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Scott Walker, Triumphant

All the major networks have called tonight’s Wisconsin recall election for Scott Walker.

Walker’s story is fascinating. His rise to the governorship was itself a remarkable achievement. A college dropout and an Eagle Scout, son of a small-town Baptist minister (First Baptist Church of Delavan), Colorado-born (but you wouldn’t know it from his Packer love). He met Ronald Reagan when he was a teenager on a trip with Boy’s State, and decided to go into politics. He ran for General Assembly five years later at 22, lost. He married a 36 year old woman when he was 25, moved to a better district, and won. And he kept on winning.

Walker still disguises his oddball nature and the cussedness of his character with scads of Wisconsin nice. It’s that combination which makes him a formidable opponent, one stubbornly convinced of the rightness and the essential nature of his views. Those people tend to win if their timing is right.

Confrontations between the people and organized labor aren’t new, but they have a way of translating to the national conversation. A single sentence arguably made Calvin Coolidge president: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” It hit a nerve then, as it has now. I have seen conservative crowds give applause for presidents and political figures all over the country, but I have never seen them applaud as they do for Walker.That applause will only get louder now.

Thus, on the eve of today’s recall election, came comments like this:

“We’re in a battle for freedom in this country,” Reince Priebus, a Wisconsin native and chairman of the Republican National Committee, told about 75 Walker supporters yesterday in Germantown. “We’re not only in a battle for the state of Wisconsin; we’re in a battle for the future of America.”

In most cases, I’d dismiss this approach as overheated rhetoric – Walker’s reforms are nowhere near as severe as they’re made out to be, and they are less exportable than some might like. But branding this as the most important election of the year is not entirely wrong. Walker’s confrontation writ large is not with public sector unions, but with the dying Blue social model. It is one of the longest-lived coalitions in American politics, but one the White House is already letting slip – the marriage decision was a clear sign of that. Tonight’s Walker victory may prove to be its death knell.

As Walter Russell Mead writes:

“A Scott Walker victory would reshape not just Republican politics but Democratic politics as well; leaders like Andrew Cuomo in New York and Rahm Emanuel in Chicago will be paying attention. If Walker wins handily, more Democrats will see the writing on the wall: Support for public sector unions simply isn’t the political winner it once was. This could presage a larger post-blue shift in the Democratic party for decades to come.”

Timing in politics can mean everything, and Walker’s is impeccable.

This, by the way, is how I recommend celebrating. I’m not really a blend guy, but the name makes it appropriate:

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