This week past week is full of examples of where the political system in this country is going. Faced with republicans, unwilling to compromise, democrats left the state effectively shutting down the political process. Putting my own political affiliation aside, I think this was the right move.
Bipartisan action in this country has become a political fiction. On any important issue, whether local or national, the two major parties are diametrically opposed. In recent times this divide has only become larger (see – the entire tea party movement). Legislation is increasingly based on value decisions, rather than political or economic goals. Policy is decided not by what the people want but by what a few people (and their friends) think it should be. The idea of a “debate” or any such productive legislative processes has gone out the window.
Wisconsin is a great example of this value based legislative process. Gov. Walker is using the “deficit” (which arguably he created) as a way to attack union organization and workers rights, something republicans are notoriously against. If the problem was really a monetary issue, the problem would already be solved. The teachers union, along with many others, have already agreed to take the proposed pay cuts. By volunteering to pay more for health care and increase their contributions to the pension system, the unions are willing to plug the fiscal gap that is the supposed underlying cause of Wisconsin’s problems. But that is not enough. The goal here is to end collective bargaining rights, a values decision, that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
Legislators are using budget problems as a convenient way to secretly advance other interests. This type of decision making is echoed in the federal system as well. The house budget bill, for example, included measures to save money by cutting funding to planned parenthood. Sure we can cover it up and say this is a spending measure, but really this is a value based legislation, a way to backdoor in more controversial issue in the name of curbing deficit spending. The real goal is not a change in fiscal policy, but advancing a religious and moral goal, a view point which, unlike responsible spending, is not shared by all.
I think the democrats in Wisconsin did the right time. Faced with a state government that is unwilling to compromise, there was no other option but to leave. Republicans may claim they want a debate to lure democrats back into the state but really, as the governor has said himself, there is no compromise to be had. Why come to the table at all when there is no discussion to be had? If the shouts of protesters within the capitol are not enough to influence policy, it is unlike that 14 state senate members have any shot at making a change. If you ask me, when the other side won’t play fair the best option is not to play at all.
The walk out is only a foreshadowing of what is to come on a larger scale if politicians can’t look beyond their party to the people’s lives who are at stake – a total shut down.