Robert Reich opens a fascinating window into the enraged Lefty mind in a recent post complaining of the recent "coup d'etat" in Wisconsin.
It is fascinating in a few ways. In the middle of the post, Reich expresses his fear that the protestors will get out of hand, giving a public relations victory to the Republicans. Reich even goes so far as to say that "Walker would like nothing better than disorder to break out in Madison"--a vicious charge that says more about Reich than about Walker. Reich worries that his fellow Lefties won't keep their protests civil.
That leads to the strange ending of Reich's post: "The American public may be divided over many things but we stand united behind our democratic process and the rule of law. And we reject coups in whatever form they occur."
Wisconsin worked well within the confines of the democratic process. Changing the rules that govern government unions is hardly regime change. How is that a coup?
Governor Walker was willing to negotiate with the Democrats on several issues, but not on the matter of making the payment of union dues voluntary, and making the re-certification of unions by the members a regularly recurring thing. As some Lefties have noted, such a law takes dead aim at a major source of Democratic power. Hence they regard it as cynical. But why is that the case? The rules of the game, before the law passed, tilted the playing field heavily to the Democrats. The Republicans are trying to tilt it back.
That's a coup d'etat if one believes that the current regime is not, simply, the American, federal, democratic-republic, but rather the broader regime of laws we have now (or at least until yesterday in Wisconsin). For Riech, the additions and changes that were made to the American republic in the 20th century are supposed to be permanent victories for his side, which he things is Progress. Hence making paying union dues voluntary is a coup-d'etat, and not simply politics as usual. In his view, one side is Progress, and the other side is Reaction. The philosophy of History makes that point of view posible. The right of people who work for the government to organize and to bargain collectively is on a par with the right of the individual to the fruit of his labors. The idea of Progress masks a power-play by the Left.
If, however, one believes that there are no permanent victories in politics, the world looks rather different. What looks to a Progressive like an assault on rights looks to somone with a more classic liberal view as a mere argument about how to calibrate labor regulations in the republic.
It's not the first time that the failure of the world to change has frustrated and confused men of the Left. It also suggests that many Democrats who are over 40 or so still have not gotten over 1994. From their perspective Congress is supposed to be a Democratic house, and, beyond that, policy changes are supposed to be those the Left wants. Making laws that not only undo or limit some bits of Progressive legislation, but that go after some of the roots that made the American establishment Democratic is, from Reich's perspective, a coup. Once the Democrats fix the rules of the game, Republicans are not supposed to change them, even decades later.