The media loves nothing better than a hot new dance craze, a fashion trend, or some other kind of fad to beat into the ground. Anyone remember the Lambada? The Brazilian “forbidden” dance got so popular that it spawned not one but two utterly atrocious big-screen duds in 1990, Lambada (which lectured on class snobbery and bigotry), and Lambada: The Forbidden Dance (which lectured on the rain forest and the environment). At least my pet rock kept its opinions to itself.
Now the Washington Post reports on the latest dance craze to hit the political set — fleebagging:
Lawmaking can be a frustrating business, especially when you’re outnumbered. But some Democratic state legislators have recently embraced a simple tool to gain leverage: the empty chair.
The strategy was used to great effect this week, when two Maryland delegates did not show up at a committee meeting about a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Their colleagues cracked nervous jokes for 30 minutes before the session was canceled, delaying a final vote.
The tactic is still being used in spectacular fashion by Wisconsin legislators, who fled to Illinois two weeks ago to prevent a vote on a bill that would weaken public employee unions. And Democrats in Indiana who are upset about a similar issue also have decamped to Illinois, holing up at a Comfort Suites in Urbana. They work out of the breakfast nook, subsist on Subway sandwiches and donated chili dinners, and make frequent visits to the coin-op laundry.
Like every fad, though, this one has its downside. The Lambada inspired awful, sanctimonious movies. Fleebagging inspires, well …
The 14 Wisconsin senators on the lam, who left their colleagues one member shy of a quorum, have been hailed as heroes by some who think they are taking a principled stand against an unreasonable majority. But their critics have compared them to kindergartners and have ridiculed them as “the Wisconsin Flee Party.”
“If I did that in my job, I’d be fired,” said David Stevens, 44, a database analyst from Indianapolis who is sympathetic to the unions but not to the Democrats delaying the proceedings.
However, not everyone who champions this new fad has the requisite follow-through. Byron York reports that some of the original 14 Fleebaggers have been cheating a little bit on their technique:
One of the reasons Wisconsin Republican senators voted to place warrants on what are now called the fugitive Democratic senators is that at least some of those Democrats — the same ones who vowed to stay out of state until they prevail in the controversy over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal — have in fact been returning to Wisconsin for personal visits.
“We know that certain senators have been coming back on the weekends and spending time with their families or coming back at night,” Republican Sen. Randy Hopper told me Thursday night. In an interview with Fox News’ Greta van Susteren, Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald said much the same thing. “There’s no doubt that the Democratic senators have been sneaking back and forth,” Fitzgerald told Fox, “and some being as bold as to stay overnight in their own homes.”
What kind of fleebagging is that? It’s like doing the Lambada while giving your partner six inches of daylight on the dance floor. In fact, it’s even more pointless than that. The Wisconsin Senate only has to find one fugitive Democrat to restore the quorum in the upper chamber and complete the legislative process for the bill. If police do detain one of the Democrats and bring them back to the capital, then the entire dance would have been meaningless.
Republicans in Wisconsin have to stay firm on this point. This goes beyond the legislation on the table and strikes at the very heart of the legislature itself. If a losing party in an election can succeed in shutting down representative government to block the will of a majority, then we will shortly have no more representative government. Success here will inspire both parties in other states to join in the fad, and we will see the end of responsible government as a consequence. Anyone who hopes that representative government itself won’t go the way of the leisure suit has to pray that fleebaggers fail, and fail publicly.