Wisconsin Republicans call for arrest of missing Democrats

The Wisconsin Senate passed a resolution today that calls for the arrest of the 14 Democratic senators who left the state two weeks ago, if those senators do not return by 4:00 pm today.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, it's unclear whether or not the move is constitutional.


  1. Oh HELL no. One of the Fab 14 is my old high school teacher, Dave Hansen. Lock arms and stay strong Dave and crew. We got your back at the capitol.
    Scott Walker and the WI GOP is a disgrace.

  2. “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”-Mahatma Gandhi

    I’d say we’re on stage three at this point.

  3. If someone is forced to perform an action under threat of imprisonment, that action is not their responsibility. Being forced to attend the vote under duress should be the same as not attending at all.

  4. They also passed a $100/day fine for them a few days ago. At this point, very little of what the WIGOP is going is constitutional.

  5. Anyone else starting to hear discussions of the Wisconsin Senate voiced in their minds by the trade federation and Palpatine from Star Wars?

  6. WI GOP wants to use the police power of the state to compel other Representatives to appear?

    This is a fine example of how the GOP misuses power. “The Party of Small, Limited Government” wants to spend tax dollars on Police authority to round-up those who disagree with it.

    Abraham Lincoln is crying or laughing at you right now.

  7. .. and how the hell can it be “unclear”. Just what crime was committed? Not bending over for GOP thugs? If they are arrested just imagine the crowds at the capitol this weekend. I really don’t want to have to do that again. Damn cold out there.

    1. I’m already thinking of making the drive again and I can’t even imagine how massive the crowds would be were they to be arrested and hauled back.

  8. No-snark question: Can a bb reader/supporter of the Democrat senators’ strategy explain to me how it’s appropriate in a representative democracy?
    (I’m not trying to defend the goopers here. I think the governor’s refusal to even sit down and discuss this with Dems/union reps is reprehensible.)

    1. I see no reason why reasonable people should be forced to engage in pointless debate for which the foregone conclusion is failure.

      In the absence of willingness to engage substantively, lack of a quorum precludes any further action. It’s the next-to-last resort, short of mass resignation.

      I say, these Democrats ought to stay away as long as they can, until Walker capitulates. And if instead he does not, and they are apprehended as criminals, then they should all resign and let the Governor appoint his stooges to do the state’s corrupt business. They should in no way become complicit in his corrupt bargaining.

      When that shenanigan is complete and the election cycle has come full circle, all of THOSE bums will be thrown out. Permanently. And Wisconsin will finally get its head on straight.

      1. Thank you.

        Follow-up: To what degree must a debate be meaningful for a legislative minority to remain in quorum and allow a vote to go forward? For example, if the WIGOP had allowed the Democrats to propose amendments, even though the amendments are likely to fail, then the conclusion is still foregone despite the allowance of substantive debate. I guess I’m asking what you’d define as ‘substantive’ in a two-party system, where a majority in a legislature almost always can get what it wants without making concessions.

        (Also you’re assuming that politicians are reasonable people (-; )

        1. You’re right. It’s a nuclear option, definitely. So why don’t minorities in legislatures use it all the time to get their way? My answer to that is that it’s not always a foregone conclusion how a debate will end.

          I think that much of the time, if not most of the time, lawmakers can be convinced to give a little here and there, in exchange for agreement on other things. Or they play their cards close to the vest to not let on so much that they’ll just come down on party lines when the vote is called. That’s the normal process of debate, amendment, final passage.

          In this case, the party lines were so heavily drawn that the minority felt it had no choice but to form a coalition to block the vote by any means. They most likely feel they are not doing their jobs and serving their constituents if they don’t try anything they can to get Walker to soften his hard line on collective bargaining and look for alternative budget cuts.

          As for my assumption that legislators are reasonable… well… no ;) I assume that everyone is reasonable, until I prove otherwise ;))))!

          What do you think the Democrats should do?

          1. I’d be interested to know what kind of oath these guys take. If it’s ‘to serve the people of…’ or ‘to serve their constituency’, it could be argued that they had no choice but to walk out.

          2. A few minutes ago, I’d have said they should come back and vote. Having not thought about it much yet, I’m still leaning that way – they’ve won public opinion and there are recall movements for some GOP representatives. I’m not sure what else they’ll accomplish by staying away, because it appears Walker won’t back down. But there’s no way to really know, and again, my opinion on the issue is now in a state of flux.

            @Labbster: You’re right, Scalia purports to be an originalist. But having read a lot of his opinions in law school, I can assure you that when he can’t find a way to make the Constitution support his opinion, he instead leans on historical precedent. This happens a lot, actually, which is kind of maddening. (On the other hand, his opinions are a lot more fun to read than most judges’. His sense of humor is pretty sharp, and he does an admirable job of toning down the legalese.)
            I’m not sure that either side seems to be applying Kant here (consciously or not), though depending on how you phrase what the Dem senators are doing, it could work: “When collective bargaining rights are threatened by a bill, legislators should prevent votes on that bill by breaking the quorum.” That might work, but it brings us back to the question of the value of collective bargaining (which, I’ll reiterate, I’m going to think more about now). As to utilitarianism, it tends to boil down to what you think defines the greatest good. People disagree about that to a high degree, I’ve found, and without agreement as to what we should be maximizing, I don’t know that there can be real agreement about how to go about the maximization. What would you, personally, apply here, and how?


    2. My opinion is that this might just be a revolutionary moment, when it is right to break the rules. I understand that smart and good people do not think collective bargaining is a civil right and a matter of human dignity, but for anyone (like me) who thinks it is, using civil disobedience and parliamentary sabotage to stop the loss of that right is acceptable, even it that person is an elected senator. If this was about taking away Black rights or women’s rights I think it would be more understood why the senators and their supporters feel justified, and for me worker’s rights fall in that same category.

      1. Absolutely.

        As long as people are forced by economics to work for a living, their ability to have a say in workplace matters is a basic human right.

        I certainly don’t leave my rights at home five days a week. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to.

