5 percent and that was roughly his margin. That is, I think, an interesting coincidence as it relates to the numbers. I have said before -- I will say again -I said on the show, the money obviously mattered. If you have two candidates, one of whom spends 15 times or 10 times what the other candidate spends, nine times out of 10, the candidate who spends 10 or 15 times more money is going to win.
CILLIZZAThat said, I think Democrats are whistling past the graveyard, politically speaking, if they simply say, all this has to do with was money. If the money was equal we would have won. Maybe. We won't know, right, because we can't re-run this election. I think the people of Wisconsin will probably revolt and move to another state if we had to have another election. But we don't know the answer to that.
CILLIZZABut I do think -- look at the other things that happened in that state and the anger that we've heard directed toward public sector unions. I don't think it's just money, though I think it'll be wrong to discount money as a factor.
REHMChris Cillizza of The Washington Post. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And to Durham, N.C. Good morning, Stan.
STANHi, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
STANI just want to make a couple of comments. I'm a retired New York City school teacher, and people in my union were happy with the union for what it gave them. But many teachers who worked for the union got a second pension. So for other teachers, we felt that these people were double-dipping. Furthermore, many police retired -- police can retire after 20 years on a full pension, and there's a big brouhaha about a number of police retiring with pensions of $100,000 or more per year. And for 20 years of service, making less than $100,000, you know, that's, to me, a little outrageous.
REHMAll right. Doug Belkin, do you want to comment?
BELKINYou know, I would point to a story that the Journal ran over the weekend that was really astute. The lead anecdote talked about firefighters -- a bunch of firefighters in uniform shopping for steaks at a grocery store, and a couple of guys came up to them and were really angry. You shouldn't be eating steak. We're paying for that steak. We can't afford steak. A lot of people shared that anger. It's not the -- I mean, even folks who are in unions feel that, and that's what Walker capitalized on.
REHMWow. That's quite a story.
BALLYeah. Wow, that is amazing.
REHMYeah. I mean, that people would sort of challenge you on the way you spend your money. Maybe those firefighters had saved for a week to buy a steak.
CILLIZZABut it does speak to -- I do think -- again, this is my whole whistling...
CILLIZZA…past political graveyard thing is that there is an undercurrent. If you don't just feel it, but you feel the need to confront people -- I'm not a big confronter in grocery stores, Diane, but if you feel the need to confront people at some level, I do think there does exist -- and, again, it's hard to know how big it is, but it clearly does exist.
REHMAll right. And, finally, to you, Craig Gilbert, President Obama won Wisconsin by 14 percentage points in 2008. How do you see this election affecting how he does in 2012?
GILBERTI don't think it's predictive. I mean, as we saw in the exit polls even -- about 10 percent of the Wisconsin electorate, if you do that math, was basically describing themselves as Walker-Obama supporters. I do think it affects the aggressiveness with which the Romney campaign targets Wisconsin. Wisconsin isn't always an automatic target for Republicans because sometimes -- I mean, it's been a blue state for six elections in a row. Sometimes it's a true battleground as it was in 2000 and 2004.
GILBERTBut sometimes, like in 2008, you have Democrats over-performing there like Obama did. So I think this is encouraging to the Romney campaign to really go after Wisconsin. If they can flip a blue state like Wisconsin, it makes the map a lot easier for them. And now, they have a governor that can turn out the vote. And I think you'll see Wisconsin at the top of their target list territories.
REHMAll right. We'll leave it there. Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Doug Belkin, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Molly Ball of Atlantic magazine, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post politics blog and author of The Fix, thank you all.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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