It’s a rare event when I find myself agreeing with Time Magazine’s Joe Klein. But he gets it completely right with his article, “Wisconsin: The Hemlock Revolution.” You are cordially invited to read the entire article.
Revolutions everywhere–in the middle east, in the middle west. But there is a difference: in the middle east, the protesters are marching for democracy; in the middle west, they’re protesting against it. I mean, Isn’t it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting “Freedom, Democracy, Union” while trying to prevent a vote? Isn’t it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn’t it interesting that some of those who–rightly–protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in the Wisconsin Senate?
And then, this gem:
Public employees unions are an interesting hybrid. Industrial unions are organized against the might and greed of ownership. Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed…of the public?
His closing line:
But we’ve had far too many state legislatures, of both parties, that have been cowed by the political power of the unions and enacted contracts that force state and city governments to be run for the benefit of their employees, rather than for their citizens. This situation is most egregious in far too many school districts across the nation. The events in Wisconsin are a rebalancing of power that, after decades of flush times and lax negotiating, had become imbalanced. That is also something that, from time to time, happens in a democracy.
It’s that simple, really. It is fine, albeit fiscally irresponsible, to sympathize with “the unions” (even though only a few specific public employee unions are the subject of the bill being considered). It is when that sympathy crosses the line of supporting the tactics being engaged in by Democrat lawmakers and teachers that one’s true feelings for 1) the democratic process and 2) concern for students become evident.
Let us ask ourselves how this may have been viewed if it were, say, a tea party group protesting and Republican state legislators fleeing a vote they feared they would lose? Would the Republicans be decried for seeking to destroy the democratic process? Would they be labeled “obstructionists” and “the party of no?” Would they be seen as cowards? Crybabies? Would the millions of dollars of lost productivity that were caused by the parents of young children who were not allowed to go to school because their teachers felt it was more important to join in a sympathy strike (as their jobs were not a part of this legislation) having to take days off in order to care for their children at home be noted?
We know that the answer to all of these questions is “yes.” If this were a Republican themed protest the events would be seen for the mockery that they truly are. Support for the end goal of the unions is one thing. Tacit approval of the tactics being used by the unions (intimidation), teachers (abandoning students and causing school shutdowns) and Democratic legislators (dereliction of duty – abrogation of the democratic process) is another. Separation of these factors is key to an honest discussion about what is really going on in Wisconsin. And even a liberal like Joe Klein can see that.