One of the best analysis on the Walker Wisconsin recall win was penned by Walter Russell Mead at the American Interest today. If you’ve ever scratched your head in total bewilderment at the obstinate stance taken by Democrats over the commonsense agenda of reducing an outsized government bureaucracy, here’s your answer.
The public sector unions are critical to what remains of the American Left. The power of the public service unions in Democratic politics pulls the entire party to the left and gives ideas that are important to the Left an access to power that they would otherwise lack. But more important than that, they provide a kind of center to a movement that otherwise threatens to fragment into antagonistic cliques.
The New Left of the 1960s and 1970s rapidly devolved into different factions….But two big things unite them: a general sense of being on the same side in opposition to the economic and social Right, and the belief in a strong, well-funded state. For all of them, the progressive, bureaucratic government machinery of the 21st century is both the prize for whose control they struggle and the agent they hope will make their dreams real.
This is exactly what public sector unions believe in and want: more government mandates and more government jobs — with more security, higher wages and better benefits all the time.
A Democratic Party dominated by its public sector unions is a party married to government and to bureaucracy. To the degree that the public unions shape its agenda, the Democrats become a lobby for the servants of the state.
But the dominance of the public unions in the Left has had consequences for the Left itself — bad ones. In contemporary America, the public sector unions are essentially a conservative constituency. That is, their core goal is to get more resources in order to fight all but superficial change in the structures their members inhabit….they do not want the kind of reforms that could make these institutions more efficient, more productive, more serviceable.
To the extent that these unions shape the Democratic agenda, Democrats aren’t just the party of government—they are the party of inefficient, expensive, unresponsive, bureaucratic government. They are the party of government workers first and foremost.