It took Scott Walker being elected governor for me to understand how stupid I am.
Throughout the gripping melodrama of Walker's fight with public employee unions, I have often sat for hours, transfixed by my glowing laptop monitor, watching my Twitter feed flicker by. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook have been a wondrous way to keep up with what's been going on in the Wisconsin imbroglio.
Best of all, as a supporter of Scott Walker's budget repair bill, I have been privileged to learn through social media about the depth of my ignorance. Using 140 characters at a time, friends of mine (and people whom I've never met) regale me with anatomically impossible descriptions of how far my head has found its way up my rectum. Insults on Twitter are like crack cocaine - distilled, uncut, with no waste product at all.
Here's some of the tweets and Facebook posts that have come my way:
"You are perpetrating a fraud on the people of Wisconsin." (From a friend in Seattle.)
"Prepare for your loved ones to get sh***y care should they end up in the hospital if there is no one to fight for a nurse's safe patient load and mandatory working hours." (As if people are lying dead in the streets in the 24 states with either no or very limited collective bargaining for public employees.)
"Go f*** yourself." (This one is self-explanatory and not plausible. I tried.)
"Good luck with your assault on the middle class." (I normally assault hobos, but figured I'd move up to people who actually have money.)
And these don't even count the ones posted by my wife.
There was a day when the political opinions of one's friends and family mercifully remained a secret. I never once discussed politics with my three best friends growing up. Only recently did one of them reveal to me that he's a Democrat. I guess I had suspected it all along, but his admission was a little shocking. I laughed and said, "Did we just accidentally talk politics?"
But now, the political opinions of other people are inescapable, even if you don't want to hear them. It's like being trapped in a car with your grandfather while he talks about how active his sex life is.
Here in Madison, many of the truncated bromides expressed via social media have little to do with the central issues. Scott Walker has been fairly explicit in why changes in collective bargaining are needed. He's discussed the need for local governments to save money in order to absorb the cuts he's sending their way. He's told the story of the Milwaukee Teacher of the Year who had to be let go because of "last in, first out" union rules that protect seniority.
Walker has demonstrated how school districts can save money (and therefore teacher jobs) by using competitive bidding for teacher health insurance, rather than being forced by teacher contracts to use the union's own insurance company.
And the response to Walker's arguments? Like a Greek chorus, state employees yell, "Scott Walker is a teabagger!" "Scott Walker is a puppet of the Koch Brothers!" "Scott Walker doesn't have a college degree!" "Scott Walker won't let us sleep in the Capitol!"
Of course, while these things may make Scott Walker look bad, none of them address the central question everyone wants answered: Why are public unions so great?
The reason this question is never answered on Facebook or Twitter is that the answer isn't favorable toward unions. Public unions simply exist to get more money for their members. Money that that the public doesn't have.
Furthermore, the public is starting to pick up on the fact that public unions essentially serve as a money pump from taxpayers to the Democratic Party. Unions collect millions of dollars in dues from public employees, then shift that money directly into efforts to elect Democrat politicians with which they then will negotiate their contracts. It looks remarkably like public funding of campaigns (which the public overwhelmingly rejects), but favors just one political party.
See if any of your public-union-friendly pals are bragging about that in 140 characters or less. It's much easier to tweet "Scott Walker is Hosni Mubarak!" (That's only 30 characters, leaving you 110 more to make the more timely bonus Qaddafi comparison.)
And sure, I take my shots on Twitter as well. I mock, I cajole, I provoke. But I've never called anyone a "fleebagger," never hit below the belt and only occasionally refer to "hippies." (Which has earned me the occasional rebuke for being "smug" and "glib.")
So I apologize if my tweets annoy you. You can rest assured that yours annoy me equally, and far more frequently.
Christian Schneider lives in Madison, works for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, and blogs at christianschneiderblog.com.