Friday, August 23rd, 2019

It doesn’t look like democracy


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Feb 24, 2011; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

It doesn’t look like democracy
Democrats cede debate to angry mob

We’re told by Democratic leaders, the state employee union leaders, and the protesters that the chaos in Madison is about democracy.

We’re told of the protests, “This is what democracy looks like!” We’re told of the Democratic state Senators who fled to Illinois that they are doing it for democracy. We can’t end state employee union privileges without it being a blow to democracy.

Never has so much been done for democracy in such a wrongheaded manner since President Woodrow Wilson picked a fight in Europe.

This isn’t what democracy looks like; this is what mob rule looks like.

Let’s go back and remember what actually happened. For over a year there have been warnings that the current state budget is dangerously unbalanced. Despite the billions in tax increases and burning through one-time federal stimulus money, the Democrats in the state Legislature and Gov. Jim Doyle had built a fiscal house out of straw, and the big bad wolf of a budget shortfall was going to blow it over.

Unlike the Democrats, when it was Gov. Scott Walker’s turn to deal with the state’s budget problems, he proposed real structural changes that would begin to correct the financial mismanagement of the last eight years.

Among other steps taken in the budget-repair bill, it would require state employees to contribute their pensions and their health care. It would also pare down union bargaining privileges to wages, ending their ability to bargain on benefits and work rules.

The unions and the Democrats, understandably, went nuts. That’s fine. Part of the democratic process is that when legislation is proposed that is directly inimical to your interests, you have the right to speak up about it.

However, that’s not what they did. The protests in Madison soon expanded to the schools, where Madison schoolteachers pulled their students out of class to join the protests. When that wasn’t effective enough, teachers engaged in wildcat mass sickouts, forcing school districts across the state to close.

The MacIver Institute is estimating the cost of the sickouts to be $9 million, with the cost only going up. Meanwhile, students were deprive the opportunity to learn and parents had to scramble to find child care in the schools’ absence.

(Credit should be given to the teachers of the Waukesha public schools, who mostly stayed at their jobs.)

Meanwhile, Democrats in the state Senate decided they didn’t like the direction things were going, so they went on the lam like Henry Hill.

Don’t believe the Senate Democrats when they say they just want a debate. Two years ago they passed a budget fix that raised taxes $1 billion in the middle of the recession and didn’t even have one minute of public testimony. The bill was introduced by the Democrats, voted on by the Democrats, and signed by Governor Doyle in just 48 hours.

That’s what Democrats considered democracy to be then. Now we have public hearings, amendments, public debate, and the Democrats are calling Governor Walker a dictator. State Sen. Lena Taylor compared the governor to Adolf Hitler. Leftists are even quoting Martin Niemoller, as if changing the rules for bargaining rights is the equivalent of the Holocaust.

So we have teachers refusing to teach and lying to their employers. We have Democrats refusing to participate in the Legislature because things are not going their way. We even have politicians and others comparing the governor to Adolf Hitler and Hosni Mubarak.

At some point, someone on the Democratic side needs to ask, is this really good for democracy? Does it serve any purpose to call our opponents Nazis?

Making matters worse, the circus outside of the Capitol is run amok with the Hitler comparisons and signs with obscenities on them.

The whole point of the state senators leaving town is they were hoping that the angry mob would do for them what they knew they could not accomplish on the Senate floor – flip three senators.

As of Tuesday night, the mob outside the Capitol and the Democrats in hiding do not seem to be succeeding. The public is not ready to join them, probably because if this is what Democracy looks like now, the public prefers what they learned in their history books, when they had teachers willing to teach them.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


Associated Press Protesters bang drums and shout slogans inside the state Capitol on Monday in Madison.

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