To be sure, yesterday’s contests offered few lessons for 2012, as far as the status of swing-state Wisconsin is concerned. But at the state level, and on the level of ideas, yesterday’s elections have deep meaning. And with two Democrats in the state Senate facing recalls next week — perhaps one is genuinely vulnerable — we may have seen the unions’ high political tide, especially if Walker’s reforms really do weaken their clout.

“The people” were supposed to be on the side of the unions who protested at the state capitol when Walker’s bill passed, limiting the unions’ collective bargaining privileges against taxpayers and school districts. But it turns out that “the people” had other ideas. In the end, even a massive infusion of cash and union volunteers was not enough to deliver the three state Senate recall races the unions needed, despite the fact that President Obama carried all six of the seats in question in 2008.

This marks the unions’ third huge defeat in Wisconsin this year. The other two were the passage of Walker’s bill and the re-election of David Prosser to the state Supreme Court. The grand talk of recalling Walker himself next year seems a bit blustery now, given the great failure of last night.

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