Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s statement and press conference Friday was a textbook example of how to govern in serious times. He was plainspoken, direct and sincere, and the public employee unions as well as President Obama and all the other national Democrats who are attempting to reverse November’s vote in Wisconsin and impose even more costs on taxpayers will not win any sort of confrontation with such candor and against such facts. The unions in Wisconsin are appearing more and more like the demonstrators in Greece who took to the streets when their bankrupt country scaled back on promises it could not keep, and the left’s noise machine cannot overcome the reality that everyone in the country has felt the past three years –everyone, that is, except the public employee unions.
Which is why every member of the Congressional GOP should be studying Walker’s approach and preparing the case for purposeful and principled refusal to “compromise” on an already deeply compromised House budget document. Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor have to do exactly what Walker did today –present clear arguments about the seriousness of the moment, and to do so unapologetically and with reference to the key fact that there is no more money. This is what the Speaker did after the vote early Satruday morning, and he needs to repeat these messages across all possible platforms over the next two weeks.
There are compelling reasons why Obamacare rules and EPA emissions regs should not be funded, why NPR, CPB and high speed rail must be zeroed out, and why Planned Parenthood should not be using taxpayer funds to subsidize their mission when that mission clearly includes abortion services. These are all subpoints to the overarching argument that the deficit is at a crisis level and that urgent action is necessary, both as to the overall cost of government and also as to its mission and scope. The Speaker and Leader McConnell also have to present the fact that the CR is just the first of three steps, to be followed by additional disciplines imposed via the debt ceiling legislation and then in the 2012 budget. Everything has to be laid out for the public without secret deals or the old-school Beltway gamesmanship.
If the leaders lay out why they are going to insist on the House CR, they will win the debate and the spending cuts as well as the limiting amendments. The president and the Congressional Democrats, backed by the ludicrously partisan MSM are already trying to define the argument and the terms, but the GOP needs only follow the example of Walker and Chris Christie before him and steadily repeat what every voter knows: The country is broke and cannot do less than what has been done and must indeed do much, much more. They must also explain, as Walker did today, why it is not just a question of spending cuts but also of crucial legislative reforms.
The House GOP damaged itself badly over the past two weeks by refusing to vote obvious cuts, but if it stands firmly on its collection of half measures and fights doggedly on the next two rounds, it can reclaim credibility on the fiscal issues. If it folds over the next few weeks, it will have folded on everything. If there is anyone inside the caucus who doesn’t understand how deep the damage is, they haven’t been listening, and don’t understand that the era of telling the grassroots what they must understand and accept is long gone.
Calm, specific appeals to the facts backed up by sincere declarations of a fixed intent to win the House budget –a budget that at least moves a half-step in the direction dictated by the clear will of the people this past November– will see the Wisconsin episode replayed on a much larger stage and with significant, defining effects. Every would-be GOP presidential candidate should be backing up the House GOP budget and urging the Speaker to refuse to back down from what is already a watered-down CR.
The next month is hard to overstate in terms of importance to the country and the Congressional GOP. This is the moment at which time they promised to deliver genuine reform, and they cannot blink and say “Wait a few months more,” and expect people to listen. The great news is that Scott Walker delivered a perfect example of how to handle just such a moment. Let’s hope the Beltway staff and the consultants were paying attention to the governor and not just each other.
And for some additional reading on teacher pay and benefits, read Rich Stowell’s take on the issue. I met Rich in Kosovo when he was deployed with the California National Guard, but he’s a teacher/education consultant in his civilian life, and his no-nonsense take on the debate swirling across the country is another example of how the facts have caught up with the public employee unions.
All of these debates have already been won. Republicans at the state and federal level just have to remember that, even when the media declares up is down and red is blue.