        1. I certainly don’t leave my rights at home five days a week. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to.

          Sure you do. What rights would you like to take with you to work? Would you like to have freedom of expression? Religion? Right to bear arms? How many of these do you think employers should not be able to restrict?

          Worker’s do have rights. We have laws that protect the health and safety of workers, as well as those that allow a living wage. How much say do you want in your workplace (bearing in mind that it ultimately belongs to someone else)? Do you think you should be able to get together and force management to change the drapes to your liking, and have the support of government protection behind you?

    3. Denying a quorum is a procedural tactic. To be sure, it is a method of last resort, but it is nevertheless valid. It’s almost like knowing that, even with a minority of seats in a given legislature, a party can still obstruct the passage of bills by taking advantage of a procedural requirement for a supermajority to end a filibuster.

    4. Bja009, what exactly do you think is inappropriate about it? Quorum-busting is a centuries-old tool of legislative politics.

      Way back in 1840, when Democrats in the Illinois House of Representatives were trying to pass legislation to shut down the State Bank, they locked the doors to prevent the opposition party, the Whigs, from preventing the vote by breaking the quorum. One Whig jumped out a second-story window, thus temporarily delaying the vote. You may have heard of the guy; his name was Abraham Lincoln.

      1. I would say that I don’t think this is a situation in which the bill they’re fighting is worthy of this kind of last-resort tactic. As Zebbart pointed out, reasonable people can disagree about things – I happen to think that collective bargaining should not be enshrined as a basic human right, and I know others disagree.
        I would further say that the historical use of quorum-busting is not a good defense of quorum-busting. As much as I like Abraham Lincoln, I still tend to think that the tactic directly undermines the legitimacy of a two-party representative democracy, in which one side will usually lose arguments about policy.
        (I won’t address the question of whether tyranny of the majority holds much legitimacy, whether in a pure democracy or in a representative legislative body. Lookin’ at you, American political process.)

        1. Basically what you’re saying is you think the American two-party system is illegitimate while out the other side of your mouth you poo-poo on measures being taken to defend the position supported by the majority of Wisconsinites. Measures with historical precendent. Yeah, “others disagree about things,” just like “some people” are fluent in doublespeak.

          1. I’m saying there are serious points on both sides of the debate regarding two-party representative democracy’s legitimacy as it is practiced in the United States today, and that I don’t care to devote time to that discussion right now, on this thread.
            And I do pooh-pooh the measures taken, because I believe that the senators used what should be a measure of last resort in a situation that didn’t call for it. I know there are people who disagree with that position, and they are not unreasonable. We simply place different value on the thing we are discussing.
            I also fear that, given the media attention and general rally to support the WIDems, idiot politicians from both parties will see quorum-busting as an effective and mostly-free media exposure/advertising maneuver. Which would suck.
            Also, your reliance on historical precedent to legitimize your position puts me in mind of one Antonin Scalia. (Sorry, couldn’t help the snark there. Too easy sometimes!)

          2. I also fear that, given the media attention and general rally to support the WIDems, idiot politicians from both parties will see quorum-busting as an effective and mostly-free media exposure/advertising maneuver. Which would suck.

            This is my worry too. Not that the Democrats aren’t right to do this, but that every bill proposed by Democrats elsewhere is going to cause a quorum-busting minority of Republicans to go hiding in neighboring states. And they’d be able to say “well, you were for it when the WI Dems were doing it, why are you mad now?”

            And it’s precisely that: we think this procedural tactic is fine when we agree with it, but we’d hate it if it were the other way around.

            On the other hand, I guess the final arbitrer is public opinion. If the public thinks there Dems are doing the right thing, they’ll reward them, and if Republicans do it over a health care bill, maybe the public will dislike them. Except they won’t — they’d be heros to their base.

            Personally, I think quorum rules should have a time-limit. If a quorum can’t be found after a week, allow the debate to move forward. This way quorum breaking could still be use to delay votes and highlight issued and bring the debate to the public’s eye, but it can’t be used indefinitely. This is the same reasoning as saying that someone should be physically speaking during the entire duration of a filibuster.

          3. I certainly agree that, at least at a shallow level (sorry, I have a philosophy degree and try to dig a little deeper on ethical subjects, personally), both sides are acting rationally and in their own best interests. I’m not an individual objectivist and pretty much reject that as a valid ethical structure. This is more of a situation to apply the categorical imperative or at least a bit of old-fashioned utilitarianism. These are not new notions.

            But I do resent the Scalia comparison, for multiple reasons. He’s purported to be an originalist, which means he tries to cite the Constitution as his precedent in most cases. We’re talking tactical precedents taken in a legislative forum which are not addressed directly in the Constitution, not precedents located directly in that great, old “piece of paper.” So you’re comparing apples to oranges.

          4. …both sides are acting rationally and in their own best interests. One side was simultaneously acting against the long-term interests of the rest of the country.

            I fixed it!

        2. But in this case the bill was fast-tracked to sneak it through without the public knowing about it. The Dems had to buy time to gain publicity for a bill they knew would be unpopular. So they went to their last resort.

        3. Despite how you personally feel about it, the right to collective bargaining and unionization needs to be a basic right. If not for that power, you’d currently be in a coal mine, or working 70 hours a week without overtime.

          Do you agree that some situations require one to do something that would normally be reprehensible? Should I be arrested for kicking down the door of a burning building to see if anyone’s inside?

        4. “I still tend to think that the tactic directly undermines the legitimacy of a two-party representative democracy, in which one side will usually lose arguments about policy.”

          There is no legitimacy in a two-party representative democracy. It is a rigged system with a public circus/boxing match to keep us occupied and distracted. Most Americans are not represented by either of the two parties.

      2. If Lincoln hadn’t freed the slaves and preserved the Union we’d consider him the second worst president ever.

        He knocked down Habeus Corpus (Bush Jr., worst president ever, then delivered the coupe de grace, of course) and he threw the Maryland legislature in prison and then dragged them into session in chains. All totally illegal until the Imperial President did it.

