Last summer, I referred to failed attempt of Wisconsin unions to flip control of the state Senate as Big Labor’s Kaiserschlacht – the political equivalent of Imperial Germany’s last-ditch spring 1918 offensive aimed at winning the war before the growing American armies could tilt the balance.
If that was the Kaiserschacht, yesterday’s recall was the Battle of the Bulge – Hitler’s bloody gamble that sealed the fate of Nazi Germany.
Called Wacht Am Rhein (Watch on the Rhine), the plan squandered Germany’s military reserves – resources that might have forced a negotiated settlement or at least protected eastern Germany and Berlin itself from the Red Army. By attacked westward rather than eastward, all Hitler did was ensure that the Soviets would win the race to Berlin and that the Iron Curtain would fall on the line of the Elbe rather than the Oder.
And yet, Big Labor isn’t finished. Here in Michigan there are rumblings that the United Auto Workers are pushing for a ballot initiative to lock in union benefits forever. This is too clever by half.
For one thing, Michigan is trending against unions, with support for Right to Work now near 55 percent. This type of overreach – at a time when union contracts have pushed Detroit to the brink of bankruptcy – can only convince hitherto neutral voters that union leaders have abandoned all reason. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has avoided a showdown with unions. This will force his hand – and may finally convince him to follow Indiana’s example and seek Right to Work legislation.
Moreover, this measure could have a decisive impact on the presidential race.
It is unlikely President Obama would ever endorse such a sweeping power grab – yet he will have to campaign here constantly to prevent the Michigan-born Mitt Romney from winning the state.
Each and every time the one of the candidates sets foot on Michigan soil, the question will be asked: “Do you support this measure?”
For Romney, the choice is an easy one: No. Romney can make the case that forced union membership is outmoded and against the public interest, particularly for the public sector.
Obama will then have three equally awful options:
1. He can refuse to take a position on a “state matter,” which will make him look like a total coward,
2. He can support the unions, and thereby define himself as a radical and alienate the center, or
3. He can reject the measure, and turn on his base at the precise moment when he needs it the most.
It remains to be seen if the union rout in Wisconsin will convince the UAW to see that this referendum can only end in disaster. Reason thinks not.
Then again, no one ever accused liberals of being reasonable.