Some analysts are beginning to postulate that the protests in Madison, Wisconsin may turn into a larger sort of wave in favor of Democrats. I don't see it. I think there are a few disconnects in Wisconsin that suggest it will be tough to expand the protests to a greater political movement:
1. The disconnect between the apocalyptic protest rhetoric and reality.
Tea Partiers warned of the dangers of Obamacare and the stimulus. Since those things passed, none of the promised benefits have come to pass, and all of the dire warnings have been proven true. Deficits are at catastrophic levels, the economy remains in its doldrums, Obamacare has been ruled unconstitutional, and health insurance costs have skyrocketed while availability has shrunk.
By contrast, we are not going to see Wisconsin teachers in poverty next year - or ever. Their pay, benefits and lives just won't really change all that much. They'll still earn above the median income, as they do everywhere in America.
2. The disconnect between abstract "disapproval" and real-world disapproval.
People may say that they favor "collective bargaining rights," but it's difficult to imagine that very many of them could articulate exactly what they mean by this. It's even more difficult to imagine that, seeing government workers in Wisconsin remaining unionized next year, they will be at all angry about how Republicans took away...what?
3. The disconnect between disapproval and action.
Don't be misled by the apparent size of the protests in Madison. Unions have organized protests, and bussed in out-of-state protesters. This is probably the biggest contrast with the Tea Parties which were, and remain, completely un-organized, grassroots movement. People who wanted to join a march got in their cars and drove there. That is a level of enthusiasm that can't be matched by the Wisconsin protests.
The participants in Madison are hardcore Democrats - unionized government employees and campus leftists (it is a big college town, you know.) They certainly will vote against Republicans in 2012 - but they did that in 2010, also. Those crowds just don't contain the same numbers of former Independents as did the Tea Party events.
Anything can happen in politics, and I'm not one to suggest that Republicans have some kind of irreversible grasp on power. But they are much more likely to lose their majorities because they've disappointed the Tea Party crowd than because they ticked off hardcore democrats in Madison, Wisconsin.