Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Battle over rule of law

Stunning, isn't it, how quickly Gov Walker and the Fitzgerald Republicans have shown the kind of anti-democratic ideologues that they truly are. When they meet opposition, they hit hard, and then they try to roll over you. If you're the Democratic opposition in the Assembly and Senate, they try to pass quick votes on legislation no one has had time to read, they schedule quick votes and then don't tell the Democrats, they tear away a big controversial part of a bill successfully stalled by the Dems breaking quorum and heading south of the border, then violate open meetings laws to pass it anyway.

Then, when taken to court, a judge issues a straightforward, clear, unequivocal temporary restraining order to halt implementation of the bill until the issue can be thoroughly argued before the judge - and they act as if the court simply does not exist.

So the judge, understandably perturbed, reiterated her ruling earlier this evening. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi again pronounced today that the temporary restraining order is in effect, which means the law busting public sector unions and cutting pay and benefits is not.
"Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear,"  said the judge.

What does it mean to an authoritarian government when a court orders it to stop taking an action it wants to take? Well, nothing; it simply ignores it, of course. The Walker administration is going on as if the third branch of government has no authority. It does not recognize the rule of law.

I don't know how to communicate sufficiently the danger we are in here, and in the state of Michigan and other states where folks of Walker's ilk are taking direct hits at the very idea of democracy itself and the vital institutions necessary to ensure its proper functioning. It is not up to the executive or legislative branches of government to decide whether or not they will abide by the law when rendered by the third co-equal branch of government, the judiciary. If they get away with this, something far more disturbing will be blowing in our wind here in this state.

Powerful forces rooted in vast corporate wealth are at work here and around the country to gut government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The rightist politicians give away their real agenda when they refuse to submit to the rule of law when it challenges that agenda - to subvert democracy itself to their benefit.

Sec. of State Doug La Follette was on The Rachel Maddow show tonight and one of the points he made was apt - if the Republicans want to settle the matter, they could start over, resubmit the bill, and vote on it again. They have a majority in both houses. Is this mere stubbornness, "I will get my way or else?"

Asked to guess about their reasons for not doing this, La Follette smiled and then wondered out loud whether they are afraid it would not pass a second time.  With polls turning sharply against the Republicans and several enthusiastic recall efforts underway in Senate districts, maybe that's the case.

But I also wonder this - if the real effort here is to try to trump the court with a sheer power play, to try to weaken the rule of law by weakening the institution of last resort when rights are on the line - our state and federal courts.

The struggle for democracy is never finally won. Lack of vigilance, low voter turnout and apathy, disdain for government which has been all the rage in recent years, have allowed the corporate takeover of our public institutions to become a real threat to our democracy, while we were all looking the other way, or watching TV or playing video games while texting our friends.

Now we know - it is time to rivet our attention back into the political system in which we live and to hope it is not too late to wrest our government at all levels from the corporate billionaires who are making their bid to take power into their hands and put government at their service - to the detriment (and I really mean this, folks) of all of us.

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