22 February 2011

Profiles in Cowardice

A Wall Street Journal article by Douglas Belkin and Kris Maher gives a concise narrative of how the fourteen fleeing Wisconsin State Senators decided to fight Governor Scott Walker’s (R-WI) legislation over the budget bill through flight from the state capital in Madison.  These elected officials decided to abandon their offices just three hours before a roll call on the legislation.

During a coffee klatch by the Capitol, Democrat Minority Leader State Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) recommended regrouping in Rockford Illinois at the Best Western Bell Clock Tower Resort which could be easily spotted from the Interstate. This spot was an hour and a half drive from Madison was just over the Wisconsin state line, which was out of reach of Badger state troopers to recall the legislators on the lam.

Twelve of the fourteen self-exiled Democrat State Senators managed to make it to the Bell Tower Resort, but two missed the mark due to a wrong turn on the highway. The Democrats flight did not remain secret for long when Miller was spotted by reporters in the hotel parking lot trying to elude a cellular dead zone. Citizen activists figured out where these cowardly State Senators were held up and two Tea Party types confronted State Sen. Jim Holperin (D-WI 12th Eagle River) and State Sen.  Bob Jauch (D-WI 25th Poplar) as to why they were not doing their jobs in Madison.

It was interesting to learn some of the hardships that these absent Democrats have endured in their exile, like paying $28 for a room service hamburger or a spouse needed to drive 350 miles roundtrip to deliver clean laundry and $300 cash.  Wonks have wondered if these diasporic Democrats were expensing their exile on Wisconsin state credit cards.   In 2002, 50 Democrat Texas State lawmakers tried to flee Texas to protest the redistricting plan.  The Democrats were enticed back to Austin when Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) cut off the state credit cards.  One lesson learned from the Lone Star expatriation  comes from Texas State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-TX 26th San Antonio) who recommended, “If you are going to be out more than two weeks call your spouse for conjugal visits.”

Now Hoosier lawmakers are following their Badger counterparts and Indiana Democrats have fled the State Capitol in Indianapolis to avoid legislating limited governmental union coercion. This is a pitiful abdication of their oaths of office.  Being an elected official means making hard choices and going on the record with their representation.  Taking your ball and going home when you know that you are going to lose risks making our democratic republic look like a banana republic, more like an unstable Mesoamerican regime than a hip retailer.  Some slick politicians who aspired to run for higher office were chary about taking difficult votes, but at least he voted “present”.

Perhaps these abdications of office are political theatre, coordinated anarchistic strategy or just a desperate short term answer for losing legislators.  But this fight by flight strategy may be too clever by half.  In Wisconsin, there needs to be a 60% quorum when voting on budgetary matters, but only a simple majority for other legislation.  These cowardly Cheesehead State Senators might find lots of antithetical acts have been passed in their absence.

H/T: Wall Street Journal
H/T: Garyvarvel.com

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