Note: This was co-written with my brother, Drew Ryun, president of American Majority Action.
This week, America saw what real hope and change actually looks like. The Wisconsin recall fight wasn’t about Republicans and Democrats. It wasn’t about Obama. It was about the power of the majority of taxpayers who stood up against being fleeced by the very public employee union bosses who have put them on the hook for trillions of debt. Beginning fifteen months ago and culminating with the recall victory, the conservative movement struck back in Wisconsin and redefined the national fight for America’s future. Now is not a time for celebration. It’s time to take the fight to the next level.
Last year, after weeks of union protestors occupying the state capitol in Madison, American Majority and local Tea Party groups completely changed the narrative by drawing 10,000 citizens to defend Walker’s pro-growth reforms. It was the beginning of a historic effort to take on the size of government and the disproportionate control of public employee unions. Since that day, fiscal conservatives and outraged taxpayers have been waging a war for their future. It’s been a fight between the vast silent majority and the public employee union bosses who have burdened not just Wisconsinites but Americans from coast to coast with massive unfunded obligations and debts.
In Wisconsin, these engaged citizens won because they not only were courageous and right on the issues, but because they stopped relying upon the Republican Party to fight the battle. In Wisconsin, we saw conservatives band together, get organized, embrace and implement professional political tactics to ensure Walker’s reforms survived.
Big Labor and others grasped years ago that with an efficient and effective ground game, they could catapult their supporters into office. They won thousands of elections with union dues and union members pounding the pavement. Then without regard to the majority’s ability to pay, negotiated contract after contract that today are bankrupting governments across the country.
After all, people with bad ideas and great organization will often beat people with great ideas and bad organization. The Left’s approach to organizing has relegated America’s once powerful private sector to a position subservient to a growing number of government institutions.
However, what we saw in the weeks leading up to the Wisconsin recall was the makings of a pitched battle between that vaunted labor union ground game against the Tea Party movement as the Tea Party moved from simply protesting to actually organizing.
Here in lies a key lesson from Wisconsin. For too long conservatives have given themselves false assurance that good ideas alone win. They do not. However, ideas powered by effective and efficient on the ground organization can, and will, win time and time again.
This is why American Majority Action teamed with Tea Party groups on the ground in Wisconsin and using the Gravity database system effectively surveyed and turned out conservatives so that instead of buckling under the onslaught of the labor unions, the Tea Party and taxpayers rose to the occasion and provided an example for the conservative movement that we can beat the beast-if we organize and implement.
Wisconsin now gives us a glimpse into the fight yet to come. According to a recent Marquette University poll, public employee union households supported Barrett by more than 2 to1. However in households where at least one person was a private sector union member, Walker was within the margin of error. This is significant.
Conservatives should be careful not to alienate private sector trade unions. They are feeling the pinch of government spending just like the average American. They don’t have guaranteed work or job security. The more money the public employee unions suck out of the system for benefits and pay increases, the less money exists for government-funded projects. The more debt and higher taxation necessary to pay public employee unions, the less money private enterprise has for a host of projects that put food on the table of trade union workers.
Not all unions are created equal. Not all unions are bankrupting America. The divide between the private sector trades unions and their gluttonous public sector counterparts must be widened to deprive the taxpayer-funded unions of a crutch they’ve long relied on for public support of irresponsible policies. As conservatives, we should drive the message that private sector unions are fueled by a thriving economy and embrace the idea that their members are also feeling the ill effects of bad deals and unfair advantages.
In Wisconsin, more than 40% in exit polls had an unfavorable opinion of public employee unions. Expect that number to rise as more and more Americans begin to realize that these unions have saddled governments across the country with trillions in debt that will continue to stifle the economy. This rise in public opposition is one more reason why trades union workers should align themselves with reforms and cease to be used as pawns in a political game that only benefits those on the public payroll.
Finally, with union power on the ropes, it’s time to divide and conquer. Fiscal conservatives, concerned taxpayers, business owners, and yes, trades union members who care about a European-style debt crisis on our shores should begin to organize similar efforts in five or six states simultaneously. The national union bosses who raise and dole out funds to support liberal candidates will be forced to defend their members at the state level. But here’s the catch – after pouring millions into Wisconsin and failing, they won’t have the financial resources to defend multiple fronts at the same time this year or next.
Mounting Wisconsin-style reform efforts in multiple states will divide financial resources and human capital of the big government unions allowing more conservative candidates and policies to have a shot even in the heart of true blue territory.
We have proven that the majority will vote for common sense and against the continued blind acquiescence for this protected class of citizens. Now is not the time to celebrate. Now is the time to bleed the taxpayer-funded unions dry and enact reforms that will safeguard the taxpayer and strengthen our economy. American Majority and American Majority Action have been in the middle of this fight since its inception and we’re ready for more.