Public employee appreciation: Is the Governor feeling a bit remorseful?

Perhaps nothing in the news caused more people to chortle than Gov. Walker's recent proclamation of "State Employee Recognition Day." It's the kind of thing, if announced via e-mail (which it was), that can result in a chain laugh-a-thon.

My personal favorite: That's like Mickey Rooney proclaiming "Ex-Wives Appreciation Month." (Editor's note: I'm fond of the "Mighty Mick," but it would take a month to list them all!)

I'm certain that Madison has enough wise guys (and gals) to spin them out machine-gun style, but in all the hilarity perhaps we're witnessing some not-so-subtle damage control.

Could it be that Scott Walker is somewhat remorseful over his decision to whack collective bargaining for public employees?

Think about it: Before the budget repair bill, his party held both houses of the Legislature and was churning out bills, including several that are very favorable to the world of commerce, without a great deal of difficulty. Now, virtually everything is on hold, the GOP's majority in the State Senate is threatened by recalls, and Walker himself could face a recall challenge in 2012 with no shortage of high-profile names being bandied about (including former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who has won three statewide races).

In special Assembly elections, the recent flipping of a Republican Assembly seat to the Democrats does not portend well to one of the recall targets, State Sen. Dan Kapanke. That flipped Assembly seat is in his Senate district, which is out of the reach of conservative talk radio, and one wonders if the senator already has begun to update his resume. He already has a credible challenger in State Rep. Jennifer Schilling, a La Crosse Democrat, and he's likely to learn a very bitter lesson about advancing a cause, the curtailing of collective bargaining for public employees, that was not espoused during the 2010 election. Not by Walker. Not by any Republican running for the Legislature, including Kapankne.

I have a nasty streak of fairness that endorses an electoral sanction for such a double cross, even for politicians whom I agree with more often than not. What other answer do we have for politicians who act so cynically? In Walker's case, that sanction could be the loss of the State Senate to the Democrats, if not his governorship.

True, the shortsightedness of the business boycotts holds the potential for electoral alienation, but I've seen signs that the pro-union side is getting smarter about its outreach, which will be essential to winning the forthcoming recall elections. The National Education Association, for example, began running more sensible radio spots highlighting the value of teachers, which is where the focus should be for any class of public employees.

In his proclamation, Walker thanked state employees for serving the public, and he praised their hard work and dedication. He also announced a new state employee recognition program to further recognize exceptional service by state employees, but I can't help but think many would be inclined to refuse such a citation as a means of protest.

Critics will say this move is another cynical, politically motivated step, a "throw-them-a-bone" type of move, or simply something to show independent voters that Walker actually is not too hateful. But it could be that this proclamation "proclaimed" plenty about the Governor's state of mind. Additional proof would come from acknowledging his mistake and changing his position on collective bargaining for public employees.

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