While I strongly disagree with the law pushed through this week by the Wisconsin GOP to strip public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights, I think the political lesson that all politicians can take away from this event is that, whenever possible, you should act quickly and decisively.
If Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republican senators were willing to use these hardball and legally questionable tactics now, there is no reason they shouldn’t have been willing to use them three weeks ago when this fight first started. . . or even last week. I don’t think there is any doubt in people’s minds that, politically, the Wisconsin GOP would have been better off if they did this move the day the Senate Democrats fled, before they could become a national rallying point for labor.
I can only assume that Walker didn’t use this option on day one of the fight because he actually bought into the right-wing propaganda that regular people are angry at greedy teachers, and at first welcomed the stand-off because he thought it would make him look good. But after just the first week, it was clear the public had turned against the GOP in the fight. As we saw in the health care debate and almost every other high profile political fight, once the public turns, it is almost impossible to win them back.
As soon you see the public turning, that is the point you should have either rammed it through or dropped it. Allowing it to just fester, while giving the opposition time to organize before finally using hardball tactics to pass it, is the worst possible choice.
Just like the national Democratic party did untold damage to themselves by foolishly allowing the futile health care negotiations to drag on well after the public turned before just getting it done with reconciliation, the Wisconsin Senate Republicans lack of decisive action could force many of them into recall elections that they will lose.
Obviously the best short term political advice is to never take up an unpopular issue, but if a party is going to insist on doing something that might be unpopular, they should be prepared from the beginning to use whatever tactic they have to get it done quickly before it festers.
The only thing worse than an unpopular political move is an unpopular political move done extremely slowly so everyone has a chance to find out more about it.