If Mitt Romney's weakness is with movement conservatives, and I do not share that view, then he should give serious thought to naming his vice presidential running mate now. He does not need to wait until the Republican National Convention this summer. The most consequential Republican governor or legislator in the country is Scott Walker of Wisconsin. He had the temerity to take on the public sector unions in his state when the political stars were aligned. Recall that the left in Wisconsin, a sizeable portion of the electorate, turned to civil disobedience last summer in order to block his reform bill from even being voted on by the legislature. Walker remained steadfast as some of his colleagues advised he compromise with the unions.
Also recall what he actually proposed: to revise Wisconsin's labor law to curtail the right of public sector unions to collectively bargain over non-wage matters, i.e., benefits. Benefits, health insurance and especially pensions, had grown so astronomically that they were engulfing the state's budget with obligations it can't meet, as has occurred here in Illinois. Public sector unionization is an affront to the taxpayers. It allows public employees to shut down the government if they do not get their demands met. It puts governors and other state officials in a quandary. They have an obligation to the taxpayers to keep labor costs low, but they also have an obligation to keep government operating. This conflict inevitably plays out in favor of the unions. Real reform would abolish collective bargaining for public employees altogether. But that would likely have been a bridge too far for Wisconsin.
Walker astutely knew he had a short window after his 2010 election to get change enacted. It was politically possible because the 2010 election also produced small Republican majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature. He probably could not have stripped the public sector unions of all of their powers, so he pushed as bill to obtain some fiscal sanity by limiting those powers.
The ferocity of the ensuing civil disobedience, all of the Democrats in the state senate left the state to prevent a vote, and the nonstop demonstrations outside the State Capitol in Madison made for a tableau of left versus right we have not seen in years. Walker put his career on the line. And he won -- for now.
Gov. Walker is now facing a recall election, and the polls indicate he will win it. That complicates naming him as the vice-presidential nominee. But it does not prevent Mitt Romney from doing so. Walker could accept the nomination and still fight the recall. He would not have to resign the governorship unless Romney is elected president. It would show, once again, his conservative bona fides. It would also set up the inevitable clash in the next Congress over reform of the National Labor Relations Act, the New Deal law that nationalized the union movement and consigned millions of workers to paying mandatory union dues. It also led to the inevitable bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, who were forced to pay supra-competitive wage rates (above what Japanese and other foreign manufacturers pay).
There is simply only one Gov. Scott Walker. Choosing him show more political courage than any symbolic gesture or commercial can do.