        Look up Clement Valindingham if you want to know how politics worked during the Civil War. It’s remarkably like today, only our war is a permanent war, thus extending Lincoln’s retroactively legalised, “temporary wartime measures” forever.


    5. The justification for quorum rules/filibusters is precisely your reaction: people largely feel that the majority should be allowed to enact its policies. If a minority party is stopping legislation with large public support, it’s unlikely that they’ll retain enough seats in the next election to continue this tactic. In the most extreme case the minority party will prevent a wildly popular bill from passing for an election cycle: not a very long time period in the scheme of things.

      The converse case is that a party comes to power on one platform, then tries to enact policies that are actually very unpopular with the public. This is antithetical to democratic or representative governing. In that case, these veto powers of the minority serve as a balance against that possibility.

      The next election cycle will give Wisconsin voters the ability to decide whether the Democrats were derelict of duty, or whether they were preventing an unpopular and uncampaigned for idea from being implemented against popular wishes.

    6. WI is a no filibuster state. This is the ONLY way they can keep the vote from going through…buying time for what you are witnessing, and perhaps (hopefully) compromise.

  9. The 14 Democrats are believed to be in Illinois. If the senators do not return by the deadline, the Senate agreed to find them “in contempt and disorderly behavior.”

    Irony fail.

  10. I’ve been confused about the use of police all along, and can’t find the answer. Can anyone explain why the dems left the state, rather than just refusing to appear in session? And why and how did Walker already send state troopers to the dems houses? What power does the governor have to compel anyone to go to their job?

  11. I dunno – what if the roles were reverse? Maybe Democrats were going to pass gay marriage or mandatory tree hugging and you had 14 Republicans flee the state. Now what? Obama’s health bill was unpopular, and while filibusters were attempted, I don’t recall anyone running away to prevent a vote.

    Is this democracy? “I don’t wanna, you can’t make me!” I can understand their frustration with not wanting to take a vote on a bill they don’t like and probably will pass against their liking. But THAT is the political process. If legislators ran away from every bill they don’t want passed NOTHING WOULD EVER GET DONE!

    I am guessing they have to be there to take the vote, yes? You can’t just vote a bill in with members missing, right?

    IMHO – they need to man (or woman) up and do their jobs. If they don’t like the bill, they can work hard to get more of their representatives in office to pass a new one, or use their influence to get the bill under judicial review and declared against the WI or US constitution.

    As the end of Ol’ Yeller showed us, some times you have to do something you don’t really want to do because you have to.

    PS – this doesn’t excuse some of the antics of the governor, but they still have a duty to perform their elected function.

    1. This is a great example of why legislators should stay FAR away from wedge issues and leave those things in the arena of public debate. Instead, they should be focused on doing the things that there is a larger agreement on…but then they might actually accomplish something, and we can’t have that!

    2. I’d say the risks for workers are too high. Do a little reading on the what they have to lose–and what else the Governor of WI is trying to take away.

      This is strictly a survival tactic.

    3. You’re missing a glaring difference between the health care bill and this situation in Wisconsin. First, you characterize the health care bill as “unpopular.” Flat wrong, it was unpopular with Republicans, but overall the majority of Americans supported its passage (49%-40% http://www.gallup.com/poll/126929/slim-margin-americans-support-healthcare-bill-passage.aspx). Also, the President and congressional Democrats bent over backwards to reach across the aisle to Republicans regarding the bill and were met with every rebuff in the book, despite the bill’s popularity.

      In Wisconsin, 61% of voters OPPOSE this union-busting bill, specifically taking away collective bargaining rights for workers (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-02-22-poll-public-unions-wisconsin_N.htm). Further, 52% are so upset now they would rather have Walker’s opponent in office.

      I agree with you about Ol’ Yeller (nice analogy). When you have a “mad dog,” trying to take away the rights of the people like you have in Wisconsin, it should be taken care of. That’s why Wisconsin voters are working the recall the eight Republican senators eligible for recall, to stop this blatant power grab. This has very little to do with a budget deficit. This is both a symbolic fight and one for survival of unions and workers’ rights.

      1. Two corrections to your poll interpretations.

        49% in favor is not an overall majority.
        It is 61% of Americans, not 61% of Wisconsin voters.

    4. You mean the “unpopular” Healthcare bill that passed through regular procedures, with the usual negotiations, obtaining a clear majority vote? You may want to check your definition of unpopular (hint: it doesn’t mean “things I don’t like”).

      As for whether or not the GOP would break quorum for a bill they didn’t agree with: they could. There’s nothing stopping them. But the GOP prefers to bully and strong arm, and when that fails, just pout and throw a tantrum, claiming they were forced into voting against their conscience. Which is of course BS as everyone knows Republicans don’t have a conscience.

    5. Bja and Mister: I agree that this is an extreme measure to take, but in a representative democracy you must listen to what your constituents are saying, so far as I can tell, most of Wisconsin doesn’t agree with the Gov. that CBA should be stripped from public unions. If this were “mandatory tree hugging” and the roles reversed there may be a case. You can’t constitutionally compel someone to hug a tree. Gay marriage, there’s a strong argument that denying those rights is unconstitutional, the Republicans would have to weigh public opinion before such a drastic measure.

      Right now though, there is a legislative body that is actively ignoring the people it represents in favor of whatever ideas they have regardless of law and opinion. This would be a wildly different situation if the people of Wisconsin weren’t in agreement with the Democrats. As it stands, they dem’s seem to have popular support and thus the public tolerates their protest.

      Moreover, the dem’s actions are of last resort in response to an opposition that is refusing to debate, talk or listen to anyone, hence why fleeing is seen as justifiable.

    6. Alternately, checks and balances.

      You think quorum is accidental? it’s a concept so old the language it’s in has died in the meantime.

  12. Considering that they’re hiding out in Illinois it will most likely take a fairly substantial bribe to get any police to act on this—since Wisconsin is “broke” I’m not sure they can afford us. Never thought the corruption would work out for the best some day.

    1. That’s the first point — WI police have no authority to make this arrest except in their own state, and the neighboring state has no obligation to cooperate.

