Monday, March 28, 2011

Whistling in the Dark? Or assuming teachers are masochistic?

Craig Gilbert at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an interesting article today discussing the likely significance of voters from public employee households in deciding the April 5 referendum on the Walker administration that is otherwise more formally referred to as the Supreme Court election, and what the results on April 5 may say about the likelihood that members of the GOP8 will be recalled later in the summer.

Gilbert quotes Brian Fraley of Wisconsin's conservative think-tank, The MacIver Institute:
"Public employees are a sizable but not monolithic block. There are a great number of public employees that support conservative policies and candidates," says Brian Fraley, . . .  who also argues that "younger employees, including teachers, will soon see the merit in a new merit-based compensation system. Any short-term political downside will be offset by long-term gains."
This statement by Fraley is either whistling in the dark or insanity. The public employees who may have supported conservative policies and candidates in the past are going to have a hard time in the near term forgetting that the Walker Administration decided, for purely political reasons, to paint them as greedy malcontents at the root of all fiscal evil in the state.  It's also doubtful that by April 5, or even well into next year's fall election cycle, including possible recall elections this year and next, that the state and local workers, including nearly one hundred thousand teachers, will casually forget that the Walker-led legislature passed a mammoth tax increase on them to balance the budget, letting them shoulder virtually alone the burden for the rest of Wisconsin taxpayers.  I talked anecdotally about one such voter in an earlier post.  Walker and the GOP have, I believe, lost this particular voter for a long time to come.  I suspect she is one of tens of thousands that Mr. Fraley may feel are still in the conservative camp. 

There is another problem for the GOP on April 5 and beyond that results from demonizing teachers as greedy, under-worked and over-paid.  The good ones, which is the majority of them, tend to have cadres of former students that like to keep in touch after they have gone on to college, married and started their own families.  Just for fun today I went to Facebook and looked up the number of Facebook friends on the pages of four of the teachers from Madison whom I knew were on Facebook.  The average number of friends per teacher was 1,006.  Now a lot of those teachers' current friends are kids still in school who are too young to vote, which is a whole different problem for the Republican Party. But many of them are graduates, old enough to vote, who have seen the posts of their teachers discussing their sense of outrage at being the GOP's scapegoats this year.

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