At what point does the decision to hold democracy hostage transform from a localized example of petulance to a national strategy? Perhaps when Democrats try to paralyze another state legislature whose agenda they cannot control … say, in Indiana, for example:
House Democrats are leaving the state rather than vote on anti-union legislation, The Indianapolis Star has learned.
A source said Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky. They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.
The House was came into session this morning, with only two of the 40 Democrats present. Those two were needed to make a motion, and a seconding motion, for any procedural steps Democrats would want to take to ensure Republicans don’t do anything official without quorum.
The issue? Same as in Wisconsin. Republicans in the legislature have offered a bill that addresses union prerogatives. In comparison to the proposal in Wisconsin, however, this one is rather mild. It would bar unions and private-sector firms from establishing rules that require non-union employees from being forced to pay representation “fees,” a back door for forced dues payments. It puts teeth in the open-shop environment, and it’s broader in scope than the Wisconsin bill (which only applied to public-sector unions), but it doesn’t restrict collective bargaining rights at all.
Democrats in Indiana may only be staging a momentary walkout as a way to express solidarity with their colleagues in Wisconsin — or more accurately, their Wisconsin colleagues who have fled the state rather than allow the elected legislature to conduct business. Even a symbolic walkout carries significant and deeply damaging consequences to representative democracy, however, as I explain in my column at The Week today (specific link later when posted):
The true test of a representative democracy comes not in an election, but in the aftermath of an election. If the losing party or parties in the election recognize their loss and continue to participate in self-governance, then representative democracy works. When the losing side refuses to participate and boycotts governance, especially in such a manner that vital legislative work gets obstructed, then representative democracy itself is threatened. …
The fleeing Democrats have essentially stolen the will of the public and their right to self-governance. Wisconsin voters elected Republicans to majorities in both chambers and Walker as their executive by convincing margins. The minority in representative democracy has a right to be heard, but do not have the right to stop the process of governance by shutting down the legislature. In essence, those state Senators who went on the lam have attempted to overturn the last election through unprecedented and illegal obstruction and dereliction of duty. They have demonstrated the haughty arrogance of those who refuse to accept their role as public servants and instead make themselves into autocrats.
If Republicans overreached with their budget-repair bill and unfairly restricted the rights of unions, then let Democrats go on record opposing the bill and make it the centerpiece of the next legislative election in Wisconsin. Under the circumstances, though, the Democrats who have tried to hijack democracy in order to dictate terms should be the ones who fear the next election the most.
Given the White House and DNC involvement in the Madison protests, it seems clear that this has become a national strategy on the part of Democrats — to run out on legislatures where they hold the minority, and to hijack government in an attempt to make the majority the servant of the minority. The party should change its name to the Anti-Democrats … or, since they seem enamored of running away as a political tactic, we can take a page from their book and call them Fleebaggers instead.
Update: Here’s the link to my column.