      Second point is that I don’t think arrest gives them any right to hold the arrested individual anywhere but in police custody — which does nothing to achieve quorum.

      I don’t think this achieves anything that a legislative subpoena doesn’t already fail to achieve.

  13. Oh, its not arrest. They mad that very clear. They are just compelling the Dems to come back. By sending out the police to detain then. But its not arrest, that would be wrong…

  14. I’ll explain how it is appropriate: the WIGOP is derailing representative democracy and turning it into a circus. These Democratic Party senators are free men, and they are doing exactly what their constituency wants: shutting down the clowns running the circus.

    1. I was looking for a rational reply, without vitriol, that addresses the issue of a minority abdicating to prevent a legislature from functioning. I acknowledge that the GOP’s legislation is unpopular with a small majority of Wisconsinites, and that their tactics are not becoming of elected representatives. I’m still wondering if someone can provide a reasoned defense of the minority’s choice to flee the state.
      Anyone else care to try?

      1. perhaps if you had witnessed some of the underhanded dealings of the majority you would better understand the need for extremes. i offer as an example: when this same bill was passed to the state assembly, the majority party announced the vote would be taken at 5pm on friday. as is custom in wisconsin, the repubz and the demz each held their own caucus before the vote to touch base with each other before debating the bill.

        at approximately 4:50 the repubz entered the assembly, took roll, and voted to pass the bill at 4:56 and again at 4:57 – with only 1 dem assembly representative present. the only thing that saved the bill for debate was wisconsin’s procedure which requires the bill be read in its entirety 3 times before it can be passed. the lone dem ran to the caucus and got the other demz into assembly chambers just in time to open debate before passing the bill.

        who calls for a vote at 5 then tries to pass it before 5 if they are open to discourse? budget bills are usually debated at length and amended before being passed. being in the majority does not equal the right to rule without considering the constituents of the minority – that would be tyranny rather than democracy. scott walker did not win by a landslide and the democratic process demands that the minority also be heard.

        1. On the one hand, I would have wanted the Democrats to stay in government, fight the good fight, and lose. On the other hand, the Democrats feel that going nuclear was the only option, feeling that the bill goes so far against their moral code (inasmuch as politicians can have one) that they have to pull every dirty trick they can. Of course, the Republicans did that, too (e.g. the third reading of the bill at 5 PM on the dot). Perhaps the Republicans went nuclear first.

          Personally, I don’t think the Democrats are going to convince any Republican voters that Republican shenanigans were played, and the Republicans are not going to convince any Democratic voters that Democratic skullduggery is going down.

          I don’t know what the answer is, but all we have here are two sides screaming at each other. Where’s the negotiator?

  15. Obama’s health bill was unpopular, and while filibusters were attempted, I don’t recall anyone running away to prevent a vote.

    Obama spent a great deal of his campaign focusing on how he would push health care reform if elected for one thing. Walker did not campaign on ending collective bargaining for public employees.

    One example…for starters.

    1. re: “Obama spent a great deal of his campaign focusing on how he would push health care reform if elected for one thing. Walker did not campaign on ending collective bargaining for public employees.

      One example…for starters.”

      What does that have to do with the price of hammers? So an executive can only do things explicitly outlined in his campaign?

      re: “First, you characterize the health care bill as “unpopular.” Flat wrong, it was unpopular with Republicans, but overall the majority of Americans supported its passage (49%-40%)”

      It was unpopular with 40% of the voters and a considerable amount of legislators. So much so that they had to wheel and deal to get the votes for it to pass. And I don’t care what the poll numbers are – we are in a republic an not subject to mob rule.

      But you missed my point entirely. There will always be votes where one faction will ‘lose’. It would be impossible to govern if people ran away and prevented a voted every time they didn’t want a law passed.

      re: “So, union strikes are unethical then?”

      I’m sorry, what does that have to do with the price of hammers? They Senators aren’t protesting, nor are they in a union (AFAIK).

      re: “You may want to check your definition of unpopular (hint: it doesn’t mean “things I don’t like”).”

      o_0 so I guess there were no protest or political drama from that bill being passed? Really?

      And again the point being, before the vote it was pretty clear it was going to pass (just as this WI bill). But none of the Senate took off to prevent a vote.

      I can appreciate this might be an extreme case, and can agree with refusing to vote for a period of time a good form of protest, but there is a point where it goes too far and could never be the norm for the way political dramas play out.

      1. “What does that have to do with the price of hammers? So an executive can only do things explicitly outlined in his campaign?”

        Yeah, that was my thought.

        Something better to bring up would be the period of legislative debate. On the national healthcare bill, there had been months of debate, dissent, and compromise. For this WI bill, if I understand correctly (and concede that I might not) legislators were given three days, with a vote occurring at the last minute. Teensy bit of difference there; these Republicans at the state level are doing what other Republicans had accused Democrats of doing at the national level.

        1. I think it is silly to think one will only adhere to what was in their campaign. And naive to think they WILL do what was in their campaign.

          I agree there are shenanigans. IIRC not a lot of people had time to REALLY read the healthcare bill. If they needed more time I could understand a stalling tactic to take time to take it all in.

          So if quorum is a viable tactic, sending out officers to bring them in sounds viable as well.

          As an aside – do they have an option of putting in a ‘poison pill’?

      2. Re: The health care bill… Democrats reached across the aisle and did all they could to compromise and give concessions to the Republicans and I’m sure to placate the insurance and health care lobby, which donated to both parties heavily. Much to the alienation of the democratic base, mind you, as liberals wanted a single-payer system among other things that didn’t happen.

        Up front and a foregone conclusion, the Wisconsin Republicans had no intention to negotiate because their endgame is to, per Scott Hagerstrom, an executive director for Koch brothers front group Americans For Prosperity, “take the unions out at the knees” so they “don’t have the resources to fight…” [taxes and increased corporate regulation]. (http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/25/afp-union-knees/)

        In both cases – the health care bill and the attacks on the unions – you have billions upon billions of dollars of corporate money backing a concerted and focused effort to trod underfoot the interests of middle- and low-income Americans. This isn’t a “mob,” these are your neighbors and the type of people who actually build things in our great nation who happen to be in the overwhelming majority.

