These are certainly interesting times. While hundreds of thousands of people are putting their lives on the line to promote democratic processes in their lands of Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and Iran, forty-some thousand of Americans gathered in Madison to subvert the democratic process. What a contrast for the world to see!
Returning to the presidential election of 2008, Barrack Obama and the Democrat Party won decisively, not only carrying the presidency but garnering large majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives. “Hope and Change” was their motto and President Obama together with Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate passed a whirlwind of legislation that more than met the “Change” definition, but certainly attenuated “Hope.” You may remember Mr. Obama’s response to Republicans at a negotiating session, to wit: “We won.” Democrats passed a bevy of legislation that increased the deficit and soared the national debt to dangerous territory, while the Republicans in the Congress were muted.
What we didn’t see is the Republican senators pack up and return to their home states to sulk. No they continued in the democratic process showing up on the Senate every day it was in session and voting. The disapproval of the Obama Administration agenda appeared in the form of the Tea Party – a rising up of a segment of American citizenry to the realization that their country was going broke with the massive spending programs enacted by the Democrat controlled Legislative and Executive Branches. Rallies were held peacefully throughout the country sans signs and portraits that the President and his minions were a reincarnation of Hitler and other evil dictators. The result – an election in 2010 that swept Republicans into a large majority in the House and an increase in the Senate. That was truly “Democracy in Action.”
Contrast that scenario to the happenings in Madison. First, the Republican tide swept Wisconsin, resulting in capturing the governorship and majorities in the Assembly and State Senate. There was never any doubt regarding Governor Walker’s positions during the campaign and he swept into office easily. One of his first acts was to cancel the $850 billion federal funding for an alleged “high speed” passenger rail line between Madison and Milwaukee because of the deficit operating cost burden it would have placed on the state in the future. That brought out the “usual suspects” who see federal funding as free money and let our children and grandchildren worry about adding to the state deficits in the future. The protesters did not prevail and Wisconsin joined Ohio and Florida in returning the federal funds.
Walker’s next step was to pass a budget repair bill to close the deficit by requiring state workers to pay their fair share of their pension and medical costs. That hit a sore spot with the public unions creating a sullen response. When the bill also eliminated the bargaining rights of those unions except for wages, sullen turned to mutinous. One can argue either side on this development recognizing that 24 states already have adopted this approach. Such towers of labor rights, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia opposed labor unions in the public sector.
So the call went out from the unions and the Democrat National Committee for a convergence on Madison of teachers and other state workers plus supporters from other states. Some forty thousand assembled in Madison to show their opposition to the Walker plan. Teachers left their classrooms closing schools involuntarily in Milwaukee and Madison putting the lie to their past stand that it was “always about the children.” President Obama chimed in from Washington and good old Jesse Jackson showed up to rouse the crowd, as did the President of the AFL-CIO. Their freedom to assemble and vent their spleen was never challenged. The over-the-top tackiness of the signs comparing Walker to Hitler, with moustache to match, and the reference to “teabaggers,” a sexual term, lowered the dialogue to a debasing level.
But what is worse and unforgivable is the departure of every Democrat state senator from Wisconsin so that a legal quorum can not be achieved for voting on the bill. In contrast to their past positions in supporting the separation of church and state, religious leaders are offering their congregations as sanctuary for the missing senators. It’s amazing how quickly pious leaders can cross that church/state boundary. Will this affect the non-taxable status of their churches and synagogues?
When and where it will all end, is anybody’s guess. The missing Democrat state senators will have to show up sooner or later and a vote taken. Whether they will get the bill amended more to their liking is unknown. The appropriate solution is for them to return ASAP, participate in a vigorous floor debate and have the final version voted on. If the result is still not acceptable to the protesters, unions and Democrat Party, take a leaf out of the Obama opposition and organize an equivalent to the Tea Party, say the Hot Chocolate Party, and convince the voters of Wisconsin to return Democrat majorities to the Assembly and State Senate in 2012 and reverse the results. That process is truly “Democracy in Action.”