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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Fight Not Over by a Long Shot

On Tuesday, Bob Schwoch -- a UW communications professor and a former chief of staff of two Wisconsin Republican state senators -- circulated an open letter to current Republican senators. Gov. Walker was leading his party to ruin, Schwoch warned, and he was doing it for reasons other than a love for Wisconsin.

The sunThis governor is not hard to read. He’s a giant fiery ball of ambition. When he sneezes he compares it to how Reagan sneezed. His first major act, after netting a modest 52 percent in a GOP wave election, was to pick the most dangerous and inflammatory political fight he could think of. His next major act was to propose a budget that might get him re-elected in Texas, but not Wisconsin. Why?

Clearly he doesn’t care about getting re-elected in Wisconsin. He doesn’t care about protests, or poll numbers, or recalls. He barely even cares if what he’s proposing passes. So long as he gets attention for proposing it.

Scott Walker is driving a fast bus to Washington, estimated time of arrival 2012. Fourteen of his Senate passengers jumped off and hid the moment they knew what was happening. The other 19 might want to wake up before their own districts disappear in the rear-view.

Last night, all but one of those nineteen senators ignored that advice. Republicans stripped the collective bargaining issue from the "budget repair" bill and passed it as stand-alone legislation. In doing so, they admitted that their argument all along has been a lie -- by passing it as a policy bill, they got around the rule that requires a quorum for passing fiscal legislation. The law passes, not as a necessary budgeting mechanism, but as the naked power grab it has been all along.

The Democratic response to the maneuver was uncharacteristically harsh.

"Using tactics that trample on the traditions of our Legislature, the Republican leadership has betrayed our state," Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party Mike Tate said in a statement. "Republicans have rubber-stamped the desire of the Koch Brothers and their godshead Scott Walker to cripple Wisconsin’s middle class and lower benefits and wages for every single wage-earner in our state. The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this never was about anything but raw political power. We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republican senators who voted for this heinous bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall."

Those districts Schwoch warned would "disappear in the rear-view?" Yeah, there they go.

But before those districts go, there are other statewide elections. The first since Walker's kamikaze run at the future of his party will be a race for the state Supreme Court between incumbent David Prosser and assistant attorney general Joanne Kloppenburg on April 5th. Like the US Supreme Court, Wisconsin's highest is conservative by a slim majority and this election could flip control. Anyone who thinks that all or part of Walker's power grab isn't going to wind up in court has simply not been paying attention.

Throughout, Republicans have used illegal tricks and maneuvers to push this thing forward; from scheduling a vote for a certain time and trying to vote secretly before that time, to Gov. Walker's "Koch call," to the current move, which Rep. Peter Barca argued violated the state's open meetings law:

David Prosser was a Republican legislator before his appointment to the high court by then-Governor Tommy Thompson. And, judging from the mood of the state right now, "David Prosser is a Republican" is probably a winning enough message for his opponent. Prosser won his primary with 55% of the vote, but that primary happened just as this whole thing was getting started -- I was at the first protest at the capitol that day, then voted on my way home. It hadn't snowballed into the giant political fiasco it has become. Now that the political landscape here has changed, what everyone assumed was Prosser's easy walk to reelection has probably gotten a lot more competitive. With Wisconsin residents already impatient for recall elections, Republican David Prosser's already existing statewide election may have changed drastically. The courts are undoubtedly where this fight is heading and Justice Prosser has the great misfortune of being right there, out in the open, ready to be picked off.

Further, if former shoe-in Prosser goes down, it'll put starch in the shorts of Republican legislators. What will their prospects look like if they don't distance themselves from this unpopular governor? Walker may be dreaming dreams of a VP slot or even the presidency, but what about those he ruins on the way up? Are they just going to let it happen?

"Just let it happen" is what they did last night. Let's see if a bucket of cold reality snaps them out of it. Vote April 5th.


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