Thursday, March 17, 2011

Closed government

Perhaps the most popular chant during recent protests was an old tried and true one: "This is what democracy looks like!"

Here is what democracy does not look like:

Building commission meeting closed to public

At this closed meeting, the Building Commission made decisions regarding $1.1 billion worth of bonds for the next 2 years. This bonding could include a controversial proposal for no-bid sales of power plants in the state.

Yesterday the Dane County district attorney filed suit in state court claiming that Senate Republicans violated the state's open meetings law in the manner in which it passed the portions of the budget repair bill pertaining to collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.  You know the moment only too well, but if you need a reminder and some background, go here.

Meanwhile, we have an election coming up on April 5 for a seat on the State Supreme Court. Given the legal challenges mounting over the way in which the new governor and Republican majority are trying to ram through their agenda, this latter election has taken on new significance.  In case you wonder about that, Republicans are making it perfectly clear.

This from the Wauwatosa Republicans:

"David Prosser is the only Conservative running in the State Supreme Court race. If he doesn’t win, the court will have a 4-3 liberal majority, and all of the reforms that Governor Walker is accomplishing, will be challenged and judged by liberal legal activists who believe that their opinions are more powerful than the Constitution."

Opinions more powerful than the Constitution... Does this mean that Joanne Kloppenburg, should she win, would not respect the Constitution? That's the accusation implied here.  I worry a lot when one group like this claims a special hold on the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution.

In any case, it's a pretty stunning development when a race for judge takes on this kind of significance.  Says a lot about where our democracy is right now. Are Republicans aware that many of the things they want to do might be challenged in court? Is this revealing of their intentions that they are feeling anxious about this?

It has occurred to me often in recent years that the new rightist Republican party tries to claim the mantle of patriotism and American correctness, as if more than 200 years of a 2-party system and a vibrant, often cantankerous, political culture, is not itself the heart of the democracy.

Closed government, closed meetings, hastily put together votes, not allowing the opposition time to debate, to even arrive in time to be able to vote, not being completely transparent about policies buried in line items in the budget proposals, and on and on - this, my friends, IS NOT WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.

So why all this secretiveness and subterfuge? Well, it's in this press release from State Sen. Fred Risser and  State Assemblyman Mark Pocan. Scott Walker did not run on a platform that stated he wanted to crush public sector unions, and then he did just that. With the budget repair bill, he brought it to the state house then Republicans tried to ram it through with their majorities in a matter of days, before Democrats, or you and me, could find out what was in it. The Wisconsin 14 saved the day, if not legislatively at least in terms of giving us time to find out what was really going on, and the result is that Walker has found his poll numbers plummeting while the 14 were welcomed back as conquering heroes by the masses!

So, let's retreat back behind closed doors, shall we? Let's let the people find out what we're doing after we've already done it.  Democracy can make things pretty messy.

Why all this secretiveness and subterfuge? 

"Why is Walker so afraid of the public?" ask Risser and Pocan. In asking the question, they also answer it.

No comments:

Post a Comment