By Collin Roth
The ‘Great Emancipator’ he is not. But that didn’t stop Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett from telling a group of Democrats in Racine that if elected, “I will end the civil war.
Civil war? Is that what we have come to call the last year in Wisconsin?
No one disputes that Wisconsin has seen an unprecedented year of contentious politics. And it is not yet over as a recall election of Governor Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four Republican State Senators was recently scheduled for early June. But is it really appropriate to declare this a “civil war?” And if it is a “civil war” as Mayor Barrett likes to say, lets extrapolate on how it has been waged and what Barrett means when he says “I can end it.”
The “civil war” no doubt began when after eight years of a Democrat Governor, newly elected Governor Scott Walker tackled an inherited $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes and without massive layoffs. The primary vehicle to fix the budget hole was collective bargaining reforms that afforded local communities the tools to prevent massive layoffs while balancing their budgets in the face of inevitable cuts in state aid.
The reaction of course were massive protests, an occupation of the capitol, fake sick notes for teachers missing school to protest, death threats against Republican legislators, and a series of recall attempts culminating in the recall of Governor Walker this June.
Seems like a pretty one-sided “civil war.” On one side was a group of newly elected officials attempting to tackle a serious fiscal issue with innovative reforms. On the other side was a privileged class of public employees resorting to Alinskyite-tactics of permanent protests and permanent campaigns to preserve gold-plated pension and benefits packages.
And Mayor Tom Barrett can apparently end this conflict? How?
As an elected official, Mayor Barrett used the collective bargaining reforms to save the city of Milwaukee $25 million. But at the same time, Barrett is trying to sell himself to Democrats as a white knight to “end the civil war,” committing to the full restoration of collective bargaining rights for public employees as recently as Monday night on national television. It’s a rather untenable position. Mayor Barrett has to explain that while he saved his city millions of dollars, he regrets it and wishes to do away the tools used to accomplish the savings.
Perhaps Mayor Barrett should figure out the “civil war” raging between his rhetoric and his actions before he so generously commits to saving Wisconsin from itself.