Thursday, March 10, 2011

Elections Have Consequences

The Republicans in Wisconsin won this round. Members of the Senate did an end around the Democrats who had fled to Illinois to prevent the necessary quorum for voting on the budget bill designed to bust state employee unions.

The Republicans control the Senate but had been blocked from voting on the issue after Senate Democrats left the state last month to prevent a quorum. But the Republicans used a procedural maneuver Wednesday to force the collective bargaining measure through: they removed elements of Governor Walker’s bill that were technically related to appropriating funds, thus lifting a requirement that 20 senators be present for a vote. In the end, the Senate’s 19 Republicans approved the measure, 18 to 1, without any debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room.

Nice move. And it will work. The State Assembly, also heavily Republican, will surely pass the changed bill. The public will now be faced with a strutting Scott Walker, the governor who wanted desperately to kill collective bargaining and got what he wanted.

Is the battle over?

Not hardly. State progressives will continue working furiously on the recall of several Republican senators and might very well succeed. In ten months, the possibility of a recall of the governor will rise on the horizon. In the mean time, union supporters will hopefully continue to apply pressure on the state legislature via ongoing peaceful protests.

But it's a battle that wouldn't have had to be fought if the state's voters hadn't elected Scott Walker and his Republican buddies. And there's the lesson. The Republicans "swept" into office in an election for which there was a dismal turnout. Too many people stayed home in November, especially in the big cities, the bastion of progressive politics.

Now, there are all sorts of reasons/excuses for that low turnout, not the least of which would be the total disgust of voters with the Democratic Party on the national level. Jobless, about to be homeless, with the economy in the toilet, Wisconsin Democrats watched as Wall Street and the wealthy got bailed out by Democrats who held the White House and controlled Congress and all they got was the equivalent of a tee shirt in payroll tax breaks. So, unlike November, 2008, the Wisconsin voter just stayed home.

And they got, sadly, what they deserved: Scott Walker and a Republican-led state legislature bankrolled by the Koch Brothers.

State and local elections may not have the cachet or drama of a presidential election, but they are just as important. In many respects, they are even more important for sending a message to national officials and party leaders, but at the very least those elections are necessary for the nitty-gritty work required to keep cities functioning and the state healthy. Those who stayed home in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison did their state a disservice.

Elections have consequences.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like only yesterday I was wondering how Progressives and liberals (like me) could possibly get our crowd as enthusiastic as the conservatives? It never occurred to me that the enthusiasm gap would be bridged not by anything the left did but simply by sitting back and watching the Republicans run as hard and as fast to the right as they possibly could. Before this is over I may have to send a thank you note to the Tea Party!

7:17 AM  

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