"When will it end?" The Journal Times asks this question today in their print edition, referring, of course, to the political standoff in Madison.
The simple answer to the question is that it will end when the state senators who have left their jobs return to them. But it ain't that simple.
I have noticed the nearly complete lack of criticism of the fleeing lawmakers by prominent national Democrats. Not a senator, not a house member, not Maureen Dowd, or Paul Krugman, or even the sports guy turned politico who used to work at MSNBC, have criticized the absent senators. And most importantly, President Obama too, has been silent on the matter.
Now it is not as though these folks aren't paying attention or that they are too timid to weigh in on a contentious political matters. President Obama has weighed in publicly at least twice in support of the government unions.
What to make of the silence from President Obama on down concerning the fleeing 14 state senators? Of lesser importance, fleeing your job probably doesn't poll well with Americans. Of great importance, President Obama AGREES with the tactic. If he didn't, he would say so, if not publicly then behind the scenes. And if he said so, would all fourteen Democratic state senators defy pressure from the President of the United States? Hell no!
For over two hundred years, we have decided matters of great importance through an established political process. We vote for representatives who in turn decide important matters with input, often contentious and raucous, from anyone who wants to weigh in. Admittedly, the governing bodies in power of both parties will sometimes use their majorities to rush things through the system to their advantage. The process can be ugly but we have tended to agree that it beats all other alternatives. And in the end, there is a vote, the matter is decided. If you lose, you resolve to convince voters to toss the other guys out of office at the next election.
But now the Democratic Party, from President Obama on down, is changing the way we decide matters. If we don't like how the vote will go down, we flee to prevent a vote. We break the established rules. We replace a voting process with protesters. It is an ends justifies the means approach to governing and it is ominous for our country. And publicly at least it has the tacit approval of the President of the United States.
Now back to the "when will it end" question. I don't know, but it could and should end with President Obama saying something like:
I support unions and collective bargaining. I am discouraged that the Republican Party of Wisconsin has the votes to diminish the collective bargaining powers of the state workers unions. As important as collective bargaining rights are, there is something of much greater importance. Voting. It is how we decide matters here in America. The state senators who have fled the state need to return and do their job representing their constituents. If they don't like the result of that vote, they can work hard to convince the people of Wisconsin to move in another direction. But the people of Wisconsin recently voted for Governor Scott Walker and he has the votes to move in a direction that you may not like. But as I like to say, elections have consequences.
Like I said, this is how the standoff could and should end. But it won't, because President Obama apparently agrees with tactics that undermine 200 plus years of political tradition in our country.