Tuesday's failed attempt to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was the fourth attempt to stop or roll back limits on public service unions. The first attempt happened when several Democrats left the state in an effort to keep the legislature from having a quorum. After that failed, the union supporters turned what was supposed to be a non-partisan judicial election into referendum on the legislation by supporting a candidate who promised to find the law unconstitutional. Next they tried to take over control of the state senate by forcing a recall of several senators. They were partially successful. They gained two seat but failed to get a majority. Finally they forced a recall on Walker himself as well as the remaining Republican senators.
Walker won by a healthy margin. The Democrats appear to have taken the senate although the margin of victory was less than 1,000 votes. That will not be enough to roll back the legislation.
So, what does this mean? Many, especially union supporters, are attributing Walker's win to the fact that he outspent his opponent by a huge margin. This contradicts stories from before the election on how little effect Walker's ads were having. You can't have it both ways.
This recall actually represented two losses for the unions. Their preferred candidate did not win the primary so they had to make do with the guy who did win. The whole purpose of the recall was to demonstrate to elected officials the power of the unions. Instead they demonstrated that they can make a lot of noise but the do not represent the majority of the voters.
The alliance between Democrats and public service unions was always incestuous, anyway. The Unions are one of the Democrats biggest supporters. In return, the Democrats make sure that the law favors the unions. Walker threatened this by making union membership voluntary instead of mandatory for public employees. The unions lost between half and two thirds of their members (and their members' dues).
A lot has been said recently about the contribution of the unions to the middle class. This may be true, but it is irrelevant. Those days are long past. Today's unions seem more interested in enriching their management than their members. Regardless, it was not the public service unions that made these contributions in the first place. They are a relic, only able to hang on because of that incestuous relationship with the Democrats.
One final thing, Democrats have been taking solace in exit polls showing that President Obama still leads in the state. These polls should be taken with a grain of salt. They do not include absentee voters who broke heavily for Walker.