• With: Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, James Freeman, Collin Levy

    GIGOT: -- then at least we'll be in charge and we can frame the arguments?

    STRASSEL: No. And I think it's more disturbing than that and worrisome than that, Paul. I think that not only do they not much care but their actions they are taking are potentially undercutting the best Republican chances they have at taking over the Senate. So, for instance, down in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell -- the primary guy who's running against him, he's not going to beat Mitch McConnell. He's very far behind in the polls. But these ads coming from the Senate Conservative Fund, they are really roughing McConnell up in the state. And he could have a very difficult time running against a Democratic competitor in the general.

    GIGOT: Are there any of these races in the primaries that the challengers are likely to win?

    STRASSEL: Not at the moment. But, again, what's coming out in support of them is doing some real damage to the incumbents who are likely to prevail.

    GIGOT: James, briefly?

    FREEMAN: The Tea Party is doing a great public service pushing the debate towards smaller government. I think members of the Tea Party have to be careful who they follow, people like Ted Cruz, the so-called populous on the Goldman Sachs health plan. Maybe just think about the leadership there.

    GIGOT: All right, James.

    Still ahead, a big setback for big labor as autoworkers in Volkswagen's Tennessee plant vote against the UAW. Is the battle over, or can unions still conquer the south?

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    GIGOT: A stunning defeat for big labor last week when Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, rejected a bid by the United Autoworkers Union to represent their plant. The vote was seen as the UAW's best chance to make inroads in the south and bolster its sagging membership.

    Wall Street Journal senior editorial page writer, Collin Levy, joins our panel with more.

    Collin, this came as a surprise to a lot of people, I think maybe even including the union itself, which I was told, had only prepared one speech, a victory speech, and instead they had to give a defeat remark. Why did they lose when they had management at least formally neutral and arguably even on its side?

    COLLIN LEVY, SENIOR EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: Right. Paul, the union lost because the union is its own worst enemy. That's true really across the board here. You know, V.W. workers rejected it for the same reason we've seen union membership declining across the country. Back in 1975 -- back in 1979, the UAW had 75 percent more workers, so this is something that is very natural that the workers of V.W. are saying, why would we want to turn ourselves into Detroit.

    GIGOT: But the company itself was neutral but a lot of Republican politicians in the state, including Senator Bob Corker and the governor spoke up and said, look, don't do it. They had been very vocal. The union itself is saying that's why they lost because they had the opposition from these politicians. What do you think of that, Collin?

    LEVY: Right. The union's only version of a fair election is one where the only voice heard is the unions. These voices spoke up because the company was neutral I'm sure, in part, and, you know, workers deserve to hear what the different options are and what the issues are. That's not something the union should be criticizing, that workers are too dumb to make decision themselves.

    HENNINGER: You know, Paul, I think to some extent the UAW is a victim of its own success. This isn't the 1940s anymore. Over the years, the UAW has gotten all sorts of things in terms of wages and benefits for their members. The only other thing you associate with the word "unions" is dues. To join the union, you've got to pay them dues.

    GIGOT: Right.

    HENNINGER: And a lot of these young workers are saying, what am I getting in return for these dues, especially in a place like Tennessee? I've got a good job. I'm happy with my job. What is the union doing for me? Why should I be giving them all this money? And I think a lot of it has come down to the fact that these unions have not figured out a way to make themselves relevant to the modern workplace, like worker's circles, where you try to improve the product and that sort of thing. And some of the Tennessee workers walked away from the UAW.

    GIGOT: But, Kim, we had Bob King, the head of the United Autoworkers, come see us a little over a year ago. He talked a very good game. He said, look, we learned our lesson's from Detroit's problems, we realize we have to work with the management and we want these companies to succeed. Some of that was the same message they talked about in Tennessee. You may not believe it or not but clearly the workers didn't believe it. Why not?

    STRASSEL: No. The workers didn't believe it because -- here's the important point. Talking of outside influences, it's notable, President Obama made a comment about this election before it happened, making the case that those who oppose this unionization cared more about German shareholders than they did U.S. workers, and that was really the UAW's biggest problem. They have come to be seen as an extension of the Democratic Party.

    And that party is not very popular in places like Tennessee. There were billboards up, pointing out that UAW helped elect Obama and other local politicians. And that's something that resonated. The UAW, so long as it looks as though it's an extension of a political party, is going to engender a lot of distrust, especially in places like the south.

    GIGOT: A lot of talk, Collin, that this is the end of the United Autoworkers, that unless they can organize in the south, they're going to be slowly wasting away. I guess I don't buy that. Because I think they are still going to make a lot of efforts in the south. And they have that strength in Detroit. And they have a lot of political support from the Democrats and the administration. What do you think?

    LEVY: Yeah, I think you're right, Paul. I think unions and the Democrats become something of a self-sustaining system here. But there's no question, a real sense that if they can't do it when they have the support of management, when can they?

    GIGOT: And, Dan, it's the --

    HENNINGER: They look like yesterday's solution. It's a big problem for the Democrats. They're affiliated with these old industrial unions, like the UAW and the public-sector unions. They don't look like they have any forward vision.

    GIGOT: But it's the private sector. I mean, private-sector unions, they at least have a stake in economic success.

    HENNINGER: Yeah.

    GIGOT: If the union movement becomes dominated now by public-sector unions and government unions where it's easier for them to organize, isn't that a particular problem maybe for some -- the image they project, a problem for some of the private unions?

    HENNINGER: It is a problem for the private unions because they become less important. And I think if the younger workers see them as a failing or declining institution, there's no incentive to join them.

    GIGOT: All right.

    We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.

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    GIGOT: Time now for "Hits and Misses" of the week.

    Collin, first to you.

    LEVY: Paul, last year, the IRS was caught targeting conservative nonprofit groups for additional scrutiny and they promised to make amends. Instead, the agency proposed a rule that would further restrict the free speech rights of nonprofit groups. That proposal is now open for comments and it has already generated over 25,000 individual comments, a lot of them extremely negative, and many from liberal groups like the ACLU. So I have a hit to all those commenters for sticking up for the First Amendment.

    GIGOT: All right, Collin, thanks.

    Kim?

    STRASSEL: A hit to House Ways and Means chairman, Dave Camp, who after many years of work will this next week release a comprehensive blueprint for the GOP for tax reform. Some in Mr. Camp's party are pushing back, saying this is too ugly an issue, we don't want to tackle it in an election year. He's still pushing ahead. And good for him. Republicans are going to have plenty to criticize Democrats going ahead, but they're also going to need something that can show the Americans it' about their ability to tackle big thorny issues.

    GIGOT: All right, Kim.

    Dan?