Madness in Madison – Damned if You Do…

By YeOldeScribe ~ March 2nd, 2011 @ 10:52 pm

As we pointed out in yesterday’s blog post, Wisconsin Democrats are put in a tough spot with Scott Walker’s “My way or the Highway” approach to governing. Walker, the fearless leader of Wisconsin, has been unrelenting in his drive to get the state legislature to pass his Budget Repair Bill as-is. Democrats have made concessions and pleaded with the governor to at least come to the negotiation table in good faith, but their cries have fallen on deaf ears. As a response, 14 Senate Democrats left the state almost two weeks ago to prevent a quorum in the Senate, which means that the budget bill (and any bill with fiscal measures tied to it) can’t be debated. A nifty solution to say the least.

And yet, it’s not a solution at all. By running away, the Democrats have successfully stalled the bill – but they are powerless to stop it. Eventually, they will have to come back, and when they do, their objections to the legislation will be unceremoniously disregarded and the bill will become law. When they left the state, the senators had to make a tough choice – abandon their constituents and flee the state to stop an unjust bill from becoming law, or have their voices ignored faster than Walker can say Koch five times clearly (which is harder than it sounds, but Scott has practice). Now they face another tough choice – and they are damned if they do return, and damned if they don’t.

Make no mistake about it, the day even one of these senators returns is the day the bill becomes law. The Dems don’t have enough votes to stop it, and there is no filibuster in the State Senate of Wisconsin. As soon as one Democrat makes it back to the dairy state, quorum is reached, the votes are tailed, and Walker signs the bill. Don’t expect any Republicans to switch sides like they did in the Assembly, either. There’s fewer members, so each vote counts for the Republicans, as they only have five more members than the Dems. There has been no indication that any Republican is planning to step across the party line on this legislation, and all the evidence points to their camp being unified in support. So what should the Democrats do? Which choice is the lesser of two evils?

As we indicated last night, ProgressivePolitics.com believes the best choice is for the 14 Democratic Senators to return home. We’re not going to rehash the comments made yesterday, so let’s take a look at this in a different light.

First, the Democrats are fighting a losing battle, and they know it. Eventually, they will have to come home – especially given the Republican measuers aimed at hastening their return. Republicans had previously stopped direct depositing the paychecks of the missing Democratic Senators (but they can come pick up their checks conveniently located in the capitol whenever they’d like). Today’s measures just add to the pettiness. (We especially like the fact that the Senators are to be personally charged for any costs incurred while law enforcement searches for them. How much does Dog the Bounty Hunter charge these days, anyway?) Petty as the sanctions may be, they’re not frivolous. Given that, they can’t run from this problem forever.

Also, the Senators need to come back because there is work to be done, and it’s their responsibility to do it. While we don’t believe that the Republicans and Walker were given a mandate to do exactly what they’re doing now (a topic we’ll cover in a future post), the people of Wisconsin did speak with their votes on what direction the state should be headed in based on who they elected. Also, no matter how anyone dresses up the issue, the Dems are shirking their responsibilities as Senators by not showing up to vote. While their actions may be understandable, they’re not excusable.

Finally, at this point, the Dems stand to lose more than they gain. Public opinion, which a week or so ago was clearly on their side, will slowly shift back to the Republicans the longer the Democrats are on the run, because even though the Republicans are the ones who refuse to negotiate, the Democrats look like they’re the ones unwilling to listen by running away from the problem. This public opinion is not only important to the individual senator’s chances of being re-elected, it’s important to the cause as a whole and to the Democrats who will step up to challenge incumbent Republicans in the next election cycle. Finally, the capitol isn’t dormant while the Democrats are gone. The Republicans are still passing important legislation without the Democrats being present, like congratulating the Packers on their SuperBowl victory… and some unimportant stuff like making some of the most restrictive laws in the country on voter identification instead of the last restrictive status WI citizens currently enjoy.

We agree with the missing senators in that they really are caught between a rock and an hard place, damned if they do and damned if they don’t. But just like they made the right choice in leaving two weeks ago, WI Dems need to realize that the smart play for them now is to come back and be defeated on this legislation. Everyone loves a martyr, after all – and the Democrats don’t even have to die to become one (although democracy sure will).

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6 Responses to Madness in Madison – Damned if You Do…

  1. Nathan Wright

    Well Tim,

    I wasleaning towards the Senators staing out of state indefinately. Then I read your two blogs on the subject. I spent the day on my route mulling this over, and actually was convinved to change my position on this. Then I came home and discovered that the Republicans had issued arrest warrants on the Dems. Never mind, there really is no reasoning with them…

  2. YeOldeScribe

    Mr. Wright, Thanks for posting, I appreciate the feedback! Look for a new post in a few hours covering PoliticalProgressive.com’s thoughts on today’s developments!

  3. Andrea Frederick

    I’d actually heard that one republican had openly stated that he would no longer support the bill…while that more than likely means that he’s just going to refuse to vote, it’s still huge. And there are five other more “moderate” republican senators who have been speculated to potentially waver if there is enough public pressure.

  4. piscine bois

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  5. YeOldeScribe

    Piscine –

    We’ll be adding new posts daily, starting with two fresh posts tonight! Glad you enjoy the site, and thanks for subscribing!

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    Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what they’re talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe you’re not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

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