Wisconsin Politics At Its Worst

Some six months ago, the Wisconsin State Legislature exploded onto the American political scene like a supernova. The heated debate and protests over Governor Walker’s proposed budgetary legislation put Madison, Wisconsin on the map with every major news outlet in the country. After a stalemate that seemed to last for years, punctuated by the Democrats in the Senate leaving the state to prevent a vote, the budget legislation was finally passed, ending the impasse. Or so we thought…

Shortly after Governor Walker signed the bill, a local judge issued an injunction preventing the implementation of the law. It turns out that the judge has a son who is involved with the unions on some level and her ruling was ultimately overturned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who stated that there was not legal justification for circumventing the State’s legislative body. Okay, now it’s over… or maybe not.

Also shortly after the signing of the bill, Democrats mobilized to garner enough signatures to force recall elections on as many Republican Senators as possible. They succeeded in doing so for 12 Senate seats, while Republicans pushed for and forced recall elections for two Democratic seats. The recall elections for the first six seats come up this week.

Now, let me first say that the ability for the public to request a recall election is an important, necessary component of the democratic process. This gives the voters the opportunity to “ask for their money back” without waiting until the next election cycle. This is a good thing.

That said, doesn’t this just smell quite a bit like simple revenge? Wisconsin, typically a blue State, voted Republicans into office in November which resulted in that party controlling both houses of the bicameral legislature and the Governor’s office. In an attempt to correct Wisconsin’s spiraling fiscal problems, they proposed and were set to pass budgetary legislation.

Democrats disagreed with the proposal, and in a child-like tantrum, fled the State to prevent the quorum required for a vote. All the while, the unions that stood to lose the most from the law organized massive protests in an attempt to manipulate the democratic process. They also tried to garner public support for their cause by making it about collective bargaining rights (when in fact, what they really objected to was the component of the law that no longer required union membership as a condition of employment for public sector workers). They net result is that they were unsuccessful. The law was passed and upheld after a court challenge.

So what did Democrats do? They acted like sore losers and launched a massive campaign to recall the Republicans. Now, you might disagree with the legislation and you might disagree with everything that the Republicans stand for. That’s fine. It’s your right to do so, but what exactly did they do to justify being recalled? It seems to me that even if you disagree with them, nobody can argue that the Republicans didn’t do their jobs.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats in the Senate fled the State. It was preordained that they would lose the vote so, instead of participating in the process and working to try to get a better deal, they ran away. If any individuals or group of Senators deserved to be recalled, it’s the Democrats that fled. They knowingly and willingly left the jurisdiction to stall the democratic process.

These Senators made a choice to not do their jobs. They claimed that they were representing their constituents by doing everything in their power to prevent the legislation from passing, but the simple truth is that in order to represent those people, you have to participate. They did not. They ran away.

At the very least, this is dereliction of duty. If these Senators were in the military, they would have been court marshaled for abandoning their post and would have received a dishonorable discharge, if not confinement in a federal prison.

Did the Republicans go after these 14 Democratic Senators? No, only two Democrats are up for recall (although I believe that they tried to recall three, but only got enough signatures for two of them). They should have, in my humble opinion, but they didn’t. If anyone deserves to be recalled, it’s the 14 that abandoned their post, not the ones that they disagreed with.

This is what politics has become. It’s really nothing new, but it seems to have gotten worse over the last decade. Don’t get me wrong, it happens on both sides of the aisle, but recent history has shown that the behavior of Democrats is much more despicable than that of the Republicans.

It’s ironic that one of the DNC’s favorite talking points is that Republicans “play politics”. Yet, Wisconsin is a perfect example of the Democrats forcing recall elections because their ideas lost. In the best case, they’re doing so because they disagree with the Republicans. In the worst case (and probably more likely), they’re doing so out of revenge.

So, who’s playing politics?


Photo by Richard Hurd

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