Arrogant Republicans and Runaway Democrats
The scenes inside the capital of protesters huddled in sleeping bags on marble floors and munching on free pizza for nourishment is only half of the drama. The other half is happening somewhere outside the state where 14 Senate Democrats have decamped in an attempt to thwart a vote on Governor Walker’s plan. Without them, the state Senate doesn’t have a quorum — the minimum number of legislators needed — to have a vote. Their exact location is unknown, although the Chicago area has been mentioned in a few reports.
How did it come to this that an entire political party has to walk away from their duties in order to make a point? It’s an old ploy that has been used time and again in America’s history. Most recently, a group of Texas legislators stayed away to prevent the majority party from implementing a controversial redistricting plan. Such actions are always a double-edged sword. They might (or might not) accomplish the initial goal, but later the true result will be analyzed in the next elections.
Throughout all of this drama, Governor Walker’s motives have been examined by both sides of the issue and all sides in the media. His stated goal of reducing his state’s deficit is in line with the penny pinching image he has cultivated. One of his election ads portrayed him as an ordinary guy who drives an older car and brown bags his lunch everyday to save money for the “important things”. This image can be seen in his proposal for the union members to contribute more to their health and pension plans.
The unions have agreed to these concessions, knowing full well the possibility that they may never come back no matter how great times are in the future. Yet Walker — who vaulted to statewide power with the support and blessings of the limited government favoring Tea Party movement — ironically overreaches with his accompanying demands which will restrict unions’ ability to organize, collect dues, and represent their members in negotiations. The unions were right to give the concessions and simultaneously stand up to preserve their hard-earned right to collective bargaining. As a (now unemployed) union member and great-grandson of a German immigrant who — according to family lore lost both of his legs in the anthracite mines of central Pennsylvania — I believe the benefits of collective bargaining are vitally important to the financial well being of many American families.
Walker has displayed his anti-union tendencies before, and the result was disastrous. His attempt to hire a private firm to run the Milwaukee County Jail when he was county executive a few years ago has just recently been ruled as illegal. The courts ruling that the unionized guards be compensated for all of their back pay will eventually cost the state of Wisconsin millions of dollars. This incident — coupled with an admission during a prank phone call disseminated on the Internet that he considered hiring troublemakers to infiltrate the protesters — is revealing the governor's highly politicized intentions.
Meanwhile, the runaway Democrats are hiding out, far from their families and constituents, facing loss of income because they cannot collect their paychecks in person, and sadly, not getting any free pizza. I hope they hold out as long as they can, even though they may eventually take some criticism for pushing Wisconsin to the brink of financial disaster. I also hope the protesters hold out until the governor decides to abandon his ideas, although I’m sure the taste of macaroni and cheese pizza (What did you expect? This is Wisconsin, after all!) will grow tiresome after awhile.
Once again the main villain is the arrogance of one side’s refusal to compromise. This concept is a cornerstone to resolving all conflicts, whether they are personal or political. Unfortunately, the insistence that compromise is not an option is increasingly seen by political conservatives as a sign of strength. Yes, they may believe their resolve is unbreakable, but they won’t see any of their radical ideas come to fruition any time soon.
(Thank you for reading. Please remember that even the hardest of stones are susceptible to the winds of change.)