Over a year ago, I wrote:
But it will backfire. It didn’t take long for the opinion polling to demonstrate clearly that Scott Walker’s overreach would earn him ill repute in a state with a proud history of labor rights. Walker and his GOP lackies chose to plow ahead, amid ceaseless protests in the Capitol (which have only grown tonight, of course). Now it’s time for the reckoning. This anti-worker bill will be used in every coming election, both in Wisconsin and around the country, as a way to show that the GOP has gone too far.
I was wondering when the tipping point would come; my economics training taught me about social structure of accumulation theory, in which an economic downturn can resolidify support for various policies that will restore economic balance. We didn’t quite get that in 2008, because of politics. Instead, we got a half-baked stimulus and a dead-on-arrival Employee Free Choice Act. We got a weakened health care bill that was a Phyrric victory and has been a political football since the minute of its passage. We got a climate change bill that passed only one house, again, dead-on-arrival in the Senate.
Social structure of accumulation theory, as I wrote in an assignment in November 2008, would predict that we’d have many restorative policies by now. Instead, somehow, the pendulum swung a little left, and then was dragged way right by shrill voices with the worst of intentions. With this anti-worker bill, I think, the pendulum will swing back. We needed a tipping point to restore sanity (not just the Jon Stewart kind) in this country. We needed a wake-up call to show moderates that Republicans don’t care about fiscal rectitude- instead, they are out for their own political gain and for the economic gain of the well-heeled. This short-term success spells long-term doom for the GOP.
Or so I hope.
Oops- I guess in the short run, I got that wrong. And ultimately, I think mainstream liberal commentators like Ezra Kleinare much more likely to be right, than are those who think unions will miraculously resurge (like me in 2011):
Wisconsin’s new law won’t, on its own, radically change the power of public-sector unions. But Walker’s ability to withstand the recall will likely spur other governors to follow suit, and likely drain the enthusiasm of the opposition in other states. And even if it doesn’t, labor’s inability to win the recall is more evidence of their inability to reverse their own structural decline. They’re not winning on worksites, as the share of the labor force that’s unionized has been dropping for decades, and they’re not winning at the ballot box.
Let’s rewind to 2008- at the time, the talk of the labor left was the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made organizing unions much easier. The economy collapsed, Obama and the Democrats achieved a supermajority, and it still couldn’t become law. Indeed, with that example in mind, it’s hard to imagine how labor can make a comeback. I don’t know what progressive institution, if any, can fill the void. But either way, here I am in 2012, eating crow and searching for answers.