Thursday, March 10, 2011

Republican assault on democracy - and workers

I understand about having a 2-party system, with fairly big tents joining together folks around a certain orientation across widely divergent viewpoints. I understand the need for respect for the opponent, for decorum, for rules that allow for open debate on legislation, even when we get frustrated with the process. I appreciate that when you reduce democracy to a 2-party system, those large tents are bound to fail some of their constituents most of the time.

But when one party, frankly, begins to undermine democracy itself, this becomes extremely worrisome. When one party dispenses with laws, rules, and procedures to rule by ambush and subterfuge, seeking to brush the competing party aside as so much detritus, things have gone seriously wrong. Then we are not talking about democracy, we are talking about power grab.

This is happening in Wisconsin right now - as has been happening with the power of big money nationally, the Supreme Court vote on Citizens United, the unseemly money plays of Karl Rove, the influence of Goldman Sachs contributions on Barack Obama, or the decisive influence of Koch Industries money on Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

But what happened tonight in the Wisconsin legislature is without precedent - a blatantly illegal move on the part of Republican leaders that busts the unions of public sector workers.

What happened a few hours ago is this: violating the Open Meetings law of the state, Republican Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald pulls a power play to take a vote on a bill unseen by Democrats, not clearly understood, and for which notice was not properly given. All it does is destroy 50 years of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers under Wisconsin law. What they did was take out the controversial union-busting language from the budget repair bill and pass it as a separate piece of legislation. Having argued previously that eliminating collective bargaining rights for public sector workers was definitely a fiscal issue, therefore requiring a quorum of 20 senators, suddenly Republicans said it was not a fiscal issue at all and a simple majority will do.

You 14 Democrats who left the state to prevent the quorum they once said was necessary to pass fiscal-related bills? Stay in Illinois as long as you like; we just busted the unions.  And guess what? that's what we wanted to do all along - just like you said.

If this stands, if the state attorney general and the state's courts do not block this vote from taking force, democracy in my state is in big, big trouble.

Check out the video of this hostile anti-procedure:

Are all legislators subject to the laws, or just not Fitzgerald, Scott Walker, and the others who work for corporate interests? Have we really arrived at a point where one party in the majority can violate rules and laws and then prevail?

Protesters began pouring in to the Capitol as this atrocity took place. If you are anywhere near Madison this weekend, especially Saturday, join the masses in the streets.

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