        Sure, there are “losers” in all decisions, but it’s not some winner-takes-all deathmatch in a republic or a democracy. If you want to bring everyone along for the ride with consent and legitimacy, you keep an open mind and listen to the opposition, you don’t lacking any valid reason try to destroy their interests and rights. Conan the Barbarian may have ruthlessly crushed his enemies, but you don’t see the Governator trampling on union rights in Cali.

        What we’re seeing in Wisconsin, especially the part about arresting the opposition senators, is starting to look much like fascism. And since you’re big on cliches, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

        1. Re: “The health care bill”
          For some reason you are overlooking the obvious. Of COURSE the Dems had to reach across to pass the healthcare vote. They didn’t have enough votes otherwise. WHY would you make appeasement you think are ‘bad’ if you don’t have to.

          The WI already has the votes, and thus they don’t need to compromise. Is it an asshole move? Yeah, kinda. But this isn’t the first nor the last.

          re: “This isn’t a “mob,””
          I didn’t mean this in a disparaging way. I meant it in the political sense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ochlocracy

          Take into account, NASCAR is the most popular sport, and Justin Beiber the most popular star right now. Do we really want “mob rule” ;o)

          re: “is starting to look much like fascism. ”

          I think fascism would look like arresting senators so they COULDN’T vote.

          1. Ochlocracy vs. oligocracy? This “angry mob” to which you allude is an insidious strawman. Were the people protesting in Madison over the weekend violent at all or could they be characterized as an unruly angry mob? No (despite the picture Fox tried to paint on O’Reilly with the usual deceptive editing). This “mob rule” tripe is a joke.

            There is a fine line between democracy and ochlocracy. Your comments basically amount to smears of the people fighting for their long-established right to organize as workers. This is about defending the middle class, which is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to a democracy. If you don’t believe in the citizens in a democracy or even a republic, you don’t believe in democracy or republic. I’d ask what sort of government you believe in, but, as I’ve stated before, the picture seems apparent.

            Regardless, I’m pretty sure the founding fathers would disagree with your attitude about the character of the average American.

          2. re: “This “angry mob” to which you allude is an insidious strawman. ”

            The original context for using the word ‘mob’, was that I wasn’t too interested in what the poll numbers said, as we are a “republic and not subject to mob rule.” I am not putting up a strawman, merely elaborating on what I meant. And to further elaborate, I am not suggesting the mass protest at the capital is a ‘mob’, nor trying to exercise ‘mob rule’.

            I don’t know where you got the other stuff. Maybe you have me confused with another poster, or reading into what I am writing, or assuming my thoughts on the matter.

            Of course the citizens are essential for a republic. And representatives should do what they can to help their nation/state and the constituents from the area they represent. At the same time, they are put into office for them to excise their judgment. They shouldn’t vote which ever way the polls sway, but what they conclude after careful thought and research. That was my point for not finding poll numbers not that important in the argument.

            And to preempt the next assumption, I am not saying one shouldn’t write or phone their representatives to express their opinions on the matter. That is part of the careful thought and research. But even with 61% against a bill, it might be the right thing to put through anyway. (Not saying THIS bill – a hypothetical one for another hot button topic, like creationism in school or segregation back in the day.)

          3. I can agree to disagree with you, then, on the importance of polls. I happen to disagree with you vehemently on that point, as polling is the underpinning of democracy and any legitimate goverment. How else do you measure the will of the people? I’m pretty sure even staunch conservatives place a lot of value in polling, as it is much of what Karl Rove has used (along with metrics, many of which were derived from polling) over the last 30-40 years to help build up the Republican Party (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/architect/rove/metrics.html).

            You, with a wink, and off-hand allusion to certain stereotypes about regular Americans and what many find to be popular, dismiss polling and I stand by my response to that sentiment. You’re the one that brought up ochlocracy and mobs, ostensibly to dismiss polls. At best it’s just not relevant and a really clumsy premise in this particular context, since this whole issue is made starkly visible in the media through peaceful protests of masses of citizens.

            Taking away collective bargaining from workers is basically NEVER the right thing to “push through.” I’d suggest you read up on it, but I suspect you’re intelligent enough to already know. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies the ability to organize trade unions as a fundamental human right (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_bargaining). I don’t think violating human rights conventions is the right thing to do.

            So the position I’m espousing isn’t just supported by polls or popularity, it’s supported international human rights conventions. I mean, it was right at some point to have laws upholding slavery, we might as move back toward that sort of direction, right? /sarcasm

          4. re: “I can agree to disagree with you, then, on the importance of polls.”

            You have a good point that polls are important to a degree. They DO make a good tool for the reasons you outlined. I guess my point was that polls alone shouldn’t sway a vote, and that for the purpose of this discussion I didn’t think one could use it to bolster their argument and dismissed it.

            re: “You, with a wink, and off-hand allusion ”

            Hey – I’m freaking funny. That was me interjecting some humor.

            re: “Taking away collective bargaining from worker”

            I haven’t been arguing the the specific points, but the overall tactic in general. I really don’t have much stake in WI politics. I can’t say I am a huge union fan in general (some are ok, some aren’t), but as I understand what they are trying to do doesn’t sound right either. FWIW my wife works for the public sector at the Federal level. There is a union but she isn’t in it and hasn’t ever been involved with it.

            Hey – as tangent, on this bag of doughnuts the other day was a BCTMW union logo. That’s Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Mill Workers.I wonder how that came about. And I tried to smoke a doughnut but it didn’t work :o/

          5. The Dems compromised because they promised too. Looking at how many Republicans ended up voting for the health care bill, it’s pretty obvious they didn’t actually need a lot of support from them.

  16. How can they be legally arrested by Wisconsin State Police if they are in a different state? (This is a rhetorical question, they can’t.)

