Thursday, February 24, 2011

Run, Don't Talk

Forget the filibuster. We now have the fleeabuster. When you're outnumbered on a vote for a bill you don't like, why waste your breath speechifying when you can run away with your party buddies to create a quorum issue?

You probably know about the Wisconsin Democrats who skipped the state to thwart a budget bill that would end collective bargaining rights for state employees and force concessions on health care and pensions. Democrats fled Indiana and Ohio to gum up a vote. They all take some inspiration from a similar stunt in Texas a little less than a decade ago. The strategy is to force compromise on the objectionable bill. In Indiana, it may be working. In Wisconsin, not so much.

Moreover, the business of government is slowing down or stopping. Without a quorum, other bills don't come up for a vote, controversial or not. We all know the "gub-mint" moves slowly enough as it is -- except in Arizona, where the Republican-dominated legislature just rammed through a huge business tax cut in less than a week. But Arizona Democrats don't dare leave the state. They know the GOP would help them pack.

Those of us who grew up with decent parenting learned we can't run away from our problems. That's called being a coward. John Baldoni at Fast Company explains it further:
Embracing the run and hide strategy is a tactic that middle schoolers would understand--if you don't like something, go home. But since the legislators are adults the abandonment strategy comes across as self-serving and frankly un-democratic. The beauty of a democracy is that you work within the system to effect change; sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but the operative word is "work."
The Wisconsin Democrats know they can't win unless Governor Scott Walker makes a huge concession, which would then alienate the majority of voters who put him in office.

Majority rule isn't easy. It isn't pretty. You may not think it's fair. Fine -- go get your own majority in the next election. Holding the majority doesn't give you permission to whallop the minority with tyranny, but we're not at that stage. Wisconsin's runaway lawmakers have throngs of angry public employees on their side who have set up an ongoing protest in Madison. Cairo it ain't, but they'd love you to see the comparison to Hosni Mubarak or Mommar Gaddafi-Quadaffi-Kadafy-Whatever. One problem: Walker's no dictator and Wisconsin's no kingdom. And lawmaking is not some child's game where you get to march off and sulk if you don't win.

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