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Poll hurts GOP drive to limit public workers' rights

A New York Times/CBS poll taken last week and published yesterday found that most Americans oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employees, do not think that cutting the pay or benefits of public workers is the best way to reduce state budget deficits (by a plurality, they prefer raising taxes).

Among Democrats and independents, opposition to balancing budgets on the backs of public employees was overwhelming, and even among Republicans a bare majority was drawn to the idea. Only 26 percent of respondents told the pollster that salaries and benefits of public employees are too high.

In general the poll is fairly devastating to the drive by Repub guvs — personified at the moment by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — to cut public employees compensation and to reduce their collective bargaining rights.

In fact, the 41 percent of this skeptical poll sample said that when governors and legislators say they need to cut pay and benefits of public employees in order to balance state budget, they are really just trying to weaken the unions. (44 percent felt the governors who say this have sincere budget-balancing motives.)

I hardly expect Walker to take this poll into account and begin to climb down from his current stance. He notes, accurately enough, that he ran on a promise to do this stuff and he won, by a solid 52-46 percent margin. But claiming a mandate to do a particular thing is tricky. It would be easy enough for Walker to claim that relatively few Wisconsinites were included in the NYT/CBS sample. But Public Policy Polling asked Wisconsinites whom they would support for guv if the election could be done over now and Walker lost to his erstwhile Dem opponent, Tom Barrett, by 52-45.

That's gotta hurt.

Update/Correction: I have to correct something I wrote two paragraphs above. I have heard Gov. Walker assert that he had clearly divulged his plans for altering collective bargaining with public employees, and, since he won the election, had a mandate to follow through on it. Apparently, he wasn't telling the truth and I fell for it. Politifact checked the record and found that as a candidate for governor Walker never said that he would propose to remove public employees' benefits as subjects for collective bargaining. I regret the error and am grateful to those in the thread who called my attention to the error.

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Comments (14)

Two things occur to me:

First, Steve Berg's point about public spaces seems especially appropriate. I have Wisconsin relatives who have spent quite a bit of time in the Capitol Building in Madison of late.

Second, events in Wisconsin strike me as a fair preview of what we might be currently experiencing here in Minnesota had Tom Emmer been elected. Middle-of-the-roaders should probably keep in mind at the next election that people who campaign on extreme positions might actually try to implement those positions as policy once in office.

Eric, I take issue when you state in the second sentence in your penultimate paragraph that "He [Walker] notes, accurately enough, that he ran on a promise to do this stuff and he won, by a solid 52-46 percent margin."

Politifact says Walker was lying when he said that he'd campaigned on a platform of union busting: http://tinyurl.com/wisc-gov

Tim is right, Governor Walker NEVER mentioned his intentions as he ran for governor. In fact, his political ads sounded a lot like those of the Republicans in Minnestoa, "Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!" (which are, of course, in both cases, NOWHERE IN SIGHT!).

Interestingly, the biggest shift away from Gov. Walker since his election seems to be among Republican households where one or more individuals is the member of a union. Even a sizable number of Republicans in Wisconsin think he's gone WAY TOO FAR!

But let us remember, as was the case with former Gov. Pawlenty and as was stated so clearly by the patron saint of most of today's Republican leadership, Dick Cheney, "Polls don't matter." In other words, we're going to do what we WANT to do, the public be damned.

Why has it "gotta hurt?"

Walker won the election. He's in office for almost another four years. He doesn't have to back down at all if he doesn't want to. Eventually the Democrats will have to return and the union-busting bill goes into law.

Or the government shuts down, which is still a consolation prize for Republicans.

The poll results cited, indicating substantial buyer's remorse in Wisconsin, illustrate just how wrong the Repubs have it when trumpeting the results of the 2010 elections as a "mandate". The Repubs, and Tea Partiers in particular, seem to think that everyone suddenly "saw the light" and became Republican. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The voting block that handed so many victories to Repub candidates in 2010 is the same block that elected Obama in 2008 - the independents. These people are neither Repub nor Dem, and, as has been born out by a number of polls in recent months, they do not wish to see either party running roughshod over the national (or state) agenda. They want to see the two parties work together - read "compromise", the way things *used* to work in this country, as some of us are old enough to remember - to craft solutions that are in the best interests of the country (or the state) as a whole. They have not drunk the koolai... er, "tea", and Repubs ignore this at their peril. If they ram their agenda through over the objections and vigorous protests of their opponents (who, it seems from the polls, outnumber them) - the very thing they accuse Obama of doing during his first two years - they will find themselves to be the object of independent voters' wrath in the next election. Easy come, easy go.

Americans in general do not like imperial style leaders - imperial presidents or, Gov. Walker may well find out, imperial governors. They believe citizens have the right to assemble, associate, speak, and negotiate. They don't like seeing those rights taken away. By refusing to even talk to the other side, Walker comes across not as a leader but as an imperialistic bully, and will likely have a sharply curtailed political career.

Why has it "gotta hurt", #4? Only if you care about winning future elections, I guess. What goes around comes around. The majority are not with you.

And, I must add, thank God and 9000 voters for Governor Dayton!

David--
It's unlikely, but there IS such a thing as a recall vote.

It appears Scott Walker has backed himself into a corner and will have to carry through on his threat and intention to end collective bargaining rights for public workers. If he comprimises he will be acknowledging the tremendous public backlash that has seen his popularity deteriorate and frighten other conservative governors from taking such a militant, no retreat option, stance on public unions. He will ultimately be successful in his quest to destroy them in Wisconsin but his actions have shut the door on that tactic in several other states. It is certainly not a victory for American workers, democrats or unions but it is also not the outcome the Koch brothers envisioned either. Eventually, the ordinary, work-a-day American will realize what the cost of loosing such a hard fought right (unions were many years in the making as the robber barrons successfully prohibited their legality until legislation finally institutionalized worker's right to organize and collectively bargain) means to their own wage and salary. That is when the the anti-worker policies of the Republicans will be their undoing.

The Constitutional Amendments did not start with the Second Amendment:

".... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I read somewhere that they can recall Walker but they have to wait a year to do so.

Getting back to the recall thing... the thing is, this isn't the only problem Walker has. In general he appears to have no real plan to govern the state, so this is likely just the first crises he will precipitate. It's hard to believe that this will be resolved and then the guy will be a great governor for the next four years. My guess is that by the end of the year he will have imploded even more and this is just the beginning. The Democrats have found a way to focus attention on Walkers underlying agenda and ideology, something Republicans go to great lengths to hide as a general rule in order to get independent votes. It's always a bait and switch with Republicans and this is on display in spectacular fashion here.

This whole situation brings to mind the old adage: "Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it." As others have noted, Gov. Walker has really put himself and his cohorts in an untenable position, given the large plurality of voters in every national poll who indicate eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employees is not OK. And if any of the Republican legislators in Wisconsin are capable of intelligent, independent thought, they must be able to see that allowing the governor to go forward with this plan is political suicide and may very well open up the prospect of a recall election. It appears the Koch brothers will have to find a different way to further their union-busting agenda.

I beg to differ with the author and commentors that this poll means trouble for Mr Walker's effort. Recent history shows that a poll revealing strong public support for the Democratic position is the signal for Democratic leaders to capitulate completely to whatever the Republicans want. We now can expect the Wisconsin Democratic legislators to return, apologize for their lack of bipartisanship, and vote as one in support of the Governor's legislation.

Chuck has good point. But I can't remember the last time Democrats made a big stand like this, so I choose take heart.

mr udstrand makes some good points. I too read that governor walker can't be recalled until he has been in office for one full year. Jan 2 seems like a long time to wait for someone who has already cost our state billions.