    @zebbart, I found a pretty good breakdown of what Walker can and cannot do based on Wisconsin’s Constitution in this Salon article:


    @Mister44, You’re right, typically legislators do not go to such extreme measures. However, this is an extreme situation and leaving the state in protest was literally their only option to stop this fast-tracked bill that isn’t limited to collective bargaining rights, but would also allow the governor to sell state assets (power plants, heating and cooling facilities, etc..) or contract out their operation on a secret, no bid basis.

  17. To those asking why the actions of these 14 is not wrong…it is. They have a job to do, and they’re choosing not to do it in protest. I agree with fining them while they are out, and I agree, in principle, with their actions. Had they stayed, the vote would be over, and the national news and momentum of the movement would be much weaker. It’s OK to both support what they’re doing, and support any legal retribution they receive from their actions.

    1. Ever think that just maybe this is the job they are supposed to doing? Who is Walker and the GOP working for? The poll numbers are clear.

      1. Government by polls is dangerous and stupid. We are a republic for a reason.

        They are working for the people who hired them. People who made a choice at the polling booth that these representatives will most likely do as they want done…and a majority of voters agreed. That’s how it works. If the people don’t like the direction the government is going, we have elections and, in emergencies, recalls for this reason.

        That being said, it is ok to NOT do your job when you believe the alternative is worse than the repercussions of your inaction, just so long as you are willing to accept those repercussions. It’s called civil disobedience, and it shouldn’t stop being appropriate just because you work for the government.

  18. So, Wisconsin Republicans are trying to enlist the state’s law enforcement officers (who I assume are organized) in screwing themselves? Good luck with that.

  19. I saw a good joke about this:

    Sitting at the negotiating table are David Koch, a Wisconsin teacher, and a Tea Party member. A waiter brings them a dozen cookies. Koch takes 11, then warns the Tea Partyer, “Hey, better watch that guy. He wants half your cookie!”

    1. No, filibusters should be allowed, but should be actual, rather than a procedural ploy to force a super-majority.

  20. While I support the Fab 14 and sent an email to my senator last night supporting him, I feel it necessary to state that the Republicans are not doing anything out of the ordinary by calling for the police to retrieve the missing senators. It’s standard procedure when a Call of the House is put out. Usually this just means sending out the Sergent at Arms to check the local bars around the capitol building.

    In this case it’s a little more serious, and it is the reason the senators left the state. Since they are outside of the Wisconsin police jurisdiction they don’t need to worry about being compelled to return. By reducing the senate’s numbers under the amount necessary for passing fiscal legislation they’re preventing the passage of a fiscal bill with a number of abhorrent non-fiscal changes attached to it. If they had not done this then all of the protests would have been for naught, and the bill would have passed 2 weeks ago. It’s passage would have stripped state workers of their rights, slashed medical coverage for the poor, stripped the abilities of local communities to control land use, and a number of other acts.

  21. I’m sure this dick move will cool things down and lessen support for the recall of the republican senators. Totally…

  22. Anyone remember when the Republicans said they literally would not pass any legislation unless the tax cuts on the richest Americans were extended?

    Of course, it’s not the same thing.

    The Democracts are looking out for the rights of the common people, therefore anything they do to stop legislation is wrong.

  23. I believe that the senators used what should be a measure of last resort in a situation that didn’t call for it.

    That’s fine, but it’s clear that your problem is with collective bargaining rights, not that quorum tactics are inappropriate in representative democracies.

    1. … Yeah, that sounds about right. I don’t think collective bargaining rights are important enough to warrant quorum tactics. Hadn’t really seen it in that light. Thanks.
      This is why I like boingboing. I’m going to go meditate on the implications of my position, and determine if I really think it is warranted or if I just haven’t thought about it from enough angles to reach a sound conclusion. (No, really, I’m seriously going to think about it.)

  24. Dear Mr. Governor,

    I know that you were elected to make tough decisions. But you were elected, a democratic process that allows the citizens of our country to voice their opinions. This freedom does not end at the polls. By being a representative of your citizens, you cannot ignore them. You cannot lead with only your opinions enforced over all. You must be willing to compromise in order for democracy to work. If you do not, you are little better than a king, an autocrat, a mouthpiece for a supposed higher order that only has its own interests at heart. Successful politicians from both sides of the party line have to work with their opposition so as to not complete isolate those who did not elect them. You are facing a difficult decision. Either you stick to your guns and give ‘em hell and be seen as fearless in the eyes of a few, or you allow the other people who you work with, and not over, a moment of your time to work together to find an agreement. If you do this you will be seen as a considerate and effective leader of all of your people. You still have time to win them back, but only if you acknowledge their existence. We gave you the right to govern us, now show us some respect and listen to what we have to say. We do have the power to take that right away and that is the opinion of the majority of your citizens right now. So do yourself and your state a favor and stop acting like a stubborn child who is upset at learning what the rules of the game actually are. Your people elected you. You are supposed to represent their best interests but you will never realize what those are until you stop being afraid of them and have a conversation, not a monologue.


    A concerned citizen of Wisconsin

    1. Elected leaders shouldn’t always act the way you suggest.

      Good examples of ignoring the electorate, not compromising:

      -Lincoln declaring war and freeing slaves (The south wasn’t exactly in agreement).

      -Truman integrating the armed forces.

      Bad examples of listening to the electorate and coming to a compromise:

      -“We want lots of government services” + “We want low taxes” = pretty much every government budget on the planet.

      -Obama’s health-care plan (democrats and republicans both know it’s half-assed and people will hate it. But one thinks that hatred will lead to further change, while the other thinks that hatred will get it repealed.)

      When you vote, you have to accept that everyone running (whether you like them or not) might lay a turd or they might pull a golden egg out their ass. You’re just voting for the guy you think will do the later more often than not. Progress isn’t always in a straight line, nor in the direction you and fellow voters might want. And part of that progress is having a governor sometimes say “FU, I know what’s best.” The next election is the only guarantee of having a say.

      It suck, it works, it’s representative democracy. Messy, ugly, sweet beautiful representative democracy.

