Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 24, 2011

A NEW LITMUS TEST FOR THE 2012 FIELD?.... This week, as the right rallied behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) union-busting efforts, conservatives hoped other GOP governors would follow his lead. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) went the other way -- he announced his reservations about a pending anti-union bill, effectively killing it.

Soon after, conservative Matt Lewis joked, "It's almost like Mitch Daniels is reading 'How to Run for President' and then doing the opposite at every turn."

With that in mind, the Wall Street Journal's John Fund writes today about how he'd like to see Daniels operate more like Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

The Republican governor told reporters yesterday that he had no plans to use state troopers to compel attendance by the AWOL Democrats. "Even the smallest minority, and that's what we've heard from in the last couple days, has every right to express the strength of its views and I salute those who did," he said. His office later had to clarify that he was referring to union protestors rather than legislators shirking their duty.

Indiana's right-to-work legislation, which would have made it the 23rd state to bar requiring private sector workers to join a union, died last night with the failure of the legislature to act. Mr. Daniels never opposed the bill but made it clear he thought it would distract from other parts of his legislative agenda. "There was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised."

But Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund says conservatives will remember that Mr. Daniels chose to be a non-combatant in a fight that was almost won.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is announcing his support for Walker's efforts, and throwing cash at the Republican Party of Wisconsin as part of the anti-labor push. Tim Pawlenty, not to be outdone, launched a website devoted to celebrating Walker's measures.

Under the circumstances, it's probably fair to say we're looking at a new litmus-test issue for the 2012 Republican presidential field -- all credible candidates will be expected to oppose taxes, gays, abortion, climate science, health care reform, and public-sector unions.

To be sure, it's not as if unions were popular in Republican circles before this new crusade, but the dispute in Wisconsin has moved the issue to the front-burner and given it a new sense of urgency in far-right circles. "Moderates" when it comes to labor will find themselves at a real disadvantage.

Indeed, I'd be surprised if, during the upcoming debates, folks like Romney and Pawlenty aren't asked, "So, governor, why didn't you try to take away workers collective-bargaining rights, too?"

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Too many words:

"all credible candidates will be expected to oppose taxes, gays, abortion, science, health care, and unions"

Fixed that.

Posted by: bignose on February 24, 2011 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

you forgot infrastructure investment. that's a new big no-no. also Christie is a bail-out artist:

Posted by: llama on February 24, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

How about a litmus test for those who are beneficiaries of Koch philanthropy (as opposed to Koch politicization)? VERY sizable gifts to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, American Ballet Theater, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, MD Anderson, New York-Presbyterian Cornell, Smithsonian Museums and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have bought him respectability and acceptance with business cronies who will profit from the Republican political machinations. Shouldn't all of those "donations" be scrutinized and the accepting facilities be held accountable for taking the money and putting the Koch name on various buildings?

Posted by: withay on February 24, 2011 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Am I whistling past the graveyard, or do I get the sense that they are busily painting themselves into a very tight corner?

I know the rule is "run to the extremes in the primaries, run to the center in the general," but this sort of stuff will be a gold-mine for oppo researchers and ad-makers.

Posted by: bleh on February 24, 2011 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK
[nov 2007] To pay for [Wisconsin] highways, buildings and environmental programs, state government slid 87% deeper in long-term debt over the past 10 years.

That decade spans the leadership of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and Republicans Scott McCallum and Tommy G. Thompson.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state had $8.28 billion in general-obligation, transportation and environmental debt in mid-2006; the same debts totaled $4.41 billion in 1996.

The 87% increase was three times the U.S. inflation rate over that period.

Figures show that debt rose the most - by $1.8 billion- under Thompson between 1996 and 2001, when he resigned to become a cabinet secretary for President Bush. Debt increased by more than $1.5 billion in Doyle's first three years.http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/29332524.html

Scott Walker is using unions as a scapegoat for political fiscal wrecklessness. Fire the politicians.

Posted by: Kill Bill on February 24, 2011 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

"oppose taxes, gays, abortion, climate science, health care reform, and public-sector unions."
getting to be a long list...might as well toss in "black presidents"

Posted by: T2 on February 24, 2011 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, under no circumstances does the GOP want the Presidency in 2012. They are going to ride this overton window magic carpet ride as far as they can possibly take it. Their goal is to build upon their numbers in the House and Senate with the TEA party fiscal responsibility mumbo-jumbo bullshit without having to actually do any heavy lifting of getting the economy back on track.

A credible GOP candidate in 2012 would have to moderate considerably, which would kill the bases' erection. So no, they'll keep pushing that fucking window hard right and set things up for 2016.

I predict we're in Iran by July 2017.

Posted by: Oh my on February 24, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this insane?? They split the union vote decently enough at the moment, are they trying to make unions the new black vote? Going from 60-40 to 90-10 would absolutely hammer them in the upcoming elections. And if anyone can drive out the vote, it's unions. This is just absolutely short sighted, especially since this wasn't an issue that was burning with the teabagger base.

