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Friday, March 04, 2011

Republicans' Love/Hate Relationship with Democracy

Trash can marked 'vote here'Wisconsin Republicans are getting desperate. As a standoff with the people of Wisconsin and fourteen absent Democratic Senators stretches out into it's third week, it's safe to say things are not going as the GOP and Gov. Walker had envisioned. Polling shows them losing the public, several members face almost certain recall elections, and every day brings another embarrassing misstep, as the Walker administration tries to tamp down the protests at the Capitol. Just another day at work for Scooter Walker and the Wisconsin Politically Tone Deaf Orchestra.

And so, they're trying everything (short of the most obvious thing in the world; compromise) to put this Cheddar and Beer Rebellion to an end. Earlier this week, Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald led the passage of a bill that would fine the absent Democrats, who had left the state to deny the chamber a quorum, one-hundred dollars for every day they skipped out on the vote. That plan lasted the five minutes it took for everyone to realize that it was an illegal bill of attainder and no Democrat had anything to fear from it.

Then yesterday, Fitz made a big show of signing a second Hail Mary pass in the center of the State Senate.

Wisconsin State Journal:

Senate Republicans Thursday ordered the forcible detention of their 14 Democratic colleagues, who fled the state two weeks ago to avoid a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill.

"They have pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said of the boycotting senators.

But it remained unclear Thursday whether the resolution and warrants seeking to force the senators back to the Capitol are legal. The state constitution prohibits the arrest of legislators while in session unless they're suspected of committing felonies, treason or breach of the peace.

You can see where this is going, right? Another empty threat from Fitzgerald and, again, no Democrat returned to the Capitol. So what's next? John Nichols has the skinny:

Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has raised the prospect of expelling Democratic senators from their seats, effectively disenfranchising more than 2 million Wisconsinites, in order to pass Governor Scott Walker's proposal to strip public employees and teachers of most collective bargaining rights and consolidate power in a manner that would allow the governor to deny low-income Wisconsinites access to healthcare and begin selling off public properties in no-bid deals with campaign contributors.

Republicans in the Senate voted 19-0 Thursday to hold the Democrats in "contempt of the Senate" -- a new charge developed this week by Fitzgerald and his aides -- for refusing to rejoin the body, and provide a quorum, until Walker and Republican legislative leaders agree to permit genuine hearings on the governor's so-called budget repair bill, to follow traditional legislative rules and engage in honest negotiation regarding the proposal that has inspired mass opposition.

After the measure passed, Fitzgerald told reporters that, whether the Democrats return or not, Republicans plan to consider discipline for them, such as reprimands, censuring or expelling them from the Senate.

That's right, expel them from the Senate -- i.e., remove them from office without a recall election. "With Walker making daily calls to Republican legislators with an eye toward keeping Republicans in line -- amid reports that some GOP members are wavering -- it is clear that the Republicans are now desperate to pass the bill," Nichols writes. He points out that this too is almost certain to fail.

For a group of people who justify everything they do by pointing to the November election results, Wisconsin Republicans seem extremely dismissive of the results of other elections. They take great umbrage at recall talk and accuse opponents of trying to undo the elections. If Fitzgerald and friends go ahead with expulsion -- or are even seriously considering it -- they can shut up about that. They'll be undoing the results of fourteen separate elections and they'll be doing it in the least democratic way possible. With a recall, at least you leave it up to voters. As Nichols points out, two million Wisconsinite ballots would be thrown out the window, merely to jam a bill through that polls show Wisconsin doesn't want.

At this point, it's time for Walker and his Republicans to remember Rumsfeld's First Rule of Holes -- if you find yourself in one, stop digging (advice Donald Rumsfeld himself would've been wise to accept). You've got no bargaining position, every one of these boneheaded moves to force Democrats back not only fails, but hurts you politically, and all because you're bound and determined to defend a non-budgetary provision in the state budget that pretty much no one wants anyway. That light at the end of the tunnel? That's not the other side. It's the headlight from your own locomotive, shining on a brick wall at a dead end. And you're shoveling in more coal. This is not going to turn out well for you guys.

Maybe it's time to do what I've already called the most obvious thing in the world -- compromise. That brick wall is getting awfully close, awfully fast.


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