Tom Hayden is correct in that this defeat for progressive ideals is disastrous. He misses one factor that the idealists failed to perceive as they rode out on Rocinante to tilt with a veritable windmill farm. The activists tried to rally the troops by portraying Walker as a threat to employee rights beyond those of public employees. The ship of employee rights and benefits has long sailed; defined pensions, seniority, job security, severance pay, adequate healthcare coverage sank to the muddy bottom years ago. In the meantime, budget deficits result in local government services’ being cut, as property taxes skyrocket. The reality is, no matter the esteem that the general public may hold for teachers, police, firemen and even tax collectors, they don’t see the need to protect them with tenure, low-cost/high-coverage healthcare, guaranteed pensions and similar benefits. Walker’s attack on public unions could not spread to the public in general, as workers have no rights, except for a small minority of remaining private-sector union members.
Conservatives have spent thirty or more years fighting a propaganda war that they are winning. Progressives have to prove they can offer an agenda that not only benefits all of the 99 percent but that is achievable. Fighting small wars is fighting on Republican turf, and even victories will be small; but every defeat is a blow against progress.