I am beginning to think that the Democratic members of the Wisconsin legislature are suffering from the mass delusion that they are somehow like Hosni Mubarak, and that supporters of the public employee unions have the mass delusion that they are the same as Egyptian protesters in Cairo.
Following the November, 2010 state elections in Wisconsin in which Republican candidates ran on specific platforms of reforming state government and its relationship with public employee workers, the GOP scored sweeping victories, replacing a Democratic governor, a Democratic senator, three Democratic congressmen, and winning large majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
So when, as might be expected, the new governor and the legislature began to initiate and pass legislation that would reform the unpopular cozy relationships between the public employees unions, their members in Wisconsin, and Democrat-controlled state government, the unions called for massive demonstrations (which is of course their right). But the Democratic minority in the state senate, trying to block a vote (Republicans lead 24-19 in that body), fled the state en masse and holed up in a motel in Rockford, Illinois, across the state line. This temporarily blocks a vote on reform legislation since one Democrat must be present for a quorum. (I think these state senators think they are really in Sharm El Shiek on the Sinai peninsula, the luxurious oasis where Mr. Mubarak fled to and spent most of his time while his government was collapsing recently, and where he is now.)
Eventually, these Democratic state senators will have to return to Wisconsin where the law requires them to show up for work. Assuming that the new governor, Scott Walker, doesn’t have a total collapse of political principle and will, the bill will pass. The bottom line is that the public employee unions which overwhelmingly supported the Democrats in 2010, and the Democratic state senators, lost control of the legislature because the majority of voters in Wisconsin rejected their point of view.
The protests, of course, are legitimate, but the unions and their minions should not think that a big crowd in ultra-liberal Madison (one of the most left-oriented cities in the nation) should intimidate legislators from other parts of Wisconsin (where voters clearly indicated they wanted reform).
The point is that protesters in Egypt were expressing their frustration with a government that they had no voice in electing. In Wisconsin, as in all other states of the United States, voters choose their elected officials, and in each election express themselves about major public policies. In 2008, voters chose to replace the Republicans in power with a new Democratic president. In 2010, voters chose to express their dissatisfaction with Democratic president’s policies.
Most disappointing is the attitude of the entire Democratic caucus of the Wisconsin state senate. They can speak against the new legislation, and can vote against it. Unlike Hosni Mubarak, they do not have the right to go absent without leave from their elected posts. Public employee reform is coming to Wisconsin (and the rest of the U.S.) It is not only inevitable, but voters have, across the nation, sent the message they want this reform to happen. The Democratic state senators in Wisconsin have every right to hold a different point of view, but they do not have the right to behave as if they were dictators in Egypt and thwart the voters will. I hope their opponents in 2012 will remind the voters in their districts how badly they have behaved.