Posted by: Kevin on February 24, 2011 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

How did the Right Wing ever get away with establishing the phrase "right to work"? That has to be the most successful framing ever.

Has any right winger *ever* believed that an individual has a right to a job?

Posted by: Steve H in SLC on February 24, 2011 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Unions have nothing on Wingnut Welfare (WW).

In a union, you still have to produce to keep your job.
In WW, you just need to follow the meme's, rinse and repeat, never stray, and you have a high-paying job with benefits and a pension for life.

In a union, you have to pay dues.
In WW, you just need to follow the meme's, rinse and repeat, never stray, and you have a high-paying job with benefits and a pension for life.

In a union, you have to collectively bargain.
In WW, you just need to follow the meme's, rinse and repeat, never stray, and you have a high-paying job with benefits and a pension for life.

In a union, you do whatever else you have to do.
In WW, you just need to follow the meme's, rinse and repeat, never stray, and you have a high-paying job with benefits and a pension for life.

Why wouldn't anyone want to be a Conservative?

OK, having a soul and a conscience...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 24, 2011 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The sad thing is that soon we will see the LINOs like Obama start repeating the mantra that collective bargaining rights for workers are not good for the growth of the economy, just as they are talking about the deficits now, and just as soon will be caving in to Republican demands to substantially reduce if not abolish Social Security and Medicare.

The liberals should focus more of their attention on such LINOs rather than on the Republicans from whom such despicable stances are expected.

Posted by: samsa on February 24, 2011 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

You know what conservatives like about Chris Christie?

He has heft.

Posted by: cld on February 24, 2011 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

If the litmus test gets much larger (and it will), Robespierre will turn on Danton. Righteousness based groups always splinter and attack each other.

Posted by: mlm on February 24, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I recall reading that something like 12% of workers in the US belong to unions.

I wonder how they'll vote in 2012.

If Republicans just keep handing large blocks of voters to the Democrats like this and nominate a far-right candidate to boot, Obama won't even have to campaign.

Posted by: JEA on February 24, 2011 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any issue left that the Republicans will be allowed to make up their own minds on? It seems like they're expected to march in lock-step on absolutely everything.

Posted by: Jurgan on February 24, 2011 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Card carrying union members are certainly not all liberals, but they know what's good for them, unlike so many others in that socio-economic class. Collective bargaining is an article of faith for all unions. Without that right there is no union. So expect a heavy union turnout in the next election, and they won't vote for anyone who thinks collective bargaining is responsible for deficits.

So-called 'Right-to-Work' laws are anti-labor, and were enacted, especially in the south, to draw northern manufacturing where unions had established a strong presence. We have always needed a federal right-to-organize law to prevent states from competing to see which one could be the most anti-labor. Until there is such a law, as there is in most civilized European countries, where their economies are not hampered by wide-spread unionization, the battle between labor and capital will always be brutal and unending. Getting such a law in this country is not very likely.

Posted by: rrk1 on February 24, 2011 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hopefully the trend continues and the Republican presidential hopefuls feel compelled/pressured to get on the record for ever more extreme positions:

Bombing Iran, Giving the West Bank to Israel, allowing machine gun sales w/o a background check, outlawing all contraception, giving more tax breaks to the uber rich, declaring the US a Judeo-Christian nation anyone?

I think Romney would sign up for anything if the crazy's yell loud enough and the rest of the pack will feel compelled to follow and/or top him!

Posted by: ottercliff on February 24, 2011 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

I expect that non-attendance is in effect a form of expressing legislator views and is not required by law (ie, is attendance required by law, such that not being there is breaking the law? I doubt it.) If so, it is a violation of civil rights to try and force and legislators into the Chamber, and they should sue etc. if sanctions are used against them. That is apart from the idea of how "prudent" it is, whether it's "in poor taste" or "irresponsible" etc, as depiction, I mean as legal right per se (and I'm not saying it's the latter either since this is one way to show distaste for a proposed law, but I don't want the character of it to be confused with the legal right as a matter of principle.)

Posted by: neil b. on February 24, 2011 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Will they really turn on each other though, mlm? When your 'righteousness' is hate and nihilism, that seems to leave an awful lot of cohesiveness. As long as you're filled with bile and want to destroy the country rather than see somebody from the hated groups get ahead, you're part of the tribe. And there's a lot of cynical money dedicated to making sure that the mob always has somebody to hate.

Posted by: libdevil on February 24, 2011 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Aren't they simply returning to their Coolidge-Hoover roots?

Posted by: bigtuna on February 24, 2011 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Psst! Maybe you hadn't heard there is a major election coming up next year. If the right wing can gut or at least weaken a part of the labor movement this year, it means less labor money and volunteer manpower next year.

That's why there is such a big rush.

Posted by: dweb on February 24, 2011 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

The truth about Daniels is that he is too intelligent and moderate to be a Republican Presidential candidate.

Posted by: bob h on February 25, 2011 at 5:41 AM | PERMALINK



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