This state, the first to let government employees unionize, was an incubator of progressivism and gave birth (in 1932 in Madison, the precursor of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) to its emblematic institution, the government employees union — government organized as a special interest to lobby itself to expand itself. But Wisconsin progressivism is in a dark Peter Pan phase; it is childish without being winsome.
Wisconsin has produced populists of the left (Robert La Follette) and right (Joe McCarthy). On Tuesday, in this year’s second-most important election, voters will judge the attempt by a populism of the privileged — white-collar labor unions whose members live comfortably above the American median — to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
In this Milwaukee suburb, a pro-Walker phone bank is conducting mobilization, not persuasion. Isany voter undecided? For 16 months, Wisconsin, normally a paragon of Midwestern neighborliness, has been riven by furious attempts to punish Walker for keeping his campaign promise to change the state’s unsustainable fiscal trajectory driven by the perquisites of government employees. His progressive adversaries have, however, retreated from their original pretext for attempting to overturn the election Walker won handily just 19 months ago.