    2. Dear Mr. Governor,

      You were indeed elected to make the decisions through a democratic process that allowed the citizens of your state to send representatives to meet, debate and vote according to state constitutional authority. The freedom of this process is not determined by polls, but by law. By being a representative of your citizens, you cannot ignore them. You cannot lead with only special interests’ opinions enforced over all. Leadership does not always require compromise in order for democracy to work. You may be accused of being a king, an autocrat, or a religious zealot that only has his own interests at heart. In order to be popular, politicians from both sides of the party line have to work with their opposition so as to not completely isolate themselves from sources of campaign contributions. You were elected to be effective, not popular. You are facing a difficult decision. Either you stick to your guns and give ‘em hell and be seen as having integrity in the eyes of the voters, or you allow the government, through its unions, to continue to lobby and enlarge itself at the expense of the taxpayers. If you do this you will be seen as a typical, weak politician of all of your people. You don’t need to win them back, because you will not change their minds. The people gave you the right to govern, so show respect to the 5.6 million people of Wisconsin and listen to what they said in the last election. Voters do have the power to take that right away if you do not. The opinion of the majority of your citizens will be manifest in the next election, as it was in the last election. Serve the citizens’ interest and do not bend to those in the minority who are acting like stubborn children upset at learning what the rules of the game actually are. Your people elected you. You are supposed to represent their best interests. Government unions have worn out their welcome in the eyes of a plurality of taxpayers. If the government could continue to afford the price of collective bargaining in the midst of an economic (a.k.a. private sector) downturn, we could have a “conversation.”

      1. Hahaha, wutttt? You must be from the same planetary system from whence we received Glenn Beck and Charlie Sheen. You should totally send Scott your letter, it’s not like he’s listening to any other perspective.

      2. If the government could continue to afford the price of collective bargaining in the midst of an economic (a.k.a. private sector) downturn, we could have a “conversation.”

        I’m glad that Wisconsin didn’t vote in a pro-slavery governor. That could save the taxpayers a lot of money.

        1. I’m excited to find out what the next shock and awe campaign is going to be, once the market crashes are worn out.

  25. To me, this is less about collective bargaining rights and more about Walker giving away state assets to whomever it is he owes the most money or favors.

  26. What is the charge? It’s not like these guys are kings or dictators and can just order someone arrested without a crime. And if they are arrested, then what? Do they go to jail? Are they forced to give up their seats?

  27. You’re going to know more than me about the legal aspect of all this than me in any event, but I think the bottom line is law rests on precedents. When Scalia deviates from a purely originalist position, he’s acting like any other judge or lawyer, basing decisions on precedents, which are necessarily “historical,” having been established in the past. Really, I just don’t like being compared to Scalia because I don’t agree with him on a number of issues and think he’s the troll of SCOTUS, but it’s better than being compared to, say, Alito.

    I threw out the philosophical references to explain my ethical stance regarding this situation. My opinion on it. I’m trying to say that if people actually thought what would be in the best interest of all involved in a very deep sense – not just taking into account individual desires in the moment, or just for your family or corporation, but greatest good for greatest number over the long haul, and the whole universalizabilty principle – there probably would be a better outcome. At least compared to people acting on what boils down to self-interest with brute force, fair play be damned. Lastly, read “Homer’s Contest” by Nietzsche. It pains me to cite that thinker here, but it’s that sort of “contest” I see the Republicans in Wisconsin and their wealthy corporate donors/backers as trying to undermine.

    This isn’t about me, though, it’s about the principles. It’s cool you’re open-minded.

  28. Here in Indiana, where our own Democratic caucus has fled to Illinois as well, the Republican leadership announced today that they will start fining the missing Democrats $250/day until they return.

  29. So this Walker guy refuses to negotiate, and instead try’s to take away labor’s right to negotiate. And then he wants to outlaw the politicians that refuse to go along.

    I’ve seen stuff like this before. The next step is usually the guard surround the guy holed up in his mansion. Then they play loud music till he surrenders.

  30. I keep hearing that refrain from Mr. Obama during a concillitory meeting with Republican leaders.

    “We won”.

  31. Anyone who opposes collective bargaining is either an idiot or evil piece of shit. There is no reason to be civil to such a person and that the Wisconsinites have been very well behaved is something they should be thankful for every day.

    That having been said, I hope the lefties and moderates who stayed home last election are beginning to realize the folly of doing so and will be out in force for the next one.

    Assuming their right to vote hasn’t been removed by that point as well…

  32. Pliny E’s joke is funny, but as bill gates sometimes says, people dont have a sence of proportion of numbers. Koch made 5.5 billion in 2009 (cant find 2010 numbers). The average american (teacher, tea part member), we can put down for 50k.

    So the joke would be that the waitress has to bring out one hundred thousand cookies. She would need teams of waitresses. And trucks. And shift rotations. The three cafe customers would be freaking swimming in tidal waves of cookies. The structural integrity of the walls and floors of the cafe would be at risk.

    Then Koch would take all of them but one and say his punchline.

  33. What with the contempt that Walker treats longstanding Union agreements and people who don’t even work for him, such as the Democratic senators, it will be remarkable if he can persuade any new folks to take a job with the state of Wisconsin. Unless, of course, they like the taste of shoe leather.

  34. So I’m going to assume that we won’t be hearing anymore from the Dems about how fillibuster should be eliminated right? Right?

    1. And I assume we won’t be hearing from Republicans about refusing to vote through any bills until tax cuts are extended, right? Right?

      Neither side is entirely blameless in using those tricks that the machinery of government allows them to do, and of course they’ll complain when the other side does them.

      But it’s hard to deny that when the Democrats do it, they’re protecting rights and workers. When the Republicans do it, most of the time they’re protecting the rich’s profits.

          1. why exactly would I have to save face for pointing out the delicious irony of this situation or for that matter pointing out that Anon was falling prey to the Left-Right false dichotomy?

          2. Your “pointing out” was faulty, because I never said anything about your beliefs, I just said things about the political system in general, both sides. I didn’t even suspect you were a died in the wool Republican, I thought you were more one of those gadflies who feels the need to point out hypocrisy of either side.

            But you were the one who was falling prey to logical fallacies, but a) suggesting that all Democrats, everywhere, are consistent with each other in all things (hell, it’s not a common trait for humans in general to be consistent with themselves), and b) implicitly suggesting that Republicans aren’t the same in that regard (since your snark was directed towards Democrats), and c) to suggest that the times they pull procedural tricks that block progress are morally comparable. The last is the only part that was in any way political. But yeah, if I had to choose a side, I’d align myself more with the Democrats. That said, I don’t support removing filibuster and never did. I thought the recent times the Republicans threatened it they were idiots and bullies and hoped it would politically bite them in the ass, but there’s nothing wrong with the theory of it. So your suggestion that Democrats like to use procedural rules when it suits them but want them removed when used against them merited a response. That’s all.

  35. Political prisoners. Congratulations, Wisconsin. You are now a 3rd-world dictatorship.

    PS – If they don’t have a quorum, how could they pass the legislation?

  36. This is political suicide by the Republicans. The “no-compromise” politics we’re seeing from Tea Partiers is backfiring in a big way. You can’t pass anything without some kind of compromise.

  37. What’s at stake here is the future of the democratic party – hell, the future of ANY party other than the republican.

    Walker doesn’t give a fig for the workers. This is all about destroying AFSCME, the public workers’ union – which, BTW, originated in Wisconsin.

    Part of that is standard far-right doctrine, but much of it is simple dirty politics.

    Remember when the Supremes gave corporations personhood in Citizens United? That was supposedly OK because if corporations were funding republicans, unions were funding democrats. Never mind the fact that the corporations outspend the unions.

    Now if they bust AFSCME (and, not incidentally, make it illegal for employers to collect union dues), Presto! No more big bucks for democrat-supporting campaign ads from the unions. Corporations are the only game in town ==> republicans are the only game in town.

    Why do you think Walker isn’t going after police and firefighters unions? Because THOSE unions supported him in his campaign.

    Walker and company are out to make the US a one-party system, like the Soviet Union or China. Their methods are similarly police-state.

    Desperate times require desperate measures.

    I find it amusing that most of the hand-wringing here comes from republican supporters. Look at the procedural tricks republicans used to ram through legislation (“ram it down our throats,” to use the republican health care talking point) when they had the majority in both houses of Congress. Dirty tricks are OK for them, but not for democrats, eh?

  38. Two things I don’t understand about elected government:
    1. Those who get elected assume that law is anything they say it is, no limits.
    2. Those who elect them give them all their responsibilities, and they don’t want any of them back for any reason.

    That must be why every culture in history has eventually collapsed.

  39. Perhaps a compromise could be that the provisions of the “Budget Repair Bill” could be broken down into lots of discrete parts and voted on as separate bills. That would give Democrats the chance to try to defeat the less popular individual parts, and force Republicans to go on record on each individual provision of the bill.

  40. This whole thing is not about bargaining rights or state budget. This is the attempt to destroy the base of the democratic party. The teacher unions (e.g.) are (naturally) the biggest unions in this country. If the republicans can destroy them in this state, they give a road map to destroy them in other states, so they can basically destroy the major grass root support of the democratic party in the whole country. This is what the republicans seek to do. Far right republicans in other states are already rubbing their palms in anticipation: if this works out for Gov. Walker, they know exactly what to do to in their respective states.

    If Gov. Walker gets his will, he would be able to state a precedence wich could shift the power balance irrevocably to the far right for some eternities. This shouldn’t be even in the favor of most republicans. Not those of them who believe in demcoracy, that is.

    Sources: Daniel DiSalvo on NPR, March 2nd

  41. Mister 44: “Of COURSE the Dems had to reach across to pass the healthcare vote. They didn’t have enough votes otherwise.”

    They could have. All they had to do was modify eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid until they met. That would have been fiscal legislation and could have been passed by a simple majority without filibuster.

    But that would have required that congressional Democrats actually all agree on something, which never happens. This is because Democrats actually *think for themselves* and sometimes even *listen to their constituents*, rather than being lockstep Brownshirts like Republicans.

    At this point, WI’s Dems don’t have any other arrow in their quiver. What makes it even more critical now is that Ohio’s crew didn’t have the guts to do what WI’s did, and now AFSCME is going to lose the dues of 350,000 Ohio workers.

    Since the US courts say that money == speech and corporations == people, that does a fine job of silencing opposition to Republicans. Get ready for one-party politics in the US. I’m sure you can think of other countries that have that situation and what it’s like to live there.

    1. Good lord, Drama Llama. You commend “Democrats [who] actually *think for themselves*”, and then you regurgitate punditry rhetoric. If you think Democrats aren’t influence by corporations or are some how above it, you are naive. The rich and evil corporations pull the strings of the Democrats as well. There are nearly as many Democrat millionaires in the senate, which means there are just as many who are prone to keep themselves that way and protect their self interests.

      Protip – Obama isn’t a workshirt wearing Communist, and the Republicans aren’t Brownshirts.

  42. Tom Joad part 1 and 2 Los subtítulos no están perfectos, si alguien que se maneja con el inglés ve errores que me corrija.

  43. Really?

    So having members of the opposition party arrested is happening in America.


    Will they be housed in special “internment camps”?


  44. Just something to keep in mind when talking about the 40% or whatever for whom the health care bill was unpopular.

    It is unpopular for two main reasons:
    Some people think it went too far.
    Some people think it didn’t went far enough.

    Conflating these two groups is rather dishonest as an argument.

  45. There is more to this story than just the elimination of collective bargaining
    See page 24 of the bill at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/data/JR1SB-11.pdf
    Sale of public property with NO BIDDING and NO OVERSIGHT!!!

    “16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling,
    and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the
    department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may
    contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without
    solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best
    interest of the state.
    Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or
    certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to
    purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is
    considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification
    of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

    If, for example in a purely hypothetical situation, Walker sells the powerplants to say Walker Power INC. for $1 there would be nothing anyone could do about it.

    I wonder how muchthe cost of heat cooling and power is going to increase for the University of Wisconsin once the sale goes through.

Comments are closed.