The blowback

The Blowback

by digby

This story in the NY Times about the change in tone from the slash and burn governors of Wisconsin and Ohio is fascinating. Apparently, they are both making conciliatory noises now --- after they managed to ram through their extreme austerity and union busting programs, to the horror of at last half of their states' voters.

In the months after a flurry of Republican wins of governors’ offices and state legislatures in 2010, perhaps nowhere was the partisan rancor more pronounced than in the nation’s middle — places like Wisconsin and Ohio, where fights over labor unions exploded. But now, at least in those states, there are signs that the same Republicans see a need to show, at least publicly, a desire to play well with others.
In Columbus, Democrats and union leaders were enraged this year when Gov. John R. Kasich, another first-term Republican governor, and the Republicans who now control both chambers of the legislature pushed through — mostly along partisan lines— a law that would limit the rights of public workers to bargain collectively.

Republicans in Ohio advocated for the measure as the logical response to shrunken budgets in towns, cities and counties. But union leaders and Democrats — and a group calling itself We Are Ohio — spent months collecting more than 900,000 valid signatures (hundreds of thousands more than needed) to put the law to a vote in a statewide referendum in November. A campaign, which is expected to draw significant interest and spending from political groups in Ohio and nationwide, is likely to begin in earnest soon.

Last week, Mr. Kasich and Republican leaders sent a letter to the union organizers, calling for a meeting to discuss a compromise. The leaders said they still believed in the law they had passed, and a spokesman for Mr. Kasich would not say precisely what areas the Republicans were willing to give in on. “We are prepared to move forward immediately with legislative action to implement any agreement on changes we are able to reach together,” the letter read.

“We ought to get to the table and we ought to talk about it,” Mr. Kasich told reporters on Friday, meeting with them in a room full of empty seats and placards for the absent organizers, although the organizers said they had turned down the invitation. “Is it too late?” Mr. Kasich asked. “It’s never too late.”
In the weeks after Mr. Walker proposed the limits in February, state lawmakers, newly dominated by Republicans in the Capitol, split in two. The minority Senate Democrats fled the state to try to block a vote on the measure. The Republicans issued the lawmaking equivalent of warrants against them, and at one point, threatened that the Democrats had to collect their paychecks in person — or not get them at all. And, as protesters screamed outside his closed office door, Mr. Walker firmly defended the bargaining cuts and said his administration was “certainly looking at all legal options” against the other party.

But after a summer of expensive, brutal recall election efforts against nine state senators — Democrats for having fled the state, and Republicans for having supported the bargaining cuts — Mr. Walker seemed to be sounding a different, softer note. He said he had called Democratic leaders in the Legislature even before the polls closed in some of this month’s recalls, which, in the end, maintained the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers, though by a slimmer margin of 17 to 16 in the Senate.

The question the article asks is whether this is a reaction to voter backlash or simply a move to the middle after having accomplished much of what they set out to do.

I don't know the answer to that, but I would suggest that Democrats keep pushing regardless, as hard as they can. The GOP's strategy is probably a little bit of both things --- a sense of success at getting what they wanted, and a substantial fear that they went too far, too fast and will pay a political price for having done it. They must pay that price or it's hard to imagine how far these nuts will go in the future.

It doesn't matter whether they fear the backlash or whether they are just relaxing after a job well done. Sadly, the states are not likely headed for a robust recovery. The bright side is that these political extremists will have to shoulder much of the blame for that. It's vitally important that they do.

Update: Speaking of states,
C&L is bringing back the 50 State blog round-up just in time for the election:

The 50-state blog round-up has existed over the years in various forms. The idea is to take a look at state and local blogs in order to see what important things are going on in state politics and campaigns, to get a preview of what's coming to the national stage and to recognize the work of great state and local bloggers.

Last time out local blogs proved invaluable when the Republican nominee chose an obscure, looney Governor from Alaska. This time perhaps we can all be a little bit more systematic in tracking this stuff on the ground everywhere.

Good for Kenneth Quinnell at C&L for making it happen.Click here for the latest blog